it's safe to say that the good old days of logging onto Napster and checking out songs by the dozen are gone. It's over.
A few hundred unknown bands are playing around town this weekend as part of NXNE, so the smart thing to do would be to dial up Napster and listen to a few songs by some of the more promising prospects to determine whether they deserve your club-crawling time. Good luck.
Try searching out songs by a handful of NXNE-registered bands and, chances are, you'll come up empty.
It's not just a matter of Napster's new court-enforced filtering software, which removes from the system the biggest names traded. What really matters is that over the last few weeks, in the wake of Napster's run of bad publicity, with everyone from the majors to tiny spoken-word labels suing the company for copyright infringement, Napster users have gone, and they've taken their songs with them.
Internet zine Webnoise (www.webnoize.com) reported last week that use of Napster has plunged by more than 25 per cent in the past two months, and fewer users means fewer files to trade.
Log on now and you'll see that the number of users also dialed in is somewhere in the low thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands or millions of users who'd be simultaneously plugged in during Napster's heyday.
And where searches for even the most obscure songs or far-out comedy bits would produce dozens of download choices, you're lucky now to get one option, and it's usually running on a slow dial-up connection that means hours of download time.
In the wake of Napster's decline, alternative sites like Gnutella (http://gnutella.wego.com/) and Mactella (www.gnutelliums.com/macintosh) have become more viable options. There are thousands of files to choose from and an increasingly easy interface to operate.
Whether they become the free-form trading post that Napster once was, though, remains to be seen. Prickly issues of copyright and ownership aside for the moment, with three days of frenzied club-hopping looming, it's the bands that will suffer most.