How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music
At the dawn of the twenty first century, the music business looked forward to its sixth decade of monopolistic dominance of the sale and manufacture of recorded music. An industry that once had dozens of labels competing for consumer dollars had become, thanks to a series of mergers, controlled by a small handful of international conglomerates by the late nineties. Similar trends had played out in the commercial-radio and concert industry sectors of the industry. The net result was massive profits for these multinational corporations, and rising prices for compact discs and concert tickets for consumers.
Yet as Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot ably and acerbically shows in his page-turning Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music(Scribner, 2009) the landscape of the industry had been utterly transformed within a decade. In 1999, the introduction of the Napster peer-to-peer file sharing service made it possible for anyone with an Internet connection and a computer to download and create a huge music library, all without paying a cent to artists or their labels. The creation of such digital networks also allowed artists to market and sell their music directly to consumers, thereby bypassing the industry’s label system. This digital revolution likewise rendered compact discs, once the driver of industry profits, on the path to obsolescence and made the iPod as essential to music consumption as the phonograph had been for much of the twentieth century. Through his illuminating interviews with key figures drawn from all sectors of the industry, Kot skillfully makes sense of this dizzying era of change, one that has seen long established notions of copyright, profit, and creativity in the music business all called into question.
Greg Kot has been the Tribune‘s music critic covering pop, rock, and hip-hop since 1990. He is the author of three other books, including Wilco: Learning How to Die (Three Rivers Press, 2004), and hosts the nationally syndicated radio program Sound Opinions, “the world’s only rock ‘n’ roll talk show,” which can be heard on over one hundred stations nationwide. His next book, I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers and the March up Freedom’s Highway, will be published by Scribner in January 2014. He can be reached through his personal blog, gregkot.com, and via Twitter @gregkot.