GUNS N’ ROSES guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal believes that the record industry made a great mistake by forcing Napster, a peer-to-peer music sharing application and network, to shut down in the early 2000s.

“It is not that Napster changed anything, it is that the stupid music industry did not see this amazing technology and say, ‘My God, we could do so much with this,’ and instead they tried to destroy it and they tried to treat people as criminals,” he said during his recent clinic in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“I mean, the people were making it very obvious what they wanted and you are in the business of giving people what they want. So, why would you try to take that away from them?”

Thal added that the music industry could have used the popularity of Napster to its advantage, thereby making it much easier for today’s musicians and songwriters to earn a living.

“What you can do, money-wise, if a billion people download your songs for free? It could have been the tiniest little subscription, it could have been ads or it could have been sponsors. There are a million ways it could have been done and they [the music industry] had a lot of time to figure it out. Instead, through their lawyers, they said, ‘Go sue that 12-year-old kid,’ and they screwed up everything,” he said.

“That is the biggest change in the music industry. The music industry started to see their customers as their enemies and everybody suffered for it.

“Congratulations, record industry, you have made a mess and you still don’t know how to clean it up.”

Napster was launched in 1999 as a pioneering, easy-to-use peer-to-peer file sharing service that was used mainly by music fans trading songs and albums in the MP3 format.

At its peak, the service had 80 million users and provided the template for later services like Limewire, Grokster, Gnutella and many others. Its success arguably began the end of the “album era” in popular music and sent the music industry into a tailspin from which it has never fully recovered.

METALLICA sued Napster after the band discovered that a leaked demo version of its song “I Disappear” was circulating on the service before it was released.

Asked whether he regretted the legal battle with the company, which effectively drove Napster out of business, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich said last year that he did not, adding, “I do find it odd how big of a part of our legacy it has become to so many people, because, to me, it’s more like a footnote.”

At the time 14 years ago, Ulrich told The Pulse Of Radio that the Napster battle was not about getting money for the band’s music, but about having control over how it was shared. “All we want as an artist is a choice,” he said. “There’s nothing to argue about that. Nobody has the right to do with our music whatever they want. We do. We’re saying as much as the next band want to work with Napster, we have the right not to.”

His views on the subject today have not changed, with the drummer saying last year: “The whole thing was about one thing and one thing only — control. Not about the Internet, not about money, not about file sharing, not about giving shit away for free or not, but about whose choice it was. If I wanna give my shit away for free, I’ll give it away for free. That choice was taken away from me.”

Bumblefoot joined GUNS N’ ROSES in early 2006 as the replacement for Buckethead. He made his live debut with the band at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on May 12, 2006.

Bumblefoot released a new solo album, “Little Brother Is Watching”, on February 24. The disc was composed, produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Bumblefoot at his studio in New Jersey, and also features drummer Dennis Leeflang and a crowd of 100 fans stomping, chanting and singing backing vocals recorded at a listening party in New York.