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Reality check

Vivendi-universal puts some muscle on an MP3.com star. Tracks hed: Reality check dek: vivendi-universal puts some muscle on an MP3.com star.

The Internet and the independent-music world seemed to be made for each other. By posting compressed, downloadable tracks either for sale or for free, artists had a vast, untapped pool of potential listeners at their disposal, while listeners had nearly infinite access to new music. That bit of utopia has come to pass to some extent, but so has the reality that business is still business.

One of the most curious recent chapters in online music has been unfolding since shortly after MP3.com was purchased by Vivendi-Universal. Analog Pussy, a German techno duo, was one of the most popular independent acts on MP3.com, boasting more than a million downloads and earning $35,000 in CD sales as a direct result of exposure on the site. But early in May, MP3.com suspended the duo, took down its Web page, and froze the income it had generated.

The curious part: MP3.com gave no concrete reason for its actions, but those who have been following the story suspect that since Analog Pussy doesn’t record for any of the labels under the Vivendi-Universal umbrella, the music giant chose not to let the duo continue to earn money using V-U’s resources. (Analog Pussy is still persona non grata on the MP3.com site; a recent search turned up none of the duo’s music.)

V-U has been tight-lipped about the whole episode, saying it doesn’t want to reveal Analog Pussy’s transgressions for fear that other artists will try to get away with the same thing-whatever that is.

What was most frustrating for Analog Pussy is never gaining access to an actual human being at V-U so they could plead their case. All correspondence related to the termination came from a cloudy e-mail entity called “Artist Activity,” which accused the duo of unspecified unacceptable practices.

“In the real world, labels can screw artists but at least they have name and a face,” said Analog Pussy’s Jiga via e-mail. “We can deal with them. Vivendi-MP3 online is a dangerous place. It uses the anonymity and vagueness of the cyberspace combined with the power of money.”

Time for a nap

I know I promised to continue discussing alternative music download sites, but that discussion is a two-way street, and I’m still waiting for you to take the hint. You must have a favorite place to browse for music, so tell me about it, will you? ([email protected]).

In the meantime, spend a few minutes at the OpenNap site opennap.sourceforge.net/. OpenNap extends the Napster peer-to-peer protocol to allow sharing of any media type, and the ability to link servers together.

That in itself makes the site worth visiting, but OpenNap contains lots of other resources, including Napster alternatives, source code, and links to Napster clients that run on virtually every open-source platform under the sun, including Amiga, Perl, BeOS, Gnome, GTK, Visual Basic, Java, KDE, Linux, Tcl/Tk, RiscOS, Motif, and PHP. Several of the links, of course, include source code, and other links without source code are listed, too.

One link on the OpenNap site bears special mention. Wrapster www.unwrapper.com lets you transform any file (including software programs and videos) into MP3 format. The Windows application can be used to archive or transfer such files using Napster or store them on MP3 storage sites.

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