Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson described the creation of Napster as “an act of pure selfish destruction”.
Speaking to metal fan and blogger, Ornella of Comebackstage, Dickinson spoke of how illegal download sites like Napster “have destroyed the concept of music having any value”.
Launched in May 1999 by Shawn Fanning, Napster was the first Internet file sharing service that allowed subscribers to download and listen to MP3 music files for free. By October 1999 it had 4 million songs in circulation, rising to 20 million by March 2000 and an incredible 57 million users at its peak.
Its meteoric rise to success with music lovers didn’t gone unnoticed by heads of major record labels, whose sales were being hit hard. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) estimated that song-swapping via Napster had cost the music industry more than $300 million in lost sales.
After being sued by the RIAA, Metallica and Dr Dre in separate lawsuits for copyright infringement, Napster finally closed in 2002 after being found to be liable for contributory or vicarious copyright violations by allowing millions of users to download music for free.
Whilst Napster was defunct, its legacy had opened the floodgates for other digital music streaming services to follow in its wake. This signalled a huge change in music consumption, making it increasingly difficult for up and coming young bands to make it big in the music industry today. As Bruce explained:
“I think they have a tough job, actually, because digital downloading, well, not digital downloading now in itself, but the result of Napster and things like that, even though downloading is now kind of mainstream, Napster destroyed the concept of music having any value – which is terrible.
I think the guy (who founded Napster) should be locked up, maybe he has been, he deserves to be. It was an act of pure selfish destruction. And what he did was he used the enthusiasm of the audience, because the audience is not guilty; they could get all this great music for free. Why wouldn’t they do that? They didn’t realise that what they were doing was destroying an entire culture.”
Given the likes of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, where music is available at the touch of a button, at a very low cost, Bruce questioned how easy it is to start out in the industry where money is now much scarcer for new talent.
“For a band like us, actually we still make records, but we pretty much accept that we don’t really make hardly any money out of making a record. We still do it because we have to, because we love it and we have to do new music. But the great thing with us is we can tour and make money from performing live.
Other bands – bands who are coming up doing great music – they don’t get that luxury. And it’s hard to see where a whole generation of musicians is going to come from now. People who are brilliant musicians don’t get paid for doing amazing jobs.
I get paid when they sell a book. The difference is, I took two and a half months to write this book, and I get paid a royalty, and, actually, it’s very reasonable, it’s very fair. If this book was a record and I took two and a half months to make it, I would have to give it away, because people will pay for a book, but they won’t pay for an album. That is really sad and it’s wrong.
Now, I don’t know where we’re going to get to in the future. It’s possible that the digital downloading world will start to charge a little bit more money and artists will get paid a little bit more.”
Bruce went on to question why the value of music has depreciated over time:
“When you consider that most people, when they sit down and listen to an album, they might drink a pint of beer or have a can of an energy drink or something else like that.
So, they’ll pay the price of a can of energy drink, but they won’t pay the price for the album, and it’s sad.
I think everybody needs to be educated about the fact that music has real value and musicians have real value; they spent years working on their craft to entertain people.”
Ending on a more philosophical note, Bruce could see an advantage to streaming in widening musical tastes
“The feeling I get is that because of streaming and things like that, people are listening more to different types of music. They’re not just listening to the same little narrow segment of music. And that’s good, because it will mean you get all these different hybrid streams of music and actuallyit’s almost going to return music potentially back to where it was in the 60’s and 70’s.”
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