Pink, Dave Matthews, OutKast: Is downloading okay? In an all-star roundtable, the musicians talk about the digital revolution and their place in it

By Chris Willman
Updated September 19, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Pink,Outkast,Matthews Photograph by Matthias Clamer

Though they may not have much in common musically, Pink, Dave Matthews, and OutKast all have a vested interest in the digital revolution. They’ve seen their work pirated on the Internet, as have most other popular acts — and now that pay-per-song services such as iTunes make downloading legal and easy, they share a new set of worries. We sat down with the pop, rock, and hip-hop heavies, all of whom will soon drop highly anticipated albums — songs from which are likely already plastered on the Net by the time you read this — to talk about the future of the music industry.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY Will the industry cease to exist as we know it?

ANDRE of OutKast (whose ”Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” is due Sept. 23) I think they’ll find a way where you’ll be charged. Because, honestly, [file sharing] is straight thievery. I guess it’s such a sweet thing to do, just to go on the computer and steal. It’s not like they’re putting on a mask when they come in to rob you…. But I think the Internet is good, because the songs that I look for, I can’t find in the stores.

DAVE (whose first solo album, ”Some Devil,” is due Sept. 23) And it’s already starting. They’ve made it easier to do — to pay two dollars to get a couple tunes — than it is to go walking through the Internet trying to find the music for free…. If you can get it just like that, bang, you’ve got everything you want.

EW So why isn’t DMB music available on iTunes?

DAVE Well, it’ll get there. One of the reasons we haven’t gone with iTunes yet is because we want people to buy the whole record [and not just individual songs]. Also, we want to figure out a way to do it from home, so people can buy from us directly. [Everyone laughs.] ”We’ll give it to you for 40 cents! We’ll give it to you for two dollars, the whole record!”

EW Are we looking at the death of the album as an art form if buyers can cherry-pick one or two songs at a time online?

PINK (whose ”Try This” hits stores Nov. 11) A lot of artists just look for hits, so if you just want one of their hits, they’re like, ”Go for it.” But if you’re like me, I like to tell a f—in’ story. I write a book with my albums. You know how DVDs are, like, you want to see Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3? [Downloading a single] is like only getting Scene 1 — or Scene 10.

DAVE Maybe when they’re 15, they want one song. When they’re 18 or 22, they’re, ”Well, what’s the rest of the album like?” And when they’re 26, they’re too busy thinking about how to feed their kids to listen to the whole record. [He affects a fuddy-duddy white voice.] ”I haven’t listened to anything for a long time.”

PINK I have a personal issue; it’s nothing to do with money lost to the Internet. I’m a mystery-novel girl. I’m a mystery-movie girl. I like artists that are mysterious. And when the Internet has your songs before you’ve had a chance to tell your story, there’s no more mystery. People can find out what kind of f—ing underwear I had on when I lost my virginity, if they want to…

DAVE [Incredulous] Really?

PINK I don’t know. I’ve been on my own fansite and they’re like, ”Oh my God, did you hear this song?” And I haven’t even decided if it’ll be on my album yet!

ANDRE It’s disrespectful. When [OutKast’s Grammy-nominated 2000 album] ”Stankonia came out, [file sharers] had songs that weren’t even finished, with verses and spaces missing.

DAVE We had a whole album, man — it was a great record, but we didn’t want to put it out because of where we were at that time. [He’s referring to the bootleg known as ”The Lillywhite Sessions,” much of which the band later rerecorded for 2002’s ”Busted Stuff” album.] We probably would have gone back and done some work on it and finished it and put it out, but…

PINK It’s already out!

DAVE Unfortunately, someone found it and, bam, the whole thing’s out there, with no words [on some verses] — I’m going ”Hickory dickory doodely dock.” I’m glad people wanted to hear it. But I’m not glad, because I half-finished a painting, and I’m like, ”Okay, I want to leave that because I don’t have the mind right now to get it done.” And then you go to a f—in’ museum and it sits on the wall with a half-painted face and a price tag on it.

(This is an online-only excerpt of Entertainment Weekly’s Sept. 26, 2003, cover story.)