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Appetite For Self Destruction

Appetite For Self Destruction is a recounting of the fall, rise and subsequent decimation of the US music industry. The books starts with the “Disco Sucks” backlash and the subsequent precipitous fall in LP sales. The CD comes along just in time to rescue the music industry from these doldrums with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” being one of the first killer apps of this new technology. Guess what? The industry then sees an opportunity in the improved fidelity of CDs. It uses this to jack up prices and rides the subsequent boom hard to amazing profits and profligacy.

The book has a great time recounting some of these merry stories of excess and the unsavory characters that flocked into the businss. We all know the bottom finally started to fall out with the introduction of Napster but author Steve Knopper makes the point that this occurred more due to the insistence of the RIAA and the rest of the gang in clinging to what had hitherto worked. In doing so, however, they began alienating fans and musicians alike and never recovered. Suing grandmothers is hardly a particularly good business model.

A nice graphic from a related article in Business Insider (The Real Death of the Music Industry) says it all:

Apparently, Steve Jobs was essentially forced to step in and create a digital music distribution system as he badly needed content for the then recently introduced iPod. By that time, the music industry had realized they needed a legal online presence and Apple with a scant 4-5% of the PC market hardly seemed any kind of threat. Accordingly, head honchos of labels like Warner, Sony and others ended up signing agreemens largely biased in favor of Apple, realizing only belatedly they had given away the farm.

Interspersed through the book are chapters covering in painful detail every mistake made by the record companies on their way to their current depleted state. How music can survive, new business models, apps and services – all these topics are hot areas of discussion by pundits. The contribution of this book is illustrating how we got here in the first place.