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Record Studio Admits It: Napster Was Awesome

by El Destino

2022-04-20 22:18:56

You've heard the song, which introduced millions to Hawaiian music legend Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. He'd posthumously shot to fame after his famous 'ukulele version of "Over the Rainbow" began turning up in ads and movie soundtracks, prompting curious music lovers to wonder, who is that singer?

Years later, a music journalist explored exactly what happened...

In a book about the singer, his career, and his remarkable posthumous success, Dan Kois writes that the song was never played on the radio (outside of Hawaii). So how did such a vast "mainland" audience discover this local treasure? The journalist spoke to Hawaiian record label "Mountain Apple" (and its executive, Leah Bernstein), and concludes that there was one very important factor at that moment in time:

"The late '90s and early '00s were the heyday of the illegal file-sharing application Napster...

...that brief golden age after everyone discovered the magic of sharing music but before record companies litigated the shit out of the service.

Napster was made for an artist like Israel Kamakawiwo'ole; he was completely unfamiliar to Mainland listeners, so a music fan who heard "Over the Rainbow" had no context in which even to guess what the rest of his music might sound like. The ability to sample his work online with no financial risk was crucial to many Mainland fans eventually buying his music.

"Napster in its illegal mode was probably the best PR tool Mountain Apple ever had for Iz," Leah Bernstein acknowledges.

"Napster would fall over laughing to hear me say that, because we demanded that they take it off."

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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