By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Despite the media attention that has surrounded U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's decision to close Napster's file-sharing system last week, it's clear that not everyone cares about the case. "Ahhh, I'm not staying around for this shit," said one employee at the Gypsy Tea Room after learning that the venue was hosting a press conference to announce local independent label Maximum Records' plan to combat the decision. And he wasn't alone: None of the reporters and cameramen and local music-industry folks straggling into the Tea Room on July 27 seemed terribly interested in covering the case. (Napster received a temporary stay of execution late Friday night.)
"I'm surprised all the big cameras came," says Brandt Wood, one of Gypsy's owners, pointing toward WFAA-Channel 8 and KDFW-Fox 4 crews lazily setting up. Watching the press conference stagger to its feet like the regulars at Ships at closing, it did seem surprising that anyone had shown up to find out what Maximum Records founder J. "Tech" Huffman planned to do about the threat of Napster's file-sharing system going the way of Betamax. The whole thing had come together at midnight, arranged by a few late-night calls, so it wasn't exactly a plan that had been in the works for months. As Huffman and Maximum's Brett Thomas sat onstage at Gypsy, uncomfortably waiting for their partner Rich McFarland, CEO of Dallas-based Voice4Net, to arrive, it looked as if there wasn't much of a plan to speak of.
Which, as it turned out, there wasn't. After reading a statement from Napster CEO Hank Barry, Huffman outlined the plan he was putting into action, working directly with Napster. They were putting together another Web site, www.napsterrally.com, "that would basically be the voice of the opposition to the ruling, and a proactive version of uncovering the street version of what Napster is all about." Really--he said that. No, we don't really know what it means either.
The slogan for the site, thankfully, has a much clearer message: "Independent choice, no government voice." "We should have an independent choice of whether we want to use the file-sharing system or not," Huffman said, decked out in his denim finest and looking like someone who tried too hard to look like he didn't try too hard to get dressed in the morning. "We don't want the government telling one guy they can use it, and another one they can't," Huffman continued, as Maximum Records recording artists Sons of Harmony nodded their approval. The members of the group were clad in the de rigueur boy-band fashion, wearing matching sleeveless shirts and backward baseball caps.
Let's face it: The real reason Huffman staged this press conference was to shine a little light on Maximum Records and Sons of Harmony. That said, Huffman did make a valid point when he theorized that, "If Napster freely distributes 'N Sync's new album for two weeks before it's released and people are aware of the release date, it drives record sales up to 2.4 million. That just happened." The point being that Napster is just the new radio station for technologically advanced teens. The numbers support Huffman's reasoning: There's been a 30 percent increase in record sales this year, with new weekly sales records being set.
"If you love music, you're gonna share it with other people," Huffman concluded. "And if they feel it like you do, they're gonna go buy the record. The idea of Napster has been around forever." And sooner or later, someone will come up with the technology to make Sons of Harmony sound good. Believe us, should that ever happen, we'll rally the troops behind that cause. As for Napster, who cares? Another system will make it obsolete in two months anyway.