In a new interview with 98.1 The Max, former THE BLACK CROWES drummer Steve Gorman recalled the first time he found our about Napster, the pioneering file-sharing service which unleashed piracy on the record business and began the cataclysm that caused worldwide revenues to decline.
He said (see video below): "THE BLACK CROWES came out at the last gasp of the old industry, the business. But then what we realized was, well, every two or three years, it always changed. There wasn't the tech component, but as far as how things operated, every realm is evolving at all times. Look at radio, look at medicine — look at anything. And so the music industry, it's easy to say, 'Well, the '90s were cool, because of this.' But within that, it was changing — just the shifts of what was cool change, not to mention what happens behind the scenes.
"I remember the first time I ever heard the word 'Napster,'" he continued. "There was a band conference call. I'm at my brother's house in Baltimore. I go in and take the call, and our manager, Pete [Angelus], and the band, we're all talking about, 'Okay, we've got a checklist. Let's go down these things. This. This. This.' And he goes, 'Oh, by the way, I wanna tell you something. There's this thing called Napster. Has anybody heard of it?' We're all, like, 'No.' He goes, 'Well, okay, there's files online of songs.' And we're, like, 'What does that mean? What do you mean 'a file online'?' We know nothing. We're all Luddites. And he goes, 'People can download songs and they're not paying for 'em.' That was like saying, 'A man's gonna go to the moon.' We're, like, 'That's not possible. What do you mean? That can't possibly work.' And he explained it to us. And I remember thinking, 'What are we gonna do about it?' And he goes, 'We're not gonna do anything about it. We're gonna adapt and realize we're entering a new realm.' And he goes, 'This is the end of the world as we know it. Things are gonna be accessible to people and they're always gonna find a way around it.' And I remember he said, 'People steal cable television. There's always a way around.' And I got off the phone and I thought, 'This is really weird.'"
Gorman added: "My nephew Jeff, who at the time was nine or 10, and he's now in an incredible band called ILLITERATE LIGHT… I went down to the basement, and he has a computer there and everything. This is in '99 or 2000 — when did Napster really hit? Around that time. And I said, 'Hey, have you ever heard of a thing called Napster?' And he goes, 'Oh, yeah.' I go, 'Do you use it?' He goes, 'Yeah.' I go, 'Show me.' And he pulls it up. And then he goes, 'These are all the songs I have.' And he was always into music. And he's just got hundreds of songs. And I go, 'You got all those in your computer. You didn't pay for 'em?' And he was, like, 'Pay for 'em?'
"It takes one second for someone to think, 'Why would I pay for it?' The minute you get something for free, you're never gonna buy it again. It's like when promoters pay for the house. It's, like, 'Hey, we put a crowd in there.' If you give someone a free ticket to a band, even if they love the show, they're not gonna buy their next one. It's just a general thing. If you get something for free once, it'll never make sense for you to pay for it — almost always.
"And I looked at that computer and I looked at him. And then he said, 'Hey, Uncle Steve, have you ever heard THE ALLMAN BROTHERS?' And I went, 'Yeah.' He goes, 'They're really good.' And right away, I had these two trains of thought, which was, 'This is egregious and theft. They should kill these people.' 'My nine-year-old nephew likes THE ALLMAN BROTHERS now? How would he have ever heard them otherwise?' And right away, I was, like, 'Well, this is a duality of thought and feeling.' It's, like, the horse is out of the barn. Forget it, man. Game over."
Gorman, who released a book, "Hard To Handle: The Life And Death Of The Black Crowes - A Memoir", in September, went on to say that he saw an almost immediate impact on his own livelihood after Napster was first introduced to the world.
"We used to get these things called royalty checks every quarter," he said. "You just go to the mailbox, and back catalog. Here's a big chunk of money. 'Cause 'Shake Your Money Maker' is still selling. And 'The Southern Harmony' is still selling. And from that phone call about Napster, I think I probably got another one, and then the next one was much smaller and then smaller, and within a year, they just stopped. It's, like, why would anyone pay for an album that's 10 years old? That immediately became insane to people."
He continued: "We're talking about tech. Look at 15 years later. This is before YouTube, this is before MySpace, this is before anybody's sharing music anywhere. You're just downloading it from one site. But you could just see, 'Okay, that's the first domino. And it's just done."
Gorman is not involved in THE BLACK CROWES' upcoming reunion tour, which is scheduled to kick off on June 17 at Austin's Austin360 Amphitheater in Austin wrap on September 19 at the Forum in L.A. Joining Chris and Rich Robinson will be a all new lineup of THE CROWES featuring EARTHLESS guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, former TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND bassist Tim Lefebvre along with ONCE AND FUTURE BAND members Joel Robinow on keyboards and Raj Ojha on drums.
Photo courtesy of Westwood One