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Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age [Paperback]

Steve Knopper
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2009
In an engaging, fast-paced, up-close-and-personal narrative, Appetite for Self-Destruction recounts the music industry's wild 30-year ride through the digital age. Based on interviews with over 200 music industry sources-from Warner Music chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. to renegade Napster creator Shawn Fanning-as well as assiduous research in legal documents, unpublished memoirs, Billboard reports, and so on, Steve Knopper, a regular contributor to Rolling Stone, offers a contemporary history of big music that is more comprehensive and entertaining than any other book out there. From the birth of the compact disk, through the explosion of CD sales in the 80s and 90s, the emergence of Napster, and the secret talks that led to ITunes, to the current collapse of the industry as CD sales plummet, Knopper takes us inside the board rooms, recording studios, private estates, garage computer labs, company jets, corporate infighting, and secret deals of the big names and behind-the-scenes players who made it all happen.

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Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age + The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution + The Music Industry: Music in the Cloud (DMS - Digital Media and Society)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 301 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (1 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847371361
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847371362
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.2 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"[A] stark accounting of the mistakes major record labels have made since the end of the LP era and the arrival of digital music . . . A wide-angled, morally complicated view of the current state of the music business . . . [Knopper] suggests that with even a little foresight, record companies could have adapted to the Internet's brutish and quizzical new realities and thrived . . . He paints a devastating picture of the industry's fumbling, corruption, greed and bad faith over the decades." "--The New York Times""Knopper, a "Rolling Stone" music business writer, thoughtfully reports on the record racket's slow, painful march into financial ruin and irrelevance, starting with the near-catastrophic sales slump that began in 1979 after the demise of disco. Though the labels persevered, they finally lost control of their product when they chose to ignore the possibilities of the Internet . . . Knopper piles on examples of incompetence, making a convincing case that the industry's collapse is a drawn-out suicide." "--The Los Angeles Times""[Knopper has a] nose for the story's human element . . . The best parts of the book, such as Knopper's analysis of the late-'90s teen-pop bubble (and how it ultimately burst), move with the style and drama of a great legal thriller--think Michael Clayton with headphones . . . This is gripping stuff. Crank it up." "--Time Out New York""The music industry is toast, my friends. And congrats to "Rolling Stone" vet Steve Knopper, whose fantastic new book "Appetite for Self-Destruction" explains why." "--Village Voice""Laced with anecdote, buttressed by detailed accounts of the most flagrant record-industry transgressions, "Appetite" (its title nicked from that of the Guns N' Roses debut disc) is an enthralling read, equal parts anger and regret. Knopper's writing is sharp, his approach sharper." "--Boston Globe" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Steve Knopper is a writer and journalist who is currently Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone. He has also written for publications such as Wired, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, Chicago, New York, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Details, Spin and Continental and has written or edited four books, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting a Band and Moon Colorado. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Future For Dinosaurs 24 Sep 2010
When I was a kid the music business was really simple. Labels discovered artists, artist made music, shops sold music, we bought music.

Things have gotten complicated in the last 15 years and if you'd like to get a handle on why this book sheds a lot of light.

Steve Knopper does a fantastic job of recasting the recent history of music as a page-turner whodunit of epic proportions. `Epic' referring to epic greed (with a complimentary side order of monumental stupidity). The `who' of course are the major labels (and the RIAA) and the `it' that they `dun' is killed the record industry.

Anytime any new technology appears from CDs & DAT to mp3 players and, yes, of course, Napster, they try to sue it or kill it. Examples abound. Here's a few of my favourites.

1981-82. After a presentation to executives what they could expect from the new CD technology, they throw it open for questions. Jay Lasker, head of ABC-Paramount records asks why his cable TV picture is sometimes cloudy.(What the...?)

2007. Doug Morris CEO of Universal Music Group explains in an interview with Wired magazine why the majors were blindsided by the digital revolution.

"There's no one in the record company that's a technologist...It's like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his kidney. What would you do?"

The interviewer replies,

"Personally I would hire a vet".

The sad thing is that Universal did have amazingly talented technologists, like Albhy Galuten, working for them already. They were just overlooked and ignored. They should have been easy to spot. They were the ones wearing Napster T-shirts.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate music biz history lesson 16 Sep 2009
For anyone who has worked in the music industry this is an essential read. All of those figures we've grown up with named and in some cases shamed. Since reading this I've bought it for several friends in the industry all of whom agree it's a great read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The music industry exposed 11 Aug 2009
For anyone with an interest in music or the music business this is essential reading. It gives insights to how the business was structured and why it's in so much trouble today.

With chapters focusing on key points in the life of the music industry it provides amazing revelations on what has happened - Napster, Michael Jackson and other events - and finishes by looking at where the business is heading.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 70% prologue, 20% meat, 10% speculation 3 Feb 2010
By Lenny
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author spends an awful lot of time recounting the rise and fall of record companies and A&R men (many of whom were shysters, parasites and gangsters) from the death of disco to their heyday with the birth of the (vastly overpriced) CD. The 'self-destruction' bit doesn't kick in until the appearance of Napster, which he makes clear could have offered the record industry a lifeline if it wasn't for ignorance, arrogance and pigheadness on both sides. He describes very vividly how Steve Jobs and Apple did a far better job of getting the industry over a barrel and - well, think Deliverance/Pulp Fiction.

Since the new 'paradigm' for the music business - bands using the Internet and live performance to reach their fans directly, cutting out the A&R middlemen - is still evolving, the author is a bit vague on how this is working out.

But there are clear echoes of Big Blue and the fall of IBM - vast entrenched interests who cannot comprehend or cope with change. Film & TV industry people ought to read and take note - too many of them are still sticking their finger in the dyke of mass filesharing, when they should be anticipating change and trying to set up ways to make money out of these new avenues. But they won't...

Three stars because I got bored ploughing through the ancient and now irrelevant stories of 1980s record industry execs backstabbing each other. There's not enough on the bloated excess, profligacy and exploitation of artists that was such a feature of the music business in the 70s and 80s and helped to make the transition to a slimmed-down industry so painful and difficult.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powershift!! 28 Aug 2011
By T. Satchwell VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having spent a lot of my life either working in some capacity in the "Biz"...and or spending my hard earned cash supporting the "Biz"...this is an interesting perspective of the rocky road to ruin...fads have come and gone in musical styles/fashion and technology..I guess up until recent years the "Biz" has always managed to gain control ...usually by throwing money at people ...and perhaps dubious practices.
This book is good at pointing out some of the major blunders the record companies have made over the years...
What is interesting is how the "Power" have shifted over the years and how it now appears to be Apple who are holding ..or were holding the upper hand..that is of course if you ignore the rampant illegal downloading of music.
If you have an interest in the music industry...and maybe why you are now unable to get a job in the "Biz"!!! this is a good read.

I would also recommend The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution and the fab Last Shop Standing: Whatever Happened to Record Shops?

In conclusion...I guess it was inevitable that the disgusting amounts of money that were wasted would come back to haunt The Biz....but I guess artists are suffering to...and this is not their doing.
I guess they have to find their own way of making it the likes of Madonna and Jay Z sign deals with Live Nation..rather than the Sonys and Warners of this world
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