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Instead of fretting the Internet, established mainstream musicians should treat the medium as movie studios do their films. Creating a nifty Web site in support of your killer new album is not going to hurt record your Billboard debut. Whether the generic major label argument would be that "fans will simply download an entire album instead of buy" is valid or not, is up for debate. However, given a quality product, music fans will tend to make the purchase, especially after previewing the release. Perhaps sales of Kid Rock's latest LP fell because of a poor quality product rather than rampant file-sharing?
"Napster is stealing food from my children's mouths," Metallica's drummer Lars Ulrich said emphatically in more than a handful of interviews. If anything, it seems the Internet has levelled the playing field just a little bit. It appears that for every person who downloads some Metallica off the Internet and then decides not to actually buy any of that band's music, there is another person checking out the K Records showcase on eMusic.com and then purchasing that label's entire back-catalog from buyolympia.com, a do-it-yourself site based out of Washington. While that statistic is slightly exaggerated, the Internet lends no special benefit to an artist whose songs are no good, as might occur on TV or radio where "there is only so much air time." Yes, marketing, cool videos, attractive band members and snazzy Web sites might still overshadow the music on the Internet, but at least users have a choice at which snazzy sites they choose to spend their time with.
The tape-trading that Metallica endorsed in the early 1980's is legally and idealistically no different from today's Internet file-sharing. Companies who produce audio cassettes are forced to pay a small amount of royalties to the Recording Industry of America for each tape that they manufacture. Perhaps Internet Service Providers or companies that produce CD recorders should follow suit.