Journalist Knopper (MusicHound Swing!: The Essential Album Guide, 1998, etc.) examines the tumultuous free fall of America’s music business.
You didn’t have to be a marketing genius in the 1980s to know that the introduction of digital media would soon throw the record industry onto an entirely new course. The 1982 birth of the compact disc changed all the rules. Rather than embracing this state-of-the-art technology, unprepared music companies evolved slowly and with much resistance. As a result, the pecking order changed and then imploded. Beginning in 1979 with what he terms the “post-disco crash,” Knopper explores how the tables turned in the recording industry as it desperately attempted to keep up with a rapidly changing marketing landscape. The companies finally figured out how to capitalize on and reap renewed profits from the CD in the ’90s. Then the new millennium brought with it an all-new animal, the MP3, throwing the industry a curve that traditionalist star-makers were unprepared for. Entities like Rhapsody, with its music subscription service, and Apple Computer, with the iPod and iStore, altered the basic musical product from shiny discs to purchasable sound bytes. They changed the shape of the market, wresting control and profits from the once-mighty record companies. Today, with YouTube, MySpace and computer recording/mixing programs like ProTools, musicians no longer need corporations to provide studio time and publicity. Industry players scramble to find new means of profitability in a continuing downward spiral. Examining digital downloading, Internet piracy and the Recording Industry Association of America’s battles with Napster, Knopper offers loss-benefit ratios and what-if scenarios. His convincing arguments pinpoint where things went wrong and how the industry could have prevailed with a little foresight.
Thoroughly researched and engaging, with a spitfire pace as rhythmic as its subject.