Saturday, April 08, 2006

The (non) ownership society

So I told a friend of mine that I had signed up for Napster the other day, intending to regale him with tales of how addictive the "radio" part of their feature is.

For those not in the know, Napster used to be an illegal PtP file sharing system a la Kazaa that now allows folks to buy tracks for the standard .99 per track. But they also have a membership which lets you listen and/or download as much as you want for 9.95 a month. Just anything you dont buy gets deactivated if you cancel your membership.

My favorite part of the service is what Napster calls radio, which is really just a collection of tracks, broken down by genre, assembeled by a DJ. I really like this because it exposes me to lots of cool new music, you get an info box with the band, album and track number (which you can click to be taken to that album, and can then click the album and listen to the whole thing).

Best of all, since its just tracks, if a song doesnt appeal to me, I click "next" and it goes away. Now that is what *I* call radio.

Anyway... Im about to explain how cool this whole "next and it goes away" concept of radio is to me when my friend stops me dead in my tracks by saying "that's dumb... if your puter crashes you lose all your tunes".

It was at this point I explained that I was not, in fact, buying anything. I was paying for the service and streaming the songs I wanted to listen to. Whatever I was in the mood for, stuff I'd NEVER by because its not a common occurence for me to want to hear it.

Manhatten Transfer, then Foo Fighters, then Rusted Root all in one queue of my own making.

In other words... if I wipe my HD every day, all I have to do is install napster. The music hasnt gone anywhere cause it was never on my HD to begin with.

As I watched the gears grind in my friend's eyes, it occured to me that maybe music is starting to trend back to what it was in the 19th century, pre-phonograph. Something listened to. Not owned, collected and filed away.

Napster's service, where I am in effect "renting" 1.5 million or so songs for 10 bucks a month, lends itself to this model more than the P2P services like Kazaa, which still feeds into the "collecting" mentality, just without, you know, being legal and paying the musicians you're collecting.

Id like to see this trend continue, and I think Google virtual desktop is a step in that (right) direction. I already store material in the occasional web email account so I'd have instant access to it if my puter crashed.

I think we're heading toward a non-ownership society in some ways, where you have access to everything, but actually own very little of it.


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