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Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age Hardcover – Bargain Price, January 6, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this ambitious look at the music industrys digital revolution, freelance music writer Knopper admirably attempts to make sense of more than three decades of fitful technological innovation and ego clashes. The story begins with the antidisco rallies of the late 1970s, spends a great deal of time on the excesses of the CD era (with an unnecessary detour into the nefarious business dealings of boy band manager Lou Pearlman), then chronicles the reign of Napster and its eventual usurpation by Apples legal iTunes service. Knopper is at his best giving life to the tales of technological innovation and diligent salesmanship that fueled these shifts in consumer trends, as in the story of the CDs invention and the subsequent difficulty of persuading label executives to adopt the new format. The later tales of backroom deals featuring Steve Jobs and various label heads have the spark of real drama, but this is undermined by Knopper not having access to Jobs and by the historical proximity of the events. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Knopper, a regular contributor to Rolling Stone, takes an inside look at the highs and lows of the record industry during the past 30 years. Beginning with the crash of the disco craze in the late 1970s, the industry revitalized itself numerous times over the years, beginning with Michael Jackson, MTV, and the boom in CD sales in the 1980s, through the teen pop of the Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, and Britney Spears in the 1990s. The entrenched sense of entitlement and complacency was rocked to its foundation, however, with the ushering in of the digital age. Instead of embracing the new medium, the record companies insisted on clinging to the old model of forcing buyers to pay $18.95 for a CD just to get the one or two songs they really wanted. Knopper takes us inside the boardrooms for heated debates between high-flying record executives, and into the basements and garages of the computer geeks who brought them down. Although the record industry continues its uneasy relationship with digital music, he shows how independent artists are finding creative ways to use the medium to their advantage. --David Siegfried

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416552154
  • ASIN: B002BWQ4SC
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,475,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being in my early forties, I am just old enough (and just young enough) to have lived through pretty much every stage of the decline of the record industry so painstakingly detailed in this book.

I grew up going to record stores, then chain stores, then saw the advent of the CD when I started college. I lived through the CD boom and read about big-name acts signing new contracts worth untold millions of dollars primarily because their back catalogs were selling so well when the world was upgrading their record collections from vinyl to CD. I watched in horror as the "boy bands" seemed to take over. I again watched in horror as the labels pushed only the best-selling artists and dumped the rest from their rosters. I moaned in disbelief when I learned that WalMart was the biggest brick-and-mortar retailer of recorded music, and that was sad and unfortunate because their selection was so narrow. I nearly cried as the rock radio stations I listened to became far more repetitive and far less interesting. I was initially horrified by Napster and sided with Metallica -- file swapping was theft, plain and simple. But the labels' litigious response to it was no less outrageous. Understandable on some level, but outrageous nonetheless. When digital music became the norm, the powers-that-be did everything they could to stem the tide, and they did it in such a way to sour the record-buying experience.

Perhaps worst of all, though, is that the "album" has all but died. It's all about the hit single. There is almost no such thing as artist development anymore. Remember a few decades ago when artist would put out a record every calendar year and tour behind it every calendar year?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. Steve Knopper, contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, and who has also written for such publications as Wired, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly and the Chicago Tribune, has written this book detailing the trends from the near death of the music industry in the late 70s to early 80s to the life-saving entities such as MTV and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album. Knopper provides meticulous detail about the negative and positive trends of the music industry over the past 20 years to the newly developed digital age of downloading music via iTunes. Knopper mentions names of major labor leaders; details the decisions these major labels have made that have been effective and those decisions that have been fairly detrimental.

Moreover, Knopper describes how the rise of Napster ultimately lead to severe bleeding within the music industry due to the consumer now having the knowledge to easily pirate music. The reaction of the music industry to Napster and its smaller subsequent file-sharing groups eventually lead to the now slow death of major labels. Knopper details how and why this happened. Additionally, Knopper details how Steve Jobs (of Apple computers) strong-armed the five major music labels into deals that lead to iTunes and huge sales of the iPod. This trend ultimately changed the music industry and pushed it into a direction to which it has not adjusted very well.

In fact, according to Knopper, it has taken the major music labels nearly ten years to realize how technology can actually help the industry, but now its probably too late. Moreover, many bands and artists are actually turning to their own independent methods of releasing their new albums and songs. These bands and artists (such as NIN, Radiohead, the Eagles, etc.
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Format: Hardcover
In the sub-sub-genre of books about rock music and the industry, I rank this right up there with classics like "Hit Men" and "The Death of Rhythm and Blues." We think in terms of "industry," but through his deftly drawn portraits of industry leaders, Knopper helps us see clearly how we got to here from there: simple bad decision making and a blatant refusal to consider, first, that the world had changed and then a stunning lack of curiosity about how it had changed. Highly recommended. Enjoy!
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book is a nice recollection over the most catastrophic moments of the music industry since the late 70s to date. If you follow the news on music and technology regularly, you might not be too surprised to read something that you probably already know, but this material is just great for somebody who have developed sudden interest in this subject.

It covers the supposed disco and boy band obsession which record labels dived in and hoped that it would last forever, the "pay-to-play" practices that made the Top 40 a place where only paid music - not necessarily good music - deserved to be, lousy contracts which exploited artists to the bone, skepticism over new technologies and business models and disrespectful practices toward consumers (the infamous Sony BMG CDs infected with root kits, the inflated Album CD prices, the killing of CD singles and the RIAA lawsuits), showing that the music industry had made one mistake after another that ended up leading it to the situation it is today.

The only thing I disagree about the author's thoughts is the notion that the CD is deemed to die completely. I don't really think this is going to happen, because CDs still caters to a great number of people who cares about a better sound quality (which is far better then MP3, as a matter of fact) and likes to hold a physical, collectible product. It is correct to assume that less and less CDs will be sold over time and that shelf space devoted to them is getting thinner, but it is not going to disappear completely.

Entertaining and easy to read book, go for it.
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