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And, O. These dinosaurs, he suggests, are largely responsible for their own demise. Knopper, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, provides a wide-angled, morally complicated view of the current state of the music business. This is a story that begins in earnest in the early s, when digital music first arrived in the form of the compact disc.

At first, Mr. Knopper suggests, almost everyone was frightened of these small, shiny new toys. The labels worried about digital piracy and about refitting the factories that made vinyl LPs. Producers worried about the effects on recording sessions, now that every footstep and door click would be audible. The labels came around because they could jack up prices. Labels could also renegotiate contracts with artists and force customers to buy entire new album collections.

According to Mr. Producers and artists came around, Mr. Knopper writes. Then the residue of old mistakes and a wave of new realities began hammering the music industry from all sides. One of the first things the labels got wrong, Mr. Knopper says, was the elimination of the single. It got young people out of the habit of regularly visiting record stores and forced them to buy an entire CD to get the one song they craved.

In the short term this was good business practice. In the long term it built up animosity. It was suicidal. When Napster and other music-sharing Web sites showed up, the single came back with a vengeance. The record industry bungled the coming of Napster.

Instead of striking a deal with a service that had more than 26 million users, labels sued, forcing it to close. A result, Mr. Knopper writes, was that users simply splintered, fleeing to many other file-sharing sites. Some of the seeds for this debacle were planted much earlier, during an industry fight in the mids over Digital Audio Tape DAT. Widgets were installed in tape players to limit copying.

But the labels made a short-sighted allowance for CD-rewrite drives on computers. Users could copy music almost endlessly there.

Music executives watched, apoplectic and helpless. Knopper apparently did not get access to many of the major players in this tale, including Mr. The record labels have, in the last few years, found some new reasons to believe.

Ring tones have become serious business. Computer games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have taken off, and need to be fed with new songs. That could be a long wait. Apple will always be hard to beat. Home Page World U.


When Labels Fought the Digital, and the Digital Won

Journalist Knopper MusicHound Swing! You didn't have to be a marketing genius in the s to Lazily written rock journalism masquerading as historical analysis. Knopper is inordinately preoccupied with giving name dropping character studies of record executive excess, and largely devoid of insight into how the industry got left so far behind.


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Few industries inspire more enmity than the record business. Thanks to the Internet and the MP3 revolution, karmic justice has finally been served: The record industry has toppled like a house of cards. To many, its collapse is less a crisis than a beautiful sunset. Digital music was merely the final dagger in its heart. Though the labels persevered, they finally lost control of their product when they chose to ignore the possibilities of the Internet.

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