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.
No Prayers, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros