Mr. Knopper, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, provides a wide-angled, morally complicated view of the current state of the music business. He doesn't let those rippers and burners among usthat is, those who download digital songs without paying for them, and you know who you areentirely off the hook. But he suggests that with even a little foresight, record companies could have adapted to the Internet's brutish and quizzical new realities and thrived.
The New York Times
In this ambitious look at the music industry's digital revolution, freelance music writer Knopper admirably attempts to make sense of more than three decades of fitful technological innovation and ego clashes. The story begins with the antidisco rallies of the late 1970s, spends a great deal of time on the excesses of the CD era (with an unnecessary detour into the nefarious business dealings of boy band manager Lou Pearlman), then chronicles the reign of Napster and its eventual usurpation by Apple's legal iTunes service. Knopper is at his best giving life to the tales of technological innovation and diligent salesmanship that fueled these shifts in consumer trends, as in the story of the CD's invention and the subsequent difficulty of persuading label executives to adopt the new format. The later tales of backroom deals featuring Steve Jobs and various label heads have the spark of real drama, but this is undermined by Knopper not having access to Jobs and by the historical proximity of the events. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Rolling Stone contributing editor Knopper weaves an incredibly detailed history of the music industry in the late 20th and early 21st centuries to explain how greed, corruption, and resistance to change culminated in the loss of power and success for many music labels in the last ten years. He arranges the material into a coherent narrative and clarifies where his information or sources come up short. But musician/narrator Dan John Miller's (Generation Text) performance, though successful overall, occasionally lacks nuance. And given the subject matter, auditory enhancements like music samples or interview clips would have strengthened this production. However, most will walk away from this audiobook impressed by Knopper's work. [Audio clip available through brillianceaudio.com.Ed.]Lance Eaton, Peabody, MA
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 ratiosand 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. Agent: Daniel Lazar/Writers House
“[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 thrillerthink 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