How MP3s Are Going To Shatter The Status Quo
michael dean
San Francisco, November 1999

As a survivor of the majors (my band BOMB was courted by, recorded, released and dropped from Warner Brothers) I saw how major record labels are run. On the plus side, they have massive distribution that reaches into the homes and minds of every consumer in the world, in a way that an indie label couldn't at that pre-MP3 time. On the down side, they are run like many American businesses - bloated monstrosities that spend way too much money on the wrong things. A and R men at major labels keep their jobs and expense accounts by not signing bands, that's right, not signing them. If you take a risk and promote something unusual, you risk failure (more often than not due to ineptitude of the label's understanding of what people really want) and joblessness. And those jobs are pretty sweet. You keep your station by not taking chances, not signing bands, or simply signing safe bands that sound like everyone else, usually only after a couple other majors start sniffing around (thus the legendary "feeding frenzies" and "biding wars" over relatively unknown bands.) For what a major spends on expense accounts on one A and R guy or gal living like a rockstar, far more relevant labels actually sign, produce and release a dozen amazing and influential acts.

Like the brontosaurs who went extinct because his pea brain wouldn't alert him that his mouth was chewing on his tail, the "big seven" (or is it five this week? Or three? These corporate behemoths exist by the opposite of asexual reproduction-by blobbing together and absorbing the competition by osmosis) are in danger of dying out, aided by the do-it-yourself fun and adrenaline of MP3 technology. MP3 makes everyone a star, everyone their own label, and the majors are terrified. They are banding together to try and come up with a secure digital music file alternative, but they are screwed. Anything that can be eventually played through speakers can be re-encoded into MP3 format and posted. And as the price of CDs goes up and price of CD burners goes down, everyone is gonna get a DSL line and forget about those corpulent antique majors lumbering and wailing in the tar pits of the Internet.

I make music to feel and give. My latest CD, "Living Vicariously Through Michael Dean", is an interactive enhanced audio and ROM unit packing more quality music, video and written content than any artist has ever offered on one disc. It's on a tiny label, Direct Hit Records and is available at The entire CD is shareware, and copying is encouraged. I feel that this will be an increasing trend, one I am happy to be at the forefront of.

Dead Kennedy's frontman Jello Biafra is fond of quoting me about the Internet, so I will return the respect by closing with a quote from one of his pre-MP3 songs about the music industry.

"Tin-eared, graph paper-brained accountants
instead of music fans
call all the shots at giant record companies now
the lowest common denominator rules
but sales are slumping
and no one will say why.
Could it be they put out one too many
Lousy records?"

ps. Keep in mind when running Napster, you are running a server (though no one mentions this) and it is a server with no firewall. You are opening your security wide open, most likely.

Michael Dean is a professional writer living on a fault line in California. He is a volunteer cat foster parent for the SPCA and creates music and astounding non-commercial concentric parenthetical web presences for kicks. He has been on the Internet longer than you. His delightful self can be downloaded in entirety from

Portions of this article were recently quoted in an article in the Harvard Law Review about the future of MP3 and the music industry, in an article by my dear old friend Beau Brashares. Beau's position on this issue was also represented on the live panel by Chuck D. of Public Enemy.