Richard Koman has posted a long interview with me on the O'Reilly network, mostly about the novel
, but wide-ranging, and my favorite thus far of all the interviews that have appeared online.
I think there's a reason that this interview is so good: Richard did it in person, interactively. I get a lot of requests for email "interviews" that consist of five or ten essay questions (generally questions that I've already answered in various FAQs). I hate doing these things, and avoid them whereever possible. For starters, if I wanted to write ten short essays, I'd just pitch that to your editor -- I'm a freelance writer, after all, so writing a bunch of essays that appear under your byline and that you get paid for doesn't make a lot of sense.
But there's a much better reason that email interviews don't work. The ten essay questions are set in stone. No matter how I answer question one, question two will be the same. I've conducted a fair number of interviews for magazines and newspapers, and while preparing a list of questions is a good idea, it's a poor interview indeed that consists solely of the questions you start with. An interview is a conversation -- ten questions is a questionnaire.
I appreciate that email interviews are easier on the interviewer -- for starters, you don't have to transcribe a phone or in-person conversation. But email interviews are much harder on the subject, who doesn't get to collaborate with the interviewer on his answers, and has to struggle to sound interesting all on his own (not to mention, the interviewer doesn't have to do any transcribing, but the subject has to do a lot of typing).
But the recording industry has a story of, "We do two really important roles. One is to make music available and the other is to compensate artists." But one of the things we know is that 80 percent of all of the music ever released isn't for sale anywhere in the world. And another thing we know is that 97 percent of the artists signed to a recording contract earn less than $600 per year off of it. So Napster doesn't have a better track record at compensating artists, but it sure as shit had a better track record of making music available.
Napster filled a niche that the music industry was actually incapable of filling for legal and organizational reasons. I've had very earnest conversations with recording industry executives who told me it took forever to get the clearances to put 100 tracks online. Napster put 100 tracks online in the first eight seconds of its existence. So whatever happens, I can't believe that the hundreds of millions of people around the world currently enjoying filesharing--not just filesharers, but the people who get CDs from filesharers--those people aren't going to willingly say, "Yes, let's take the lion's share of our shared musical heritage and throw it away again, put it back in the vault for another 30 years until we can figure out how to make it available--minus whatever disappears between now and then because all known copies of it are destroyed." That isn't a possible outcome to the current struggle. There are lots of other possible outcomes, like serious damage to the rights to build general-purpose tools and so on, which I'm very concerned about. But I'm not concerned that the solution to this will involve throwing that music back in the vault.