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"We should think of it as a new kind of radio, a promotional tool that can help artists who don’t have the opportunity to get their music played on mainstream radio or on MTV."
—Chuck D, quoted in the New York Times
CHUCK D: NAPSTER NOT PUBLIC ENEMY #1
Hip-Hop Vet Calls File-Swapping Application "A New Radio For The New Millennium"
Battle lines continue being drawn over Napster.

This is especially true in the artist community, with Metallica and Dr. Dre suing the embattled company, Limp Bizkit signing a pact to make Napster a sponsor of its tour and Dexter Holland of Offspring endorsing the application.

In an op-ed piece in Saturday's (4/29) New York Times, rapper, activist and Net entrepreneur Chuck D weighed in, voicing his support of the controversial MP3-trading program and "the sharing of music files on the Internet." He has also announced that his Web site will be working with Napster on a contest promotion.

In an article titled "‘Free' Music Can Free The Artist," the 22-year music industry veteran and Public Enemy frontman impugned the business practices of major labels while extolling the virtues of companies like Napster, which he dubbed "a new radio for the new millennium."

While D mentioned the pending suit against the file-sharing site filed by Dre and Metallica, he stated that he believed artists should welcome Napster. "We should think of it as a new kind of radio," D wrote, "a promotional tool that can help artists who don't have the opportunity to get their music played on mainstream radio or on MTV."

D pointed to the record companies' squeezing the small, independent entrepreneur out of the distribution game as being more damaging to the artist "more than someone passing a song around free of charge."

By being the only ones able to repackage the music they own to fit new formats, as technology has moved from phonograph to CD, the major labels have also benefited monetarily. "And in fact, when companies like Sony bought record companies," D wrote, "they gained control of not only the music but also the device needed to hear it. The last straw was the CD period, when labels increased their markup without raising artists' royalties in kind."

D called Napster a thorn in the industry's side, allowing marginalized or smaller artists to have a voice and exposing people to those voices. "Companies like Napster are creating new fan interest and establishing a new infrastructure for unknown artists to attract an audience."

As this drama between the big labels and the upstart Internet sites plays out, D wrote, "we will slowly see formations of new rules and regulations that will eventually support many more artists than the record companies of yesterday."

"The Internet has created a new planet for musicians to explore," D added, in closing, "and I'm with that."

Putting his money where his mouth is, Chuck has also announced that his Rapstation.com hip-hop site will co-sponsor a songwriting contest with Napster.

"We are thrilled to be working with Chuck D on this exciting promotion," declared Napster founder shawn fanning',390,400);">shawn fanning',390,400);">Shawn Fanning. "He is an innovator in the digital music arena and one of the first of many artists that are supportive of what we are doing."

In a related story, an 11-year-old in Tulsa downloaded the entire NSYNCcatalog today.

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