This book charts the systematic destruction of the music industry business model by a relatively small but highly organised band of ideologically driven pirates and in parallel covers the development of the .mp3 in the face of rival formats, corrupt standards bodies and engineering obsessives who spend weeks in $5000 headphones listening to “Tom’s Diner”. Off in PC world someone develops the ability to rip audio and thoughtfully bundles it for free in the world’s most popular operating system whilst CD burners plummet in price. What can possibly go wrong? The endlessly greedy music industry, continuing to drive down production costs whilst racking up prices and music exec remuneration, doesn’t generate much sympathy either. Everyone ends sadder and wiser, and the industry is forced to redefine itself for the video age accommodating upstarts like YouTube.
Stephen Witt focusses on a few key players, and chops from pirate activity to da biz to the German scientists listening over and again to the same song whilst trying to get someone to accept that this is a great tool for streaming (Streaming? “That’ll never catch on”, the moguls chortle) so that the story is actually gripping in a thriller kinda way rather than being a dry technology/finance book. The Feds and lawyers circle and there’s a happy ending of sorts which I won’t reveal in the interests of spoiler avoidance.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Reading about the business rather than yet another biography. The fact that much of this happened in the last 15 years means it is still just about in memory. There are plenty of references to key acts and players too and the book slots them into place within the overall narrative.
One thing you’ve learned
You can’t stop innovation, and even as you try something else will be innovated which you didn’t see coming.