Bob Dylan

Expecting Rain

Al Kooper on Napster

Date: Sat, 25 Nov 2000 22:39:19 EST
Subject: (no subject)

Subj: Al Kooper on Napster
Date: 11/26/00 12:25:07 AM Mid-Atlantic Standard Time

Included below is a close approximation of my February 2001 monthly column
for EQ Magazine.  This is obviously a very important issue to me and I would
appreciate it if you would distribute it on the Net to those you feel should
read it.  Thanks for your help.  Who knows how this issue will pan out?  The
votes are being recounted by hand in Florida even now as you peruse this.


I wanna start off by saying I chose the music business back in
1958 to express myself and to make a living.  I've shared
apartments with rodents (the furry and fleshy kind) in New York
City, and I've rented houses in Los Angeles that Ringo moved into
when I vacated.  It's been a bumpy, crazy ride. I've been cheated
out of extremely large sums of money by some of the best and I've
learned from them what not to do next time.  Very costly lessons
they were.

Because this is my life and this is my job.  I'm no better or
worse than any one of you; I'm probably just older (57) and
perhaps a bit warier and a little wiser.  I've no Mercedes, or
surround sound.  I don't go out to parties or restaurants every
other night, and when I do venture out, I must admit I'm often
dressed in a rather humorous manner.  I'm beyond the point of
being a rock star or a name on everyone's lips.

I live comparatively comfortably on the small percentage of
royalties I was able to pry out of calcuted, evil paws over the
years.  Those stipends are rightfully mine and represent a
lifetime of dedication and nose to the grindstone.  In 2001, I'm
celebrating my 43rd anniversary of being married to The Music. 
Okay, let us begin....

Musicians in the limelight have a shelf life of from one to
infinity years. The majority fall out of public favor after four
or five heady, high-profile years.  We can call up a few as
examples: The Association, Huey Lewis & The News, Grand Funk
Railroad, or The Dave Clark Five.  The concept is that you should
make and save as much as you can while your window of opportunity
is open.  In a perfect world, you could have written or recorded
one or more songs that are enjoyed way past their original window
of success. (this rarely happens).  "Time Of The Season,"
"Daydream," "Henry The Eighth," all have survived their initial
runs and continue to earn healthy money for their creators.  As
you get older, you find that your songs are like your children.
They come to look after you, when nobody else will.  It's
comforting in a way.

Well, discomfort runs rampant in the 21st century.  They're
putting your children into bondage and preventing them from
taking care of you.  And their name is Napster.

I've remained stoic and quiet on this subject for quite awhile,
but now I must vent and rant or be crushed under a
glass-encrusted tire of disrespect. I guess the thing that
rankles me the most about Napster is that you have no say in
whether they exploit your work or not.  No contracts need to be
signed.  Somebody uploads your song and that's it.  No one with a
modem and a computer has to buy it ever again.  Now if one were
in their twenties and in an ambitious, nascent band, they would
welcome Napster and their ilk - if only for the free distribution
and publicity.  I believe Brother Dylan said it best:  "When ya
ain't got nuthin', ya got nuthin' to lose...."

But as one gets older, promoters won't guarantee you enough money
to take a band out on the road.  Record companies aren't looking
to sign 50-plus-year-olds - they'd rather come up with clever new
ways to design elaborate box sets of your catalogue and charge
your royalty accounts for their handiwork without permission.

Now my subsidizing income comes from my songwriting  royalties. 
At this point in my career, it doesn't behoove me to have free
copies of my music floating around, especially of an audio
quality I wouldn't sanction, if consulted.  I don't have a new CD
coming out or a new tour in the offing that needs promoting.  I'm
just a meat-and-potatoes musician who still needs to realize an
income.  If a company comes to me and says they want to license
my song for a fee and royalties, then they're contributing to
that income.  I'm open to something like that plus it's my
decision to make.  But if some hung-over frat guy is downloading
a song I wrote so he can have the proper cool, unique soundtrack
to get some nookie later that night, then my rights are being as
violated as those of his soon-to-be-arriving date.

At this juncture of my life, I don't fill stadiums and arenas and
sell millions of CDs (actually I never did that!).  I just wanna
live comfortably in my senior years based on the lifetime of work
I've put in up to now. Hell... I want my Rock 'n' Roll Social
Security!  And Napster and networks like Napster, are literally
snatching it out of my pocket in the name of "sharing the music."
 They are taking in profits on their website through advertising,
and now, subsidizing.  Whatever happened to "sharing the income"?
 This two-faced monster wants it both ways.

Now I don't think for a moment that 67,000 people are downloading
my songs for free.  But if it's allowed to happen a few times, it
will geometrically increase until I have a real problem taking
care of myself in a few years. That's just not fair.  Now I'm not
looking for pity or singling myself out. I've spent my life doing
what I always dreamed of doing and I was damned lucky.  Many of
my friends are in a far worse position than I am.  They live from
one royalty check to the next.  It's not pretty and, at their
age, their choices are few, if any.  Should people in their
position be penalized so that other people can have fun on their
computers?  I think not.

I can't believe that after all these years the law doesn't
routinely protect me from something as blatant as this.  Suppose
you invented a hammer, that was so unique, that it replaced the
generic hammer instantly.  Suppose you patented and copyrighted
that hammer in order to protect your invention. Suppose that an
internet company lay in wait and hijacked your shipping trucks
and offered your hammers, free to anyone who logged on to their
site - worse yet, in order to offer your hammer free, they cut
it's quality by ten-fold!  How long do you think the law would
allow THAT to continue?  Well it's the same with Napster except
that today music is easier to hijack than hammers.

Once again, I can see the value in this revolution for younger,
on-the-make bands. But have I created and played for 43 years to
have my income cut off on a cyber-whim?  Will my "children" be
prevented by kid-napsters from helping me survive in my old age? 
I shudder to think.

Take responsibility for your actions and think before you upload
or download. Think of yourself as an honest person and the
downloads on Napster as shareware; albeit, crummy-sounding

Thanks for taking the time to read this.
        Al Kooper

[Editor's Note: As we went to press, an announcement was made
regarding an agreement between Napster and BMG.  When asked his
opinion of this announcement, Al Kooper replied, "The BMG
involvement is like sticking a tampon in a flooded Holland Tunnel

**PS RATDOG (bob weir of g dead) cancelled due to fire tonight in worcester MA

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