For me, Napster was never about the music being free. It was all about the music never having to be purchased.
There is a big difference.
For music fans such as myself, the process of walking up to a music store register (when such still things still existed) was not just a transaction– it was a declaration. Here I am, here are my purchases, here is who I am.
But there was a significant hitch to this approach to life. There were times (and we’ll keep the number of such instances as a secret amongst us) when you wanted to buy an album that you didn’t want to declare. That little pop hit that tapped into the car-singer in you. That bit of folk that tapped into the college student in you. That guilty pleasure that you were tempted to slip in between two other more reputable purchases as you snuck up to the register when nobody else was there. Though these songs called out to you, there was no way to bring yourself to reach out to them.
Until there was Napster.
At the moment when Napster arrived, you didn’t really have a problem paying for music. There actually wasn’t some pent-up pounding that you were waiting to wreak upon record labels (maybe Ticketmaster, but not really the labels). What you did have was a pent-up itch for records that you didn’t have a problem paying for if only you could just find a way to buy them without shame.
But then Napster appeared and, well, Def Leppard tracks soon followed. And shortly after that came experiments that you wanted to make but would never leap to in public. And once that the music industry allowed you to realize that you really could sample music for free (and in private), soon you were able to come to the conclusion that all songs were little more than ads for other revenue sources (that the record labels needed to identify), the levee broke.
So, thinking back, the beauty of Napster was that you were able to freely and secretly see what would come from the next incarnation of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros… even though you’d prefer not to answer to why you wanted to do so. Even though Napster is now relegated to a glancing reference to movies about Facebook, I will afford this private indulgence: without having to tell anyone (least of all a judgmental cashier), you can discover that the new Edward Sharpe song does indeed involve what sounds like a gourd half-way through. But let’s keep it between us… no need to declare.
Most great DJs and producers who do remixes are known for either a signature sound or a particular genre. As much respect as I have for them, you’re not going to see Girl Talk come forward with anything other than his cultural cuisinart, and Swizz Beatz isn’t going to stray into folk anytime soon.
These dominant type casts are what make RAC stand out as much as they do. This collective has put unique twists on dozens of songs ranging from John Legend to Edward Sharpe to The Kings of Leon and beyond– all to great effect. Each of their tracks is more of a reinterpretation than a remix: instead of just dropping a club beat and calling it a day, they’ll create an entirely new mood for a song, often taking tracks I didn’t like the first time around and turning them into favorites.
The end result is a rare breed: a group of producers who you want to follow just as closely as you would the artists that craft the originals.
Apparently, Kanye and HALO have become standard fare amongst the grammar school set. For many parents, this forces a musical Sophie’s choice: either let your young kids loose into a lyrical free-for-all, or censor them into corner of musical lameness.
Fortunately, this choice is unnecessary. Just in time for my sister-in-law’s long car trip with her family, here’s a mini-mix tape that proves that cultural currency needn’t come with an R rating.
But another big reason why I’m transfixed by this track is that I’ve witnessed its creation. It seems that every week I’m struck with another example of how, in this digital age, the making of something is often its most effective marketing.
Typically, creators of everything from songs to sports cars treat the creation process as they would if they were making sausage: we’ll let you know when it’s done and perfect, but by no means are we going to let you witness how its made. As I’ve argued before, I think confidential creation is crazy. Had this song just landed in my iTunes on its own, it would be just another few minutes without context or back story. But, as watch this video, I now know this song as the one that they guy created in one take with the virtuosity to be able to take the time to stroke the side of the machine every now and again. I feel like I know the guy, I’ve got a memory that will get triggered with every listen, and I’m likely to tell someone about the video.
With a rollicking energy reminiscent of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros after a few shots of espresso, this track from the Old Canes is bound to put a tap in your step and a smile on your face. I know this track isn’t exactly new, but for a Friday like this, it’s essential.