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Napster paved the way for our streaming-reliant music industry

Screengrab of the Napster program
  • Dan Kopf
By Dan Kopf

Data editor

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

I, like many American 16-year-olds in the year 2000, had a torrid affair with Napster. I wasn’t particularly tech-savvy, but I quickly figured out the basics. First, I had to download the software to my family’s desktop. Then, I could tell Napster that I wanted to make a digital copy of a certain song. The free service would find another person’s computer that had that song, and my computer would begin downloading a copy. After the file finished downloading, I could listen on Winamp—the music software I used at the time—and the quality was generally quite good. (Its simplicity was part of the sell; other, similar software existed but felt more complicated.)

My dad didn’t like my Napster habit. Understandably, he thought it was stealing. Most of those songs were not licensed for free distribution.

I knew it was wrong, too. I wasn’t some anarchist, “screw capitalism!” kid, but I knew it was hurting bands I liked, some of them not yet rich.

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