NPR logo Is This Music Web Site For Real?

Is This Music Web Site For Real?

Remember how amazing it was, way back in 1999, to type the name of a song or artist into Napster and have instant access to a song? Remember how un-amazing it was to wait for it to download over a poky dial-up connection?

It makes sense that music was the first chunk of traditional media to really tumble down in the face of online digital distribution. Songs, already broken down into 1s and 0s for CDs, were easy to digitize (unlike books), small enough in file size to distribute widely and quickly (unlike movies) and just expensive enough to make it worth the trouble. (Remember $18.99 CDs? Dark days.)

In 10 short years, though, we've gone from illegal, fleeting online files to robust, well-populated music services like iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Rhapsody. Even Napster, defanged, fell in line and still survives with a monthly subscription service. Along the way, hundreds of start-ups have tried to tame the online music world, either by corralling it into a social-media site, making music search easier or appealing directly to fans and artists. Most have had little success; there's a long trail of interesting ideas shut down over licensing issues, or that couldn't translate musical notes into dollar bills.

Think you've heard of them all? As part of NPR Music's retrospective on the decade, we challenge you to test your online music-business knowledge with our quiz. It features a mix of past and present digital music services and some fakes we concocted (although they may be already in development — who knows?).