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Coffee Talk #392: Bigger Disruptor — iTunes vs. Napster

Posted on August 31st, by raymond padilla in Coffee Talk, iPhone, Music, Today's Specials. 9 comments

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, whoopie pies sweeping the nation, Oscar De La Hoya’s admission of cocaine use + adultery, or Michael Vick’s sweet contract, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Two of my friends were arguing over which service disrupted the music industry in the bigger way, Napster or iTunes. The Napster backer believes that creating absolute anarchy and making music available to more people than ever is an unmatched accomplishment. He argued that Napster paved the road for iTunes’ success and put an emphasis on being the first change agent. The Apple supporter acknowledged that Napster was the first major agitator, but argued that iTunes had a more meaningful impact on the music industry. He believes that getting the music business to change its pricing model is more significant than the free-for-all environment that Napster created. He also thinks the combination of iTunes and the iPod, later joined by the iPhone and iPad, changed the way millions of people buy music.

The arguments were interesting and I’m still processing both sides. I don’t have my own opinion on the matter yet, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this debate. Please vote in today’s poll and expand on your answer in the comments section!

Which service had a bigger impact on the music industry?

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  • BigBlak

    This to me this is kind of like a Tesla vs Edison debate, both are great but can there really be a winner?

    I would have to go with Napster only because it paved the way for digital downloads. I'm not going with the sharing angle because I know for a fact I used to dub tapes just like my parents used to do (party because they were DJs and my extended family being broke) back in the day.

  • N8R

    I have to go with Napster too.

    iTunes may have changed the actual model, but Napster provided the method. Put it like this, before iTunes there was Napster, before Napster, there was nothing.

    • BigBlak


  • Smartguy

    You can't have one without the other I believe. Napster showed us that ppl want digital files, and iTunes was able to show labels that they needed to provide a legal AND affordable means of doing so.

    I'm not saying iTunes wouldn't have got to where it is today without a Napster. iTunes had the iPod which really helped it, but ppl would have bought and ripped cds for considerably longer is all.

  • bsukenyan

    I have to go with napster as well. That's really the first time I heard of getting digital music, and it spawned a lot of clones, Kazaa being the one I knew more people used up until Limewire. iTunes is still big, but getting free music digitally before buying it through iTunes is really what got me started on it in general. Actually for me what got me to even use iTunes in the first place was a program, which admittedly really worked best on a college campus, called ourtunes. Anyone's iTunes library that was within distance of your computer could be ripped to your computer (so everybody on the floor in my dorm, or anyone in my 200 person classes). That was enough to get me from WMP to iTunes. I started off getting about 7,000 songs in the matter of about a week.

  • N8R
    • raymond padilla

      Yes. I've been around Silicon Valley nerds. They can't hold their drink.

    • bsukenyan

      Yeah you think they would be a little more careful this time around. Maybe this will be an annual thing, kind of like WWDC or the new line of macbooks coming out!! lol

    • raymond padilla

      This story is getting even better! Apparently Apple employees flashed badges and pretended they were police officers in order to search the dude's home.