It’s hardly news that the last fifteen years or so have seen massive technologically driven change in the music industry. There’s a narrative that everyone knows, but under that there is a much deeper story that has remained largely untold until now.
The book follows three main strands. There’s the story of the German research team who invented the mp3, and their difficulties in launching it amid format wars and arguments over standards. There’s Doug Morris, the powerful record company executive who gets the internet completely wrong but then monetizes the hell out of it at the eleventh hour, and then there’s Dell Glover. Glover’s is the story you probably don’t know. He worked at a CD pressing plant in North Carolina, and was also an early adopting computer geek. Through him, we discover a darknet of exclusive topsites, warez and organised piracy. Glover embraced this scene with open arms, and was soon smuggling prerelease discs out of his factory and uploading them. His team was responsible for leaking 20,000 albums over a decade, and kept one step ahead of the FBI for almost as long. And yet Glover is an engaging character who you can’t hep rooting for just a little bit, stupid tattoos and all.
These stories are the core of the book, but along the way there are digressions into BitTorrent, and Oink. There are so many little titbits that you’ll read and think “I never knew that”, like the head of the RIAA being vehemently against the idea of suing filesharers. More than anything else, it reminded me of a long form version of the kind of journalism we like to remember Word magazine being full of. It’s a terrifc read, pacy and thrilling. One could even call it – excuse me – a ripping yarn.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Anyone who has been paying attention to the music industry in recent times
One thing you’ve learned
The mp3 format was allowed such a long gestation time because the German government funding the research knew there were huge sums of money to be made via the patent and (ba-dum tish) copyright licensing. It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.