Evolution Controlled Creations frequently engages in actions of Culture Jamming, where the stream of mass media consciousness is polluted (or enriched, depending on your viewpoint) with creative fraud. Mass media is essentially a set of filters and rules which restrict what can be seen and heard. ECC considers these rules to be a set of challenges, and if we succeed in injecting a toy surprise in the mainstream's Cracker Jack then we chalk up another win.
After doing the Napster Bombs described below for a while, we got to liking Napster for many reasons. Unlike those sore fuddy-duddies behind the Cuckoo Eggs, we wish Napster could have grown and flourished, rather than lose to the labels... it could only have served to level the playing field in the end. Hopefully Gnutella (and clones, be them standalone or web interface) will have its poop in order when the Napsters jump ship. Meanwhile, one thing that we discovered that Napster has to offer isn't exactly a Culture Jam, but it does offer a great new way to see behind the screens... or rather, to hear what's going on in front of them.
Ingredients: Napster, MP3s, and voyeurism.
A lot of people use the Music Match software package to convert and archive their MP3 files. However, some people aren't content to just sit back and rip their fave CDs. These people actually make their own MP3s, recording direct to MP3 from the computer's mic input or line input. The resulting recordings aren't always prime-time entertainment, but if you've ever wanted to hear how badly some people karaoke, strum their acoustic guitar, or can't get their mic working right, this is the way.
You start by firing up Napster on your computer. Then search for this phrase:
MIC IN TRACK
The results (and there will be many) are the files people have recorded of themselves but haven't given names yet (or maybe never will). A lot of the results are, well, crap, and you may have to listen to a few to find ones that are worthwhile... which makes your success ratio about the same as listening to the radio, right? And in case you aren't getting enough results that way, also search for:
LINE IN TRACK or MIXER IN TRACK
Those will usually be less interesting, but you never know. One other tip for you is to use a program like Napigator to pick different Napster servers to mine for nuggets.
Here's some of the better products of our obsessive digging. Since leaving them titled "Mic In Track" makes for a very confusing directory structure, we chose new titles for them:
We're in love with these here. Why? For one, they provide a unique peek into the unfiltered world of... well... the real. The normal. The banal. And sometimes that's a lot more interesting than what we're supposed to be watching. We hope to pull the best of these together into a CD compilation, named after the most frequent directory you find these in: "Default's Greatest Hits".
The article below about Napster Bombs reflects our work of early 2000, and since then Napster (if it's even still operating by the time you read this) has been inundated with mislabeled files, both intentional and accidental. The ECC may or may not have been the first to do it, but at least we were ahead of the curve. Since then, it's become so prevalent that even detached comic strips like Foxtrot can attempt a joke about it.
Our Message Board featured some excellent conversation about Napster Bombing, which helped us to form (and force) our own thoughts and intentions about the practice. While the process has some nasty parallels to spamming, we would have to say that we've gotten far more positive responses from Bombing victims than negative ones. As of this writing, we no longer offer Napster Bombs from the ECC's computer, though we do offer some other files (look for user The_ECC). Not that it changes anything: the Napster Bombs we previously offered are still readily available from hundreds of other users under the same names we gave them.
When ECC was faced with a likely threat from CBS that would cease distribution of the "Rocked by Rape" 7" single, we made MP3 versions of the song available for free. These were made available on our web site, but to ensure maximum distribution we also planted several "Napster Bombs" to help.
The concept of "Napster Bombs" was suggested on one mailing list, but to the best of our knowledge ECC has been the first to employ them (as well as coining the term). To understand how they work, you must first know some background.
Napster is a program that allows Internet users to easily exchange MP3-compressed files of music. Anyone running Napster on their computer can share MP3 files from their hard drive with anyone else running Napster. They can also search for MP3 files that other Napster users are offering.
However, the searching is pretty sketchy. You can search by artist or song title, but in reality you're just searching the MP3 filename. You can't hear any previews, so what you get may not be what's described in the title at all. MP3 files also include internal ID3 information, which can also be completely different from the filename. While someone may be offering an mp3 with the filename "Beck - Slap Happy Mentos Eater (live - rare).mp3", the actual song or ID3 tag may be a Beatles song, Nirvana, Barry Manilow, or a fart sound.
Or, it might be The Evolution Control Committee's song "Rocked By Rape".
ECC offered many versions of "Rocked By Rape" through Napster under different band names and titles. Below are the filenames we offered and the number of downloads each received from us:
And, just for comparison's sake:
Each person downloading one of these files would soon find themselves listening to "Rocked By Rape" (or the b-side, "Racked By Rope", or the drum & bass version "Rocked By Rave"). The ID3 tags in each file correctly attributes the song to The Evolution Control Committee, so listeners will discover they've been bombed.
What do you
think? Is this clever? Evil? Are people getting a creative treat or getting what
they deserve for pirating music in the first place? Express your views on the bulletin board.