A propulsive and fascinating portrait of the people who helped upend an industry and challenge how music and media are...

HOW MUSIC GOT FREE

THE END OF AN INDUSTRY, THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, AND THE PATIENT ZERO OF PIRACY

A history of the music industry’s reckoning with digital technology, the Internet, and the “pirate generation.”

Since file-sharing software pioneer Napster’s public meltdown, illegal downloading has grown into so widespread a practice that, as journalist Witt notes, most people think of it as a victimless crime. Others, like the author himself, began building massive archives of music for no reason other than the thrill of accumulation. It was this peculiar impulse that drove Witt to consider how digital music became the industry’s dominant format and how illegal access to it became so pervasive. His examination focuses on the German engineering team of Karlheinz Brandenburg and Bernhard Grill, who painstakingly developed and sold MP3 technology to corporate partners; former CEO of Universal Music Group Doug Morris; and the previously untold story of Dell Glover, a worker at a Polygram CD factory in the 1990s who single-handedly leaked thousands of albums through his association with the Internet’s foremost pirate group, Rabid Neurosis. Through their stories, Witt chronicles the fall of the traditional record industry and the emergence of pirate culture typified by sites like Pirate Bay and OiNK, which increasingly viewed music as a free commodity. The author also crucially points out that while pirating contributed to the industry’s decline, he counters that “the uniform blandness of the corporate sound wasn’t helping.” Witt is a sympathetic observer who captures the complexity of the pirate ethos (they made little to no money from leaks), the conundrum of developers creating technologies like BitTorrent to facilitate file sharing, and the music industry’s misguided attempts to prosecute pirates. Ultimately, the industry’s battle with file sharing is one of the first examples of how the Internet most dramatically changed business and society.

A propulsive and fascinating portrait of the people who helped upend an industry and challenge how music and media are consumed.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-42661-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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