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Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music Hardcover – May 19, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (May 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416547274
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416547273
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,088,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Scarillo VINE VOICE on June 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Greg Kot is a good rock writer/reviewer, Chicago Tribune columnist, and is frequently published in Rolling Stone (as national magazines go), among other publications. His new book, "Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music", provides a good recap of the last ten years or so of the music industry, as concerns developments on the digital front. I found the book of particular interest, as I have worked in the music business in one capacity or another for almost 15 years and remember pretty much all of what's contained in the book. If you are not aware of, and want to learn about the music industry's recent digital developments, then this book is a very good way to get up to speed.

The chapters focus on key events/artists that were pivotal in the changing music business model over the last decade. Key events such as the rise of Napster (and the music industry's attempts to contain and destroy it, rather than embrace the technology and monetize it), Metallica's fight against Napster, the departure of established acts (Madonna, Radiohead, McCartney, Prince, NIN, et al.) from the major label system in favor of non-traditional music companies/doing it themselves, newer artists availing themselves of technology to reach their fans and `do it on their own' (such as Ani DiFranco, Bright Eyes, and others), the rise/domination of the Ipod and ITunes, and chapter bumpers of various interviewees' mindsets and insights into how they acquire music (eg. Some younger people either don't realize that they are violating a copyright/impacting someone's livelihood, with illegal downloading, or simply don't care).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Greg Kot makes his point early and often: over the past decade, greedy executives perched at the summits of rapidly-consolidating media conglomerates lost billions of dollars in a clueless and futile campaign to keep music flowing through traditional pipelines. They delayed, dithered, or flat-out refused to adapt their business models to the paradigm-shifts of digital music and peer-to-peer file sharing, and other players rushed in to fill the vacuum.

Inherently unimaginative and terminally resistant to change, the music industry has typically released dull, homogenized product, together with a few perennial blockbusters, to generate revenue. Independent companies occupied tiny niches, while the major labels relied on a lucrative pay-to-play distribution system. They put effort into developing performers who showed profit potential and dropped any artist that didn't show a quick return.

Then came the revolution. The majors got their keisters kicked by angry musicians and bored consumers who used new technology to make their lives and their culture more interesting. CD prices dropped to nearly half of what they were ten years earlier. Even giants like Paul McCartney, Madonna, U2, and the Eagles finally jumped ship from their labels.

Not just record companies got hurt: so did artists, producers, publishers, concert promoters, radio stations, and CD stores that refused to adjust to the new reality. No longer do people learn about music from radio, MTV, Tower (which went belly-up in 2006), or conventional, established taste-makers. Now YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, blogs, zines, and independent media outlets are conduits for cultural buzz and the wealth it produces.
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Format: Paperback
Greg Kot is an interesting writer and tells many good stories. I sped through this book.

But what he offers here is less than what it should be. He digresses into band vignettes that, yes, I enjoyed reading but sometimes did not lead to a larger point (even though he tried).

He ignores the influence of satellite radio, eMusic, and the opinions of any listener older than those of Generation X (unless they are in the music business).

His focus is essentially the college rock world (for lack of a better term), and what those listeners are into. Meaning: hip-hop is discussed in reference to Kanye West, rap mix tapes are ignored, and forget what someone who listens to reggaeton, dancehall, metal etc might have to say about digital technology. Even though vinyl sales are a very small percentage overall, he fails to mention how they increased almost 100% (I believe) in 2007 or 2008. He doesn't delve into the fate of independent record stores, and how some of those still standing are doing pretty well (including my local favorite, Redscroll Records in Wallingford CT). He mentions some independent labels, such as Merge, but doesn't get into what keeps them running - how exactly are they doing it?

This will be very enjoyable for a certain type of music listener, but unfortunately does not have the larger-scale reporting and research I was hoping for.
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Format: Paperback
I am toying between giving this book a three or a four. This book is in some ways very illuminating. It was fascinating to read about the roots of these changes to the music industry, and kind of fun mentally traveling through time (I spent my 20's on Napster, Morpheus, Kazaa, etc..) and seeing my experiences jibe with the documentation he provides.

Kot makes a compelling case for "the wired generation" changing music, something that I never really gave much thought before. I will say that the music available to us during the past 15 years outshines the music we were force-fed by radio stations for so many years on payola, and he is absolutely correct in his point that the Internet has provided a platform for creativity, ingenuity, and very exciting music. Artists that we never once had the chance to enjoy outside of a dusty records store with an arrogant clerk are easily accessible.

However, I have two major issues.
1. Kot seems to focus on his own particular tastes of music and completely ignores movements that would have absolutely fit in with his book. Example-"Bieber Fever"-young Justin Bieber uses youtube as his own personal platform and manages to win an intense following in a short period of time-during the time this book was written I believe. Bieber's music is NOT creative or artistic and he is a fool, but I believe to ignore his story is to ignore a large piece of Youtube's importance.
Also, satellite radio is HUGE and was at the time of the publication. Many of us dissatisfied with radio have turned to satellite and Internet radio, both were around in 2008-9. Most music I am exposed to comes from these mediums which have done a lot to expose artists to consumers. I am not sure why this isn't included in this book.
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