A friend of mine often reflected on the relatively poor hand our generation was dealt in regards to illicit cultures. Our parents, the baby boomers, had the ’60s and ’70s – that panoply of sex, drugs and rock and roll. What did we get? Mosh pits sucked, extreme sports were cool until you broke your arm skateboarding down the street and rave culture was either for late ’80s British youth or early ’90s Americans dealing with a post-Nirvana hangover.
We did have Napster from 1999 to 2001. I wish that period could’ve inspired something like Hunter S. Thompson’s “wave speech” in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to explain what it all meant. But, unlike the ’60s counter-culture movement, the truth is sadly mundane. For a few years there was a loophole in the system, and we used it to download music for free. We downloaded thousands of songs, most of which we never listened to and most of which we lost when Windows ME crashed running Snood. Sure, we avoided the twelve-step programs, unwanted pregnancies and acid flashbacks, but I can’t help feeling we got the short end of the stick in this generational deal. My parents sympathized with the death of John Lennon; I had to sympathize with Winona Ryder.
Don’t get me wrong – piracy has been a truly significant force in a lot of ways. I believe it jump-started the trend towards digital distribution and, I like to think, made me a complete web convert as I browsed around music sites looking for obscure bands whose catalogs I could download. But it’s a sad revolution, one grounded in consumption more than ideals, fueled by a fervor that typically evaporates at the first hint of prosecution. It’s probably brought very few of us together and only encouraged greater anonymity and paranoia. This is my generation – and if this was my contribution, I hope I die before I get old.