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Frank Zappa created file sharing in 1983? Predicted Napster would kill the music industry?

Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST…” — November 19, 1979: Lyrics to the song Packard Goose on the album Joe’s Garage: Act III.

According to TechDirt, there’s a section in The Real Frank Zappa Book that discusses his response to “the home taping movement” that I found very compelling.

Remember when cassettes came out and you could just tape off your vinyl (although you may have static and pops) or copy your friends’ albums in a basic two deck stereo?

Then CD’s came out (and you didn’t really want to burn your cassettes because the quality just couldn’t compare) but you could easily burn your friends’ CDs?

And now mp3′s are the standard, can be easily ripped from CDs, but are essentially free because of the file size and dependable quality — and the fact you can get them free online just about everywhere.

But meanwhile for some albums, like Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, I’ve purchased the album in four formats: vinyl, cassette, CD and mp3. Although I could’ve easily stolen the last three of those, it does kind of suck that I’m buying an album again and again because of format.

Frank Zappa, apparently, knows all and prophesized online file-sharing (and even a rough version of Rhapsody and the iTunes store) back in 1983:

We propose to acquire the rights to digitally duplicate and store THE BEST of every record company’s difficult-to-move Quality Catalog Items [Q.C.I.], store them in a central processing location, and have them accessible by phone or cable TV, directly patchable into the user’s home taping appliances, with the option of direct digital-to-digital transfer to F-1 (SONY consumer level digital tape encoder), Beta Hi-Fi, or ordinary analog cassette (requiring the installation of a rentable D-A converter in the phone itself . . . the main chip is about $12).

All accounting for royalty payments, billing to the customer, etc. would be automatic, built into the initial software for the system.

The consumer has the option of subscribing to one or more Interest Categories, charged at a monthly rate, without regard for the quantity of music he or she decides to tape.

Providing material in such quantity at a reduced cost could actually diminish the desire to duplicate and store it, since it would be available any time day or night.

Monthly listings could be provided by catalog, reducing the on-line storage requirements of the computer. The entire service would be accessed by phone, even if the local reception is via TV cable.

The advantage of the TV cable is: on those channels where nothing ever seems to happen (there’s about 70 of them in L.A.), a visualization of the original cover art, including song lyrics, technical data, etc., could be displayed while the transmission is in progress, giving the project an electronic whiff of the original point-of-purchase merchandising built into the album when it was ‘an album’, since there are many consumers who like to fondle & fetish the packaging while the music is being played. In this situation, Fondlement & Fetishism Potential [F.F.P.] is supplied, without the cost of shipping tons of cardboard around.

And I just love this part — which pretty much predicted the “Napster Effect” even without the rise of the iPod…

We require a LARGE quantity of money and the services of a team of mega-hackers to write the software for this system. Most of the hardware devices are, even as you read this, available as off-the-shelf items, just waiting to be plugged into each other so they can put an end to “THE RECORD BUSINESS” as we now know it.

  • http://classichammonds.net/ leslie speakers

    Zappa wrote this in a chapter about failure in his book.

    The irony being that not much of his catalog is available anymore on iTunes.

  • http://classichammonds.net/ leslie speakers

    Zappa wrote this in a chapter about failure in his book.

    The irony being that not much of his catalog is available anymore on iTunes.

  • http://classichammonds.net/ leslie speakers

    Zappa wrote this in a chapter about failure in his book. nnThe irony being that not much of his catalog is available anymore on iTunes.

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