As one of the music industry's top artists and producers, and as head of his own music label, Sumthing Distribution, Nile Rodgers has something to say about the future of digital music: we should have done this YEARS ago!
Charged: When Napster first came out, the music labels freaked out at the idea of digital downloads. As an artist, what was your reaction at the time‾
Nile Rodgers: I totally disagreed with the condemnation of Napster, and at the time, everybody treated me like the Anti-Christ. And I kept going, "Guys, this is fantastic! You know that if fuckin' Sony had thought of this"&brkbar;!" It was the fact that this outsider did it, and you know, if they're an outsider, why not make them an insider‾ If they'd done that, the business would be flourishing now, because "&brkbar; even iTunes is a flawed model, because who can tag all that music, go through it all and give you an accurate representation‾ Think of how it works - iTunes is so complicated. If they'd made Napster an insider, they could have figured it out, tagged it all, let it be part of a database and let this guy take care of it and pay him a royalty, and it's just an invisible cost. There's so much now that's fundamentally wrong.
C: Why is that, do you think‾
NR: Everybody who's my age in the record business is anti-variety and volume and they feel like it's lack of control, which is what they're used to - they're used to controlling everything. And that makes sense, because if you can't control it, you can't charge for it. You can't make money if it's free. So this business has always been about that.
C: So how do you approach it now with Sumthing‾
NR: When I started my business, my approach was like: if I'm selling lemonade, I don't want to set up a stand next to the Coca-Cola plant. There's something to be said for making not necessarily the best cup of coffee, but a different cup of coffee. If everyone loves Starbucks, that says to me that everyone loves coffee, so maybe they'll like this flavor I'm selling, so I know I'm tapping into a market that exists. And I know that Starbucks is gonna murder me. To me, Sony BMG is Starbucks, and I'm that cool little coffee shop where only be 30 or 40 people hang out, but they're going to come back every single day because they think my coffee tastes better.