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The Changing Landscape of Music in the Digital Age

  • Jun 16, 2009
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You would have to be totally unaware if you haven't noticed that people get most of their music from sources other than traditional stores. One of the most popular methods is peer-to-peer networks, like LimeWire, Napster, BitTorrent, and others. Since the consolidation of radio stations into just a few corporate entities, new music from new bands takes a back seat to established ones and the programming of these radio stations is done outside of the listening area. It is no wonder that no matter where you travel, radio sounds pretty much the same. How this came to be and the change that the internet has had on music is the subject of Greg Kot's excellent book, Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music.

Contents: Introduction:Chaos and Transformation; Consolidated to Death; Payola Blues; Napster vs. Metallica; Customers or Criminals; Is Prince Nuts?; "Do Not Insult Death Cab"; Conor Oberst: "He Was Thirteen and Kicking Our Asses"; "Screw the Record Companies, Screw MTV, Just Go Out and Play"; Everyone's a Critic; Arcade Fire: Chocolate Fountains Everywhere; Innovation Out of Necessity; GirlTalk's Illegal Art; Future Shock from Wham City; "George Bush Doesn't Like Black People"; A New Boss, Same as the Old Boss; Steve Jobs and the iPod "Burglary Kit"; "The Feedback Loop of Creativity"; "I Love Picking Fights"; "It's Up to You"; "Steal, Steal, and Steal Some More"; Acknowledgements, Index

There was a time when you found new bands simply by listening to the radio. You may have had to wait a while, as the station went through it's playlist, but it was there. But then the FCC relaxed its station ownership rules and in came Clear Channels, Viacom, and several other large corporations. They bought up the small players, changed the playlists to only the most popular music, and programmed the stations from some corporate office far from the listeners. At about the same time, the internet was becoming more than just a network for universities and governments to share information. It was becoming a way for people to find bands that were getting no airplay and for a way for the same people to share music, against the large corporations' copyright laws, using peer-to-peer networks. The corporations, caught totally unaware even through they were being warned by technologically savvy individuals, reacted by suing their customers, taking Napster to court, and other heavy handed methods. But, if they took the time to look at music consumption, they would have noticed that more music was being bought at a higher rate than at any other time in history. They would have also noticed that bands that they snubbed, were enjoying some surprising success. Bands were realizing that there were alternative methods to finding their fans - MySpace, televisions shows and commercials, streaming web sites, and more.Live shows saw an increase in attendance. Bands like Prince, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, and Death Cab for Cutie saw no need for the large multinational record companies and directly interacted with their fans on the internet and enjoyed incredible success.

Greg Kot documents the changing music and radio landscape in his excellent book, Ripped. Very well researched and extremely readable, it details the rise of corporate radio and large, multinational record companies to the detriment of new and emerging bands and how those bands adjusted their marketing to reach their audience and how their fans helped changed the game. Some of the bands in the book were so successful, that when they announced their tour dates, not only were they sold out, but the radio and record executives refused to believe that they could be popular as their music was not heard on radio stations or their albums were not in record stores. Incredibly, by giving away albums or tracks on their web sites and through file sharing, the bands discovered that they got more popular, as people would use their networks to promote them. As CD prices hovered around $20, even though costs has dropped significantly, the record companies were causing people to look to cheaper (read: free) distribution methods. Finally, the internet allowed some bands to take over their entire business, distribution, marketing, and touring. Throughout the book, while the corporations were losing control of the music industry, we were consuming more music than ever. Kot has written an excellent and engaging history of the changing landscape of music in the digital age. Whether or not you are familiar with Napster, root kits, or Clear Channel, music fans of all ages and genres will enjoy this book.

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June 27, 2010
Great review! Lots of issues I am really interested in. I don't know about you but I struggle with the way music is purveyed and listed to today. It all seems very strange to me. This is certainly a book I will be on the lookout for.
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review by . June 04, 2009
Title: Ripped: How The Wired Generation Revolutionized Music  Author: Greg Kot  Publisher: Simon & Scuster  Genre: Entertainment  Price: $25.00  Pages: 257    Whether you are against the idea of downloading music over the internet or for it, a new book will likely intrigue you.  The book is called "Ripped: How The Wired Generation Revolutionized Music" by Greg Kot, and if the right people read this it will be one of the …
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Gregg Eldred ()
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It never ceases to amaze me how many doors have opened up for me since I started reviewing the books I read. Publishers now send me free books to read and review. Authors contact me. Kind folks at Lunch … more
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A decade ago the vast majority of mainstream music was funneled through a handful of media conglomerates. Now, more people are listening to more music from a greater variety of sources than at any time in history. And big corporations such as Viacom, Clear Channel, and Sony are no longer the sole gatekeepers and distributors, their monopoly busted by a revolution -- an uprising led by bands and fans networking on the Internet. Ripped tells the story of how the laptop generation created a new grassroots music industry, with the fans and bands rather than the corporations in charge. In this new world, bands aren't just musicmakers but self-contained multimedia businesses; and fans aren't just consumers but distributors and even collaborators.

As the Web popularized bands and albums that previously would have been relegated to obscurity, innovative artists -- from Prince to Death Cab for Cutie -- started coming up with, and stumbling into, alternative ways of getting their music out to fans. Live music took on an even more significant role. TV shows and commercials emerged as great places to hear new tunes. Sample-based composition and mash-ups leapfrogged ahead of the industry's, and the law's, ability to keep up with them. Then, in 2007, Radiohead released an album exclusively on the Internet and allowed customers to name their own price, including $0.00. Radiohead's "it's up to you" marketing coup seized on a concept the old music industry had forgotten: the customer is always...

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