Indispensable for anyone who wants to understand popular music in the 21st century.



Clear, concise and entertaining account of the tectonic shift in the recording industry over the past decade, thanks to technological innovations like the Internet, the MP3 and the iPod.

Music critic for the Chicago Tribune and co-host of NPR’s Sound Opinions, Kot (Wilco: Learning How to Die, 2004, etc.) begins by chronicling the rise and fall of the compact disc, introduced in 1983. It was the recording industry’s cash cow, forcing consumers to replace vinyl albums at exorbitant prices that bore little relation to costs. Beginning in the summer of 1999, however, Napster and other file-sharing applications gave fans the means to acquire music without paying for it. The resulting collapse of the CD market led the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to launch a campaign to sue illegal downloaders—including 12-year-old girls and at least one single mother on welfare—ostensibly to recover lost copyright fees but also to intimidate consumers back into the music-buying habit. Alas, for the RIAA, the downloading genie was out of the bottle, and the music industry would never be the same. Despite the best efforts of corporations to consolidate control over the star-making machinery, Kot shows how increasingly sophisticated musicians and fans found ways to create new standards for assessing what is and is not a hit. Each chapter tells a story about key participants in this revolution, from Napster’s Shawn Fanning and Ryan Schreiber of the influential webzine Pitchfork to unlikely rock gods Death Cab for Cutie, Girl Talk and Arcade Fire. Some artists, like Metallica, who joined the RIAA in going after Napster-using fans, struggled and failed to come to terms with radical change. Others, like Prince and Radiohead, the heroes of this book, led full-frontal assaults in the music revolution, leaping ahead of the record companies—and reaping rich rewards for themselves—by offering fans free music and more choice in the packages they might be willing to pay for.

Indispensable for anyone who wants to understand popular music in the 21st century.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-4727-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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