From Publishers Weekly
In what has become a growing field, Kot's account of the music industry's massive struggles and glimmers of success in the digital age stands out for its sturdily constructed prose and command of up-to-date facts. The narrative moves chronologically from the late 1990s to the late 2000s, pivoting deftly from such subjects as the havoc deregulation wreaked on mainstream radio, the recording industry's attempted shock and awe–style crackdown on downloading and the recent pay-what-you-want online selling model pioneered by Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. One of Kot's great strengths is that he is an able and passionate chronicler of the independent labels, musicians and critics whose rise in influence has been the definite upside of the old power structure's collapse. Kot gives us the first essential, critical account of the ever-expanding reach of the indie music Web site Pitchfork Media, a well informed analysis of the history and recent hyperdevelopment of sample-based music and self-contained portraits of new model artists such as Arcade Fire and Bright Eyes. The book thankfully avoids the technology and industry gossip possibilities inherent in the subject and instead focuses on the sometimes unexpectedly wonderful mutations in the way that musicians and listeners think about popular music. (May)
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Kot, venerable pop-music reviewer for the Chicago Tribune and music blogger extraordinaire, brings readers up-to-date on how the “wired generation” changed the style of modern pop (as every generation does) and the way in which the stuff gets to fans. Along the way, he describes the near-demise of the big record labels (the chapter “Consolidated to Death” is particularly pithy), the online music downloading court skirmishes with consumers and bands alike (with special attention paid to Metallica’s contretemps with Napster), the waning influence of MTV, and bands bypassing corporate players to take their music straight to the audience via the Web. Notably, Radiohead and Metallica gave Kot access, and the results constitute the best summary of the huge recent changes in the business of pop to date. It’s too bad, perhaps, that the current state of the music biz makes it incumbent on a talented critic like Kot to consider the business side of the music more deeply than the artistic side of it, but that’s the situation, and Kot is up to explaining it. --Mike Tribby