How Napster Changed Music

Written by on December 15, 2020

⭐Shawn Fanning = Creator of Napster

Originally from Brockton, MA …at age 18 during his freshman year of college at North Eastern University, Shawn Fanning would launch the website “Napster” in 1999. Fanning asked Ali Aybar, a veteran programmer who happened to be a friend of his uncle’s, for assistance in developing “Napster” … a site where internet users could share files with one another. Aybar rejected Fanning saying that “no one would share mp3’s” and “he should just focus on school”.

⭐Fanning Wisely Chose to Follow His Intuition 

While exploring the depths of IRC(Internet Relay Chat), one of the earliest forms of direct messaging known to man; Shawn Fanning would meet Sean Parker.

(Sean Parker once described IRC as “…an underground of elite cyber criminals” … the hood of the computer world !)Fanning and Parker would exchange messages for a total of 3-4 years before Fanning would travel to Parker to finally meet him in person. After 6 months of developing, the duo would create the beta version of “Napster” … which would quickly generate 40,000 users internationally. 

(Over 40k people were sharing music from computer to computer before social media because of their breakthrough) This was enough to make Ali Aybar, the more skilled programmer who first rejected Fanning, reconsider his decision … wanting “in” on the development of “Napster”. 

⭐The Record Industry Made an Average of $15billion dollars annually in the US alone

Music Business Power = Record Distribution Nepotism

(Nepotism def.: The practice among those with power/influence to favor friends and relatives.)

Any artist with access to a recording studio could record a song … 

But very few artists could get their CD’s placed in stores to be distributed on an international level. This is why many independent artists would sell CD’s out of their trunks with hopes of generating a regional buzz strong enough to potentially snowball into major recognition by music audiences abroad. Now Artist could completely cut the cost of CD’s and get their music heard by anyone that had access to a computer.

CD stores that were relied on for nearly 3 decades by the music listening community were now beginning to shut down rapidly … similar to how Blockbuster, Hollywood Movies, and other DVD rental spots would go out of business after the introduction of Redbox, Netflix, etc … 

⭐Court Battle: Napster vs. The Music Industry

How would you feel if you were an artist at the time … and the CD’s that gave you a consistent source of passive income were now being downloaded for free, abundantly? 

The Record Industry was pissed ! The distribution system that the Recording Industry would use to financially separate the boys from the men no longer had leverage …  because some Freshman from Massachusetts made it easy for the everyday person to listen to music for free. Shawn Fanning selected, Hank Barry … an elite level lawyer, to defend him in court.

Because Hank would invest a greater deal of income towards the fight to keep “Napster” alive than Fanning could … Hank Barry was deemed the CEO of Napster at the time from 2000-2001

After a year of battling in court, in July of 2001, “Napster” was legally ordered by the US Court system to shut down its website.

⭐The Aftermath of Napster’s Loss 

Though the music industry was able to shut down “Napster”, the damage was done… irreversibly. The Music industry would never be the same. CD’s would no longer ever sell like they once did because even the average music consumer was now aware of the internet downloading loop-hole. 

Music Consumers had two options … 

A = “Buy” the CD for $7-$20

B = Download the CD for “FREE.99”

Napster birthed competitors such as Limewire, AudioGalaxy, and Madster … which had identical file sharing functionality. 

The Record Industry went on to sue an additional 20k individuals for “CopyRight Infringement” in relation to “Pirating” music online. 

(Pirating def.: the illegal downloading of creative intellectual property.) 

⭐Itunes is Born 

In April of 2003, Steve Jobs introduced “Itunes” … a digital music store where listeners can download music on their computers and Ipods for as little as .99 cents a song… 

CD’s were no longer a necessity for distribution which forced the Music Industry to surrender its unilateral distribution power. 

(Unilateral def.: The ability of one party to make decisions affecting all parties involved.) 

The rest is history … 

Shawn Fanning introduced the music world to “streaming” which would forever alter how audiences would listen to music globally ! 


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