(Don’t) Stop the Beat
Written by Akash Harjani
It starts with a catchy beat—the tapping of a drum, the strumming of the guitar—and no matter how it starts, the end is always the same. People jump out of their seats and start dancing or singing. If one has ever had a deep connection with music, something about the songs literally and metaphorically can resonate with that person. It is indescribable with words. It’s been that way since some of us were young, and things have certainly changed a lot since those days of sitting in front of the TV and trying to pretend to be one of the dancers in music videos. In addition, it’s so much easier to find those nameless songs that get stuck in your head on the radio, which are sometimes called “earworms.” Regardless, with major companies like Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube, it’s so much easier to find songs, put them on a playlist, and take them wherever you want to go. By comparison, in the early days of the Internet, finding good quality music was about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack—in this case the haystack being tons of viruses and terrible MIDI files, but never mind that. For now, let’s do the “Time Warp” and take a trip back to a more lawless time.
In the early ‘90s, not many people had ready access to the Internet as we do today. It was used mostly by hobbyists looking for something new to enjoy or bored wealthy people. This changed rapidly as Moore’s Law kicked in, and more people could afford Internet. It also led to a rise in Internet “forums,” which are message boards where people have conversations using posted messages. People used these forums to talk about various things, such as niche activities, tech talk, and even their own private lives, all under the cover of anonymity. It was also when the phrase “Internet piracy” became more common. Because of the lack of rules and restrictions on the Web, what would count as a crime or misdemeanor on the street could be performed faster on the Net. For example, let’s say a person wanted to get the latest Vanilla Ice song but couldn’t afford the album. What they could do is go to some random forum, ask someone to “rip” the album, and upload it online for the world to use. A torrent file would then be used to host that file on a particular website and allow others to download it. You can leave the file “seeding,” which makes the file easier and quicker to download. This method was already established and was used to download niche items, such as video games and Japanese animation, but now the stage has been set for more commonplace piracy to occur.
Let us take the perspective of a young child during the first decade of the 2000s. Social media hasn’t happened yet, and things have remained about the same since the earlier decade in technology. To put it mildly, young people couldn’t afford to download that many songs from Apple Music, and so they tried something called LimeWire. LimeWire was a peer-to-peer application and was used for torrenting a lot. One could download pretty much everything from used games, movies, and music all for free. One could even download the premium version of the application off of free LimeWire. It was just that broken. Eventually LimeWire and other apps like it were forcibly shut down. Early 2000’s kids around their teenage years moved on to getting jobs and paying for digital goods the normal way.
Although it makes sense to pay for certain products legally, there’s something so undeniably tantalizing about getting stuff for free. It’s something that’s often taken for granted, especially as a young adult. Sometimes we just need to be glad that if we see a particularly expensive product we really like, it’s nice to know we, as a community, have alternative options. Why, just thinking of all those free songs makes one want to get up and dance.