What Was The First Song You Downloaded From Napster?

noah | June 2, 2009 2:00 pm

Ten years ago this month, an undergraduate in Boston created a program that, one could argue, reshaped not just the music industry, but the way people consume media in the digital age as a whole: Napster, which got its start in Shawn Fanning’s Northeastern University dorm room and brought the idea of the “celestial jukebox” into Internet-connected homes across the country. The years since have seen increased download speeds, flurries of lawsuits, plummeting music-industry profits, and more sophisticated ways to share music with others quickly–so much that it’s sort of hard to remember, and even appreciate, the sometimes-laborious process of finding a song. Take a trip back to that more innocent era with the San Francisco Chronicle, which yesterday looked over the company’s meteoric ascent, and how the promise of a lawsuit eventually led to its grinding into bankruptcy and bastardization:

Fanning was a student at Northeastern University in Boston when he had the idea for a computer program that would make sharing MP3s easier by allowing users to see a directory of songs stored on other members’ computers. He called it Napster, stemming from a nickname he once received for his nappy haircut. After months writing the program, he released it to a group of about 150 friends and Internet Relay Chat acquaintances. Napster’s fame spread by word of mouth, and it soon had 10,000 to 15,000 users. But once the program was featured on Cnet’s Download.com site, the number of users soared into the millions. But the world’s biggest record companies viewed Napster as a copyright “infringement machine” that allowed Internet users to steal songs from artists without paying. In December 1999, members of the Recording Industry Association of America filed a federal lawsuit to stop Napster Inc., by then a startup firm located in San Mateo and later in Redwood City. At its peak, more than 60 million people worldwide used Napster. In one free-music frenzy, users downloaded 2.79 billion songs in February 2001, just before a series of rulings by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel and a federal appellate court in San Francisco that the program did violate copyright laws and had to be shut down. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2002. The name and logo were bought out of bankruptcy by the online music subscription service that now is a subsidiary of consumer electronics retailer Best Buy Co. Inc.


To stoke your memories even more, here’s a screen shot of the old days (well, the Windows version anyway): So now that the retro-ness is out of the way: What was the first song you got from the service, and when did you start using it? I got to it kind of late, if memory serves me correctly–not until my . And the first song I snagged was “Girl You Turn Me On” by the beloved-by-me hard-rock outfit L.A. Guns, who had just recruited former Love/Hate yelper Jizzy Pearl into their fold who were self-releasing their albums. Which meant that the album containing said track, Shrinking Violet, was too “obscure” for your garden-variety mall stores, and not cool enough for the indie emporia that I also haunted back in that day. In retrospect, it’s kind of a perfect straw-man example as far as the “the Internet is helping people get what they want, man!” argument goes, although I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t snag “… Baby One More Time” while I was out in the file-sharing wilds, too.Assessing Napster – 10 Years Later [SFGate] [Pic via evolt]