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Appetite For Self Destruction

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2009 1:33 am
by garth cartwright
This book, subtitled "The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age" by Steve Knopper stars with the "death to disco" campaign in the late-70s that lead to a massive decrease in disco album sales (I hadn't realised it was so effective) and thus an industry slump. A slump the release of Thriller and the arrival of the CD proved saviours of so making the music industry wealthier than it had ever dreamed of. This gold rush continued right up until the turn of the century and then illegal file sharing - and the industry's refusal to embrace digital as the new form of content carrier - saw things start to collapse. Lots of info on how Apple's Steve Jobs invented the iPod and then iTunes store and managed to get all the labels to sign up. But nothing would ever be the same again and for those who run massive corporate music companies the sky appears to keep falling.

Well researched if often telling the reader stuff you were already aware of, this is not a book about music but the selling of music. And those who sell it. So lots on Clive Davis and the vile Tommy Mottola and the horrible Walter Yetnikoff. As I'm sure we all have long known, those who run the big labels have no interest in music - only profits and power. Even today the head honchos still command massive salaries - at least in the US (this book only focuses on the US beyond a few cursory comments on Guy Hands acquisition of EMI).

The collapse of the recorded music industry is effecting everyone- from great shops like Down Home to little labels doing blues or African - so I take no joy in how things are going (no coverage of independents here). But reading this book I once again realised how bloated, greedy and corrupt the rock/pop labels had become. Their demise - and the author has little doubt that most will fall, only those capable of manufacturing Beyonce style stars and High School Musical style package entertainment will survive - is not something to be mourned.

In between chapters he sets out a series of lessons on grevious errors the industry committed, from the CD longbox (US only) and killing the single to copy protection on CDs and suing fans for illegal downloads.

Well written - the author works for Rolling Stone so it shares that magazine's breezy, well researched style - and thoroughly researched, this will be referred to in future decades when people ask "what killed the big record companies?"