Tune in Tonight: Paramount+ recalls ‘How Music Got Free’

Paramount+ streams the two-part docuseries “How Music Got Free.” Method Man narrates. Eminem and LeBron James are executive producers.

The end of the 20th century marked a cultural moment when people seemed obsessed with doom. The summer of 1998 saw two big-budget disaster films, “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact,” about Earth-shattering collisions with comets and asteroids. 1999 was the year of the Y2K paranoia, widespread panic that primitive computer coding employed decades before would result in a massive digital crash, cratering the economy and sparking global chaos.

While many focused on these imaginary fears, a real extinction-level event hit the entertainment industry. Growing computer power and bandwidth speeds enabled peer-to-peer sharing programs that enabled services like Napster and LimeWire to emerge. Suddenly, a music industry defined by profitable and dependable CD sales was threatened by consumers’ ability to rip digital music files for free.

“How Music Got Free” recalls the last days of CD culture, not unlike Pompeii in the moments before Vesuvius erupted. It documents the dread that gripped music industry executives as they came face-to-face with what was quickly dubbed “piracy.”

While there was some schadenfreude about corporate honchos getting their comeuppance, the notion of music being “liberated” did not sit well with creators. With MP3s suddenly available for “nothing,” who was to pay the composers, performers, studio musicians and engineers? This two-parter looks at this disruption from many angles. It gives credit to the innovative brilliance of the “pirates” even as it offers voice to the workers who saw their industry decimated. As a creator of copyrighted columns with memories of something called “print,” I can totally relate to this tale of a vanished world — and income.

Napster may have erupted a quarter-century ago, but the complications from “free music” have hardly been ironed out. Just this past week, an executive for the streaming service Spotify landed in social media crosshairs when he said that the cost of creating “content” was “close to zero.” Creators beg to differ.

— Hoda Kotb hosts the NBC News special (10 p.m., NBC) “Celine’s Story,” a discussion of the popular singer Celine Dion’s battle with a rare disorder known as Stiff Person Syndrome. Dion is best known for her decades of concerts and long residencies in Las Vegas and her signature ballad “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic.” She becomes the latest well-known person to become the “face” of a hitherto unknown disease. There’s actually a web page called “Celebrity Diagnosis News” cataloging bold-faced names and their ailments. It’s motto: “Even the Stars Get Sick.”

In recent years, “Back to the Future Star” Michael J. Fox has used his celebrity to further the cause of Parkinson’s research. This phenomenon dates back at least to the 1930s, when a New York Yankees star was afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that has been known as Lou Gehrig’s disease since his death in 1939.

— Peacock streams the sixth season of “Love Island,” featuring new host Arianna Madix. Now you know.


— The head of a Brooklyn migrant center vanishes on “FBI” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

— Entrepreneurs parlay Michael Jordan’s fame into a new line of athletic shoes in the true-life 2023 drama “Air” (8 p.m., ABC).

— Bulgarian bad guys traffic in teens on “FBI: International” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

— Kidnappers seize a high school debate team on “FBI: Most Wanted” (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

— “Frontline” (10 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presents “Crisis on Campus,” following uprisings by students protesting the brutality of Israel’s actions in Gaza. Some have been accused of antisemitism, subject to arrest and denial of diplomas and the right to free expression.


AMC unspools two comedies featuring John Candy, who died 30 years ago in the spring of 1994. He stars as a hapless bachelor babysitter in the 1989 John Hughes comedy “Uncle Buck” (8 p.m., TV-PG). Candy plays a Chicago dad who invites his overbearing brother-in-law (Dan Aykroyd) on a family camping trip in the 1988 comedy “The Great Outdoors” (10:15 p.m., TV-PG).


“America’s Got Talent” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) … “Beat Shazam” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) … “The Quiz With Balls” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) … “The $100,000 Pyramid” (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).


Jimmy Fallon welcomes Will Ferrell and Meghan Trainor on “The Tonight Show” (11:35 p.m., NBC) … Eddie Redmayne and Dan Licata visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (12:35 a.m., NBC) … Taylor Tomlinson hosts “After Midnight” (12:35 a.m., CBS).