Music file sharing services have always been a mutant species of search, offering different tools and methods for finding and listening to tunes. Napster was one of the first and most infamous, and its widespread adoption caused the recording industry to panic, suing both the company and thousands of its users. That hasn’t stopped the practice of sharing music—in fact, there are dozens if not hundreds of ways to find and listen to music online today, both legal and otherwise.
In a new report, The State of Music Online: Ten Years After Napster, the Pew Internet Project traces the evolution of online music, and the changes that have been forced on musicians and the recording industry. While the history is fascinating, Pew’s conclusions are notable for anyone accessing “free” music using peer-to-peer file sharing systems, music search sites like Songza or SearchMe Music, or even streaming “radio” stations like Pandora or Last.fm.
The good news is that the “suits,” as Pew described them, have dropped most of their heavy-handed tactics against users. However, they’re still hard at work trying to keep control of musical content, and getting people to pay for music. According to the report:
“Through digital fingerprinting and other tracking technologies, the record labels are monitoring copyrighted content as closely as ever and are counting on two major new strategies to help them: First, is a landmark partnership with internet service providers to monitor file sharing activity and potentially cut off service to the worst offenders. Second, is a series of partnerships with universities that would incorporate music subscription fees (predicted to be less than five dollars per student) into student tuition bills. If successful, a similar ISP-based fee could be implemented for the general public.”
It’s a worthwhile read.