Digital Nation: Musicians Offer Their Two Cents On Napster

Jimmy Jam, Deftones, Blink-182, Third Eye Blind weigh in on controversial program.

When Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich stepped into the sun from the Napster Inc.'s offices last month, he put on his sunglasses and made a stern statement for reporters.

A few minutes later, he sat in a van and took time out to reflect on the issue, which has divided the music community. Ulrich's band sued Napster in April, charging that the company's namesake MP3-trading software enables copyright infringement. Last month, Ulrich delivered the names of alleged individual infringers to the company.

In the van, Ulrich's tone softened.

"I just had a couple of very civil conversations with a couple of these kids up there [in the Napster office]," he said. "I think that being a human being on this planet and living in a free society, the best thing that that affords you is agreeing to disagree, and having different points of view."

Sonicnet.com has been surveying artists' differing views for the past several weeks. Some of the musicians here are more passionate than others about how Napster is changing the industry. Some, like Deftones singer Chino Moreno, say they use Napster. Others, like Goo Goo Dolls singer Johnny Rzeznik, say the company is stealing from them, even though, as Rzeznik pointed out, "If I was a kid, I'd be on Napster all the time."

What they all know is that something is happening here, even if they don't quite know what it is.

Goo Goo Dolls singer/guitarist Johnny Rzeznik: "If I was a kid, I'd be on Napster all the time. Yeah, I feel like I'm being stolen from, and I'd like to knock that punk around that invented it, but it was bound to happen. ... I think Metallica's got the right idea — sue 'em. It's your copyright, it is copyright infringement, and even though Napster is only the pipeline, that's like saying, 'Well, here's the gun, go find your own bullets,' you know what I mean?"

Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx: "I think that most of the people in the industry, record labels and managers and stuff, will not fight for something as positive as viral [marketing], like music-spreading and trading and bootlegging, because for them, they're sort of all in bed together and nobody wants to piss off each other. Nobody at Universal Music Group wants to piss off the guy at Interscope. No one has the balls to stand up and say, f--- it man, it's not that big of a deal, let's figure out a form of regulation. Let's not be f---ing greedy, man."

Blink-182 singer/bassist Mark Hoppus: "Right now, if I wanna listen to All, I'm gonna go to my CD case and put All in the CD player. If I had an MP3 player, I'd go, 'OK, I wanna listen to All — let's go upstairs and I'll log on to the Internet, and sit down with my computer and log in to the Web site and ...' It just seems like such a hassle."

DJ Keoki: "I've been DJing for over 15 years now, playing other people's records and not really giving them publishing [royalties] or anything. If people want to take my music and share it on the Web, go for it."

Deftones singer Chino Moreno: "I love finding rare music, and a lot of that stuff on Napster is a lot of rare stuff — live versions of certain songs or different covers. There's some cool stuff even from us on there. I went on there the other day and was listening to us doing a Weezer cover. I was like bugging out. ... [But] right now, if it's affecting anybody, it's affecting a band like us. Metallica sells millions of records, you know what I mean? They're not in the hot seat as much as we are. ... Our new record, it hasn't even come out yet, and I'm sure probably a quarter of our fanbase have already heard it. We just have to hope these people still buy our record when it comes out, but it's kind of scary for us."

Smash Mouth guitarist Greg Camp: "We don't know much about it. All we know is that Lars from Metallica is really pissed off."

*NSync manager Johnny Wright: "In the genre of music that *NSync does, fans want more than just the record. They want the whole package, they want the packaging and the credits and the pictures and the thank you's because they're true fans of the band so they want to have a memento of everything the guys wanted for their fans. So if you can download it off the Net, yeah, you're going to get the music, but you're not going to get the other things. So I think in some cases, it wouldn't be as big of an impact on us because of the fans that we reach. But still, if somebody is going to work on their craft, they should have the opportunity to benefit from the rewards of their work, and not have someone put it up on the Net so people can steal it."

Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland: "I don't really know the sort of settlement format that [Metallica are] proposing to deal with these problems but there should be some way that Napster compensates the artists. Because obviously they wouldn't be providing a service if they weren't getting compensated, it's not a free service, it's not like it's done just to please fans. Everything that's done is done for a profit."

Third Eye Blind bassist Arion Salazar: "It's not even just about money, the quality is lesser. That's not good. We work really hard to make the music sound good, so we want people to hear it the way it actually sounds. So I would give it a thumbs down." [sonicnet.com: "MP3s are actually close to CD quality."] "Oh, well, still thumbs down."

Jimmy Jam, producer (Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige): "It sounds kind of parochial to say this, but you have to play by the rules. There's rules that have been established over a long period of time. The rules aren't always the right rules, but you have to [follow them]. ... If [Public Enemy rapper and Napster supporter Chuck D] can figure out a way to get paid somehow with music getting downloaded without people having to pay for it, then good for him. That doesn't work for me, I've got three kids now."

Dandy Warhols guitarist Peter Holmstrom: "It totally pisses me off, because musicians get hardly any money from this at all. I could make more money washing dishes at the moment. It's unfair. But it's unfair that the record company get 84 percent or whatever, so maybe this is the [equalizer]."

Ideal singer P.Z.: "It's beneficial and unfortunate at the same time. It's beneficial because people are getting into your music. It's unfortunate because it's harder to keep control of your music and your career."

Tal Bachman: "The foundation of every industrial country is the preservation of property rights, and it boils down to that. So I'm not really sure why intellectual property would be an exception."

Tsar singer Jeff Whalen: "No one's ever heard of us. So if our music is on [Napster], more people can hear us and like us."

Green Velvet (a.k.a. Cajmere): "Maybe there's some really independent cool band that by this method gets some word around. The problem is, in the future, how are they going to make it? Maybe they think they can make money from their performances, but I don't know if that's something you can count on."

(Staff Writer Teri vanHorn, Contributing Editors Corey Moss, Eric Schumacher-Rasumussen and Richard B. Simon, and Correspondent Mark Woodlief contributed to this story.)