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2001: The Year in Online Music
Article by David Nevue - Midnight Rain Productions

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2001 was a year that brought a lot of change to the online music
business. In reviewing the big stories of the last year, a few
really stood out...

At the beginning of 2001, then Napster CEO Hank Berry stated that
his goal for 2001 was to "make Napster prosper as a real
business. To see that it is just a normal part of how people
listen to music." Instead, after being pelted with copyright
infringement lawsuits from the music industry, Napster was forced
to shut down. Napster hopes to launch a new, completely legal,
subscription service in 2002. Prediction: It's going to be an
uphill climb for Napster. Only a very innovative, user-friendly
technology that gets rave reviews will save it. Napster's running
out of time.

In a effort to fight rampant piracy on the Internet, the music
industry introduced copy-protected CDs into the general
marketplace. But angry consumers have been frustrated by the new
technology, which has been reported, in a few cases, to prevent
CDs from being played on a computer at all. Look for evolving
copy-protection standards in 2002, as well as more complaints
from frustrated consumers as copy-proof CDs become the norm.
Prediction: A very hot topic in 2002.

In 2001, MP3.com went from being an online project driven by the
independent music community, to entering into marriage with the
music industry. It was a year of drastic change, as MP3.com
struggled to both redefine itself and avoid the fate of Napster.
After its acquisition by Vivendi Universal, and the changes that
followed, many unhappy independent artists abandoned MP3.com.
But, as 2001 closed, MP3.com had, in the end, appeared to have
changed for the better. Expect 2002 to be a good year for
MP3.com, as well as for artists who continue to optimize MP3.com
as a promotion tool for their music.

With Napster in lawsuit limbo much of the year, Napster clones
jumped into the void it left behind, with the RIAA (Recording
Industry Association of America) filing more lawsuits along the
way. Aimster, Audiogalaxy, and Gnutella did their best to attract
former Napster users, but MusicCity's Morpheus stepped up as the
heir-apparent by the end of 2001. This year, expect to see this
battle to heat up, as the Napster/RIAA battle of 2001 becomes the
Morpheus/RIAA battle of 2002, though to a lesser degree.

The controversial practices of the recording industry came under
much legal fire last year from such highly visible artists as
Elton John, LeAnn Rimes, Don Henley and Courtney Love. Even the
Senate Judiciary Committee got involved, holding hearings on 'The
Future of Digital Music,' examining the future of online
distribution and how copyright laws should best be applied. Most
recently, the recording industry was condemned by the FTC for not
doing enough to curb advertising of inappropriate material to
children. By being the legal attack dog of 2001, the recording
industry drew the ire of many, and by the end of 2001 the media
began to noticeably favor the underdog. This fight is just
beginning. In 2002, expect to see more artists rallying to take
on the record industry, and watch the industry struggle with
exactly what to do about it.

The end of 2001 saw the launch of these, the first pay-for-music
subscription services. Opening to less-than-rave reviews, these
two services left music fans wondering, 'Is this it?'. But, with
some record labels investing their future into these services,
expect them to become better established in 2002. There will also
be technological improvements as the year unfolds. At least, we
all hope so.

So, there you have it. The stories shaping the future of online
music. 2002 looks to be a year that will define how we pay for
and receive mainstream music in the future, both on the Internet,
and in the your local record store.

That said, I hope that in 2002 you will continue to support
independent music. All this talk of lawsuits, copyright
infringement, piracy, pay-for-play, rules, laws, and Senate
Judiciary Committees just makes me long for sweet, simple music.

Just give me the music.


David Nevue is the founder of
Midnight Rain Productions and the The Music Biz Academy. He is also a professional pianist, recording artist, and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet."

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