Craig Silverman interviews Kohan Ikin
Craig Silverman approached Kohan Ikin (of namesuppressed) to discuss the MP3 format, why it is so popular amongst independent artists and its ramifications for the music industry.
CS: I would like to know why you choose to distribute your music this way. Is this temporary until you get a record deal or do you think this is the way music will be distributed in years to come?
KI: The main reason I chose to use MP3 to distribute my music is because it offers a cheap and simple method to reach a potential audience of millions with my music. Previous methods of playing music over the internet resulted in poor sound quality - MP3 gives listeners a good indication of what my music really sounds like.
I don't see this as a temporary thing - I believe more and more people will be prepared to download music online, especially when the internet becomes even more accessible to people worldwide. I think the real power in this method of distribution lies not in the particular MP3 format we're using, but in the ability for one person to reach thousands of others via the internet. I feel that the internet can offer much more exposure than an independent record deal could, maybe even more than some major record deals.
CS: What is your background?
KI: Member of the band namesuppressed. The band released its debut album in June 1997, a limited edition independent release. namesuppressed has had an internet presence since early 1997, and has been distributing music via the internet since mid-1997. We hope to redesign and relaunch the site in early 1999, including features that will allow people to order copies of our albums over the internet (as well as download full length songs in MP3 format).
CS: Present job?
KI: University student, studying Computer Science and Mathematics.
CS: Is the music industry going to have to rethink how it does business due to MP3s?
KI: Without a doubt. For a long time the music industry has tried to ignore the internet, but the MP3 format has finally forced it to confront the issue. Sadly, they still seem to be rather reluctant to embrace the internet for distribution - the Recording Industry Association of America recently sued Diamond, the makers of a walkman style device that allows people to play music downloaded from the internet. Instead of trying to prevent the release of the Diamond Rio player, I think the RIAA should instead try to find ways to use the player to their advantage.
The MP3 revolution has shown that people are ready to accept music in downloadable form over the internet. It has also shown that these people will pay for music - most people I have talked to in the MP3 scene have bought at least one CD as a result of downloading an MP3 file they hadn't heard before. MP3 is helping unsigned bands to thrive and become really successful - I think that's what has got the record industry running scared.
CS: Will people ever be fully willing to accept their music as a download rather than a tangible CD in a plastic case?
We're already seeing the evidence that people are prepared to accept music as a download. Estimates suggest there are about 5 million people worldwide listening to MP3 files. Sites such as Nordic DMS and Cerberus are selling full albums online as downloads. I don't think downloads will replace tangible items such as CDs or DVDs, but provide an alternative to these mediums. People said the internet would replace books and libraries, but it hasn't happened yet.
CS: Should music be free?
KI: I think there should always be some sort of "free" music available - before the internet, radio brought free music to the public. The MP3 format has allowed groups such as the Kosmic Free Music Foundation and MP3.COM to bring free music legally to the masses via the internet. But whether music is sold or distributed for free, the artists should be paid for their work (perhaps from advertising on download sites, or listeners paying "shareware" fees for the music).
CS: Thanks for your time.
Craig Silverman is a freelance writer, webmaster of The Link and board representative of Campus Plus.