Open Letter to Michael Robertson

Michael, today I read on Wired News how you have submitted a declaration of support to a motion filed by the RIAA to shut down Napster. In the declaration, you voice your opinion that Napster does nothing for emerging artists. “In my view,” you say, “Napster is not designed to promote or share the music of unknown or lesser known artists.” While I am surprised that you would crawl into bed with the RIAA – who have brought damaging lawsuits against over the last few months – I am more surprised that you seem to believe Napster technology does nothing for independent artists. Michael, I can only assume that you are so wrapped up in your own music distribution schemes over there at that you have not taken a serious look at Napster and peer-to-peer file sharing.

I am unsure if you are aware of Napster’s New Artist Program, which provides artists with the ability to share their MP3 files with potential fans. As I am sure you are aware, the growth of Napster’s user base is nothing short of phenomenal. Dare I say more people utilize the Napster service than For an independent artist such as myself – one who has an account and is thankful for such a venue – the Napster New Artist Program is a unique and exciting opportunity. That you would attempt to shut down this service – and subsequently deny me and other artists an additional source of promotion and distribution – is a slap in the face. Your actions lead me to believe that you are not sincerely interested in promoting new artists, but rather in building an exclusive and proprietary service that is anxious to shutter competition and concentrate on bigger and better revenue streams. It would seem, for, the income of stockholders and investors is of more importance than exposure for emerging artists who are, after all, the backbone of your service.

Moreover, I am bewildered by your support of the RIAA and the recording industry cartel in their efforts to constrict and monopolize music distribution. I need not remind you of the RIAA’s effort to put out of business with aggressive and unrelenting lawsuits and court injunctions. Now that you have made a temporary peace with Warner Music Group and BMG – and have agreed to pay them 20 million for the sin of streaming music people already own – is free to negotiate licensing deals with these behemoths. How will pay for this – without a profit generating business model – remains to be seen. Do you plan on charging consumers to stream music they already own? Or will you plaster pages with additional banner ads and other advertising? Either way, you are going to have a bumpy ride now that you have formulated a hasty pact with the RIAA and its clients. Rest assured that the recording industry cartel does not have your best interests in mind. I believe, given the chance, they would drive you out of business. If you cannot devise a way to generate revenue and pay for damages and royalties, chances are the industry will succeed in crushing to death. Surely, you are now swimming with sharks.

Finally, if you and the RIAA are successful in liquidating Napster, I will continue to use peer-to-peer file-sharing as method of distributing my music. As you likely realize, the file-sharing program Gnutella does not utilize centralized servers – or, in fact, is it even a corporation – and thus cannot be easily shut down by intimidation and court order. And while it lacks certain beneficial aspects of a music sharing community like, at least Gnutella allows me to control the destiny of my music without fear of it being shut down by the RIAA, Metallica, any number of lawyers, and the seemingly careless actions of CEOs apparently more concerned with the process of wooing music industry executives and lawyers than actually providing a venue for the promotion and distribution of alternative music.


Kurt Nimmo

<< Back to TOC