How the Music Industry Died: Steve Knopper’s Appetite for Self-Destruction

Congrats to Lil Wayne, whose Tha Carter III was the best-selling record of 2008—and the weakest-selling yearly bestseller since SoundScan started tracking these things nearly two decades ago. Couldn’t crack three million. The music industry is toast, my friends. And congrats to Rolling Stone vet Steve Knopper, whose fantastic new book Appetite for Self-Destruction explains why, as it charts the dizzying highs (Thriller, the CD boom, boy bands) and brutal lows (payola, Napster hysteria, the “rootkit” debacle) of an oft-amoral biz whose legendary coke-fueled boom times now read as ancient history and/or science fiction. I rang up Steve recently to talk about it; here are some excerpts.

This book vacillates between sympathy for the music industry and outright contempt—you sincerely try to rationalize why the labels decided to start suing junior high students for illegal downloading, but you still conclude it was a horrible, horrible idea. How much pity do you have for these guys? Is this book a tragedy or a comedy?

I would make it a little bit more gray than that. I have a fondness for the record industry. Obviously, I’m a huge fan of [Fredric Dannen’s 1990 music-biz tell-all] Hit Men—it’s one of my favorite books ever, but I feel that that book was so tough on the music industry, it ventured several times into contemptuousness. My feeling was, I wanted to be very critical, and call a spade a spade, and say what they did wrong, but at the same time, I’ve covered music and the music industry for a long time, and I have a fondness for, you know, that whole sort of—this is gonna sound cynical; I don’t mean it to—but that whole sort of “hookers and blow” era.

I was really getting into the chapter about the CD boom, where you’ve got these crazy Mafia characters, and you’ve got these coke addicts like Walter Yetnikoff at the head of these companies, running into offices and screaming at people. Guys who talk like this: raaaowr, raaaowr, raaaowr, like the Penguin in the Batman show. In Hit Men, I think it came across like, “These people are evil.” To an extent, that’s true. But my feeling was, I bet that was pretty cool, too.

You keep returning to the idea that lots of people, and I’m pretty sure I’m among them, consider a lot of the industry’s troubles to be divine retribution—payback for decades of lousy artist contracts and $18.99 CDs. But given the technology, would it have made any difference if this industry had always been fair and benevolent and lovable? You and I both can find pretty much any album we like for free online in a couple of minutes—was there ever any way to stop this?

I’m trying to think of an analogy of another industry that was abused by technology that didn’t do all those terrible things that the music industry did, and the only one that comes to mind is the newspaper industry. It seems like the newspaper industry wasn’t as evil and stonewalling, and still may face the same inevitable just desserts because of technology. The point I make in the Napster chapter (and I’m not the first one to make this point): Had the record labels jumped into a deal with Napster when the time was right, when Napster was at its peak, I really do think that could’ve been a business model. Maybe it wouldn’t have sent them back to 1994 levels of business, but I think they wouldn’t be in the horrible position they’re in today.

You’re right that people embraced Napster and Kazaa and Torrents because of spite, but I actually think that was a relatively small contingent of people. I think that the people who embraced it most embraced it because, “What a cool thing. I don’t have to get in my car and go to Tower Records and buy the $18 CD if I want this song. I can just get it in my home and mess around.” And then you start fantasizing a little bit. What if Napster did become a real, legit thing? It would have anticipated Facebook and Friendster and MySpace. It would have been social networking. It would have allowed you to make mixtapes and trade playlists. It would have eventually gone to cell phones; it would have predated the iPhone. It could have been an incredibly powerful service—and not just because everything was free. You charge people a fair price for that, maybe that anti-music-industry contingent wouldn’t have taken it, but a lot of people would have.

Did you mess around with Napster yourself at the time? Have you ever been swayed by the “music wants to be free” crowd, ever buy into the theory that this was a people’s revolution to overthrow an evil, outdated industry?

No. Basically not. I did tinker around with Napster, yes. I got a lot of good, free music at the time—I guess I won’t be sued anymore for that. But, basically, I thought it was theft. I still think it was piracy. I realize I’m walking a bit of a fine line in the book, because I’m not ripping on the music industry for just saying, “Oh, my God, this is piracy. We need better locks.” I’m not criticizing that impetus, that notion. I’m basically saying they should’ve taken the next step and gone, “Oh wait, this’ll revolutionize our industry.”

Continue reading from: villagevoice.com

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “How the Music Industry Died: Steve Knopper’s Appetite for Self-Destruction

  1. What is the Acai Berry?

    The acai berry (pronounced “ah-sigh-ee”) is a small cherry-size berry that is harvested in the Amazon Rainforest of Brazil. People of the land have cropped this fruit as part of their diet for hundreds of years.

    The wanted acai fruit is only ten percent of the actual berry. The other 90% consists of the pit. The acai berry is grown by the 1000s and put through a process that splits the pulp from the pit to create a thick, edible puree.
    Although the acai berry is well-known in Brazil, only recently has its popularity spread to America. Doctors, scientists, nutritionists and countless media outlets praise about its many nutritional qualities and health benefits
    This recent surge of interest in the acai berry has been aided by Bestselling author and anti-aging expert Dr. Nicholas Perricone who has touted the fruit as the “Number one super food in the world” in his book “The Perricone Promise” and in appearances on TV shows such as Oprah.
    Calling the acai berry “the number one super food in the world” might sound like a stretch, but this view is not unfounded. The little berry is packed with an amazing amount of free-radical fighting antioxidants and is considered to have the best overall nutritional value of any fruit on earth.

    Acai Berry Diet
    Acai Berry Weight Loss

    Not only is acai berry replacing wheatgrass as the new health fad, it also seems to be the newest trend diet as well. Clever companies are starting to understand what a benifitial discovery acai berry is and capitalizing on it with carefuly marketed diet pills. While many of these weight loss claims are exaggerated, the acai berry has been scientifically proven to have several key ingredients that help in boosting the metabolism, suppressing appetite, and building muscle tone.

    I WILL ADMIT… ACAI BERRY IS AWESOME AND WORKS WELL AND WHEN I SAY DONT PURCHASE ACAI BERRY, I MEAN DONT SPEND MONEY YOU DONT HAVE TO!
    seriously – dont buy acai berry!
    why pay for it, when you can try it absolutely risk free?
    You can try and see that it works first before you even start paying for it!
    All you have to pay is 5.95 shipping and handling

    http://i43.tinypic.com/wbdngk.jpg

    mona vie acai berrybuy acai berry

    http://www.livevideo.com/buyacaiberry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s