Who is responsible for the death of the music industry? It depends who you ask. Some will tell you it was Napster, others The Pirate Bay, or maybe it’s all down to the immoral kids who choose to use file-sharing services. Some will say that the industry has done it all to itself in a variety of self-destructive ways.
If you’re very quiet and listen very closely, you might even hear a few people trying to tell you that the music industry is far from dead, that it’s actually very healthy, but that some methods of making money that had been profitable over the last 50 or 60 years are becoming less so (they’ll also whisper that the time when all musicians earned a living off their music never actually existed).
But for Jon Bon Jovi, there is only one person responsible for the death of the music industry: Steve Jobs.
Actually, in fairness, JBJ (as I’ve now decided to call him) wasn’t talking about the death of the industry in a business sense, more that he thinks the youth of today are missing out on the joyous experience of buying records. You know, heading down to the record shop on the day of release, handing over your pocket money to a man who sneers at your choice, taking it home, unwrapping it, playing it for the first time not knowing if it’ll be good or not, discovering it’s not, reading the liner notes anyway. That sort of thing.
Bon Jovi told The Sunday Times: “Kids today have missed the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to ten, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album; and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like, and looking at a couple of still pictures and imagining it. God, it was a magical, magical time”.
He added: “I hate to sound like an old man now, but I am, and you mark my words, in a generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’ Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business”.
Basically, what Jon’s saying is that there’s no excitement surrounding new releases any more, because ‘the kids’ are picking and choosing the tracks they want off iTunes. How he thinks they know which tracks to pick, I don’t know. I suppose they’re either just downloading the singles they heard on the radio, or they’re listening to the whole album either legally or illegally beforehand. This doesn’t matter, because in this situation, Steve Jobs is still to blame for everything because it is he who allows people to decide not to buy a complete album.
This is not entirely the new situation it is purported to be, though. Okay, the ability to select album tracks as standalone items is, but as a teenager I spent much of my pocket money on singles. And I had friends (let’s call them ‘heathens’) who would listen to an album once before recording the tracks they liked most onto tape to listen to on their Walkmans. None of this is new, it’s just easier in the digital age. The sort of people who get excited about new albums still do so.
Okay, the days of running down to Our Price on the day of release and queuing up to buy a new album were fun and exciting, and may now be behind us (not only because Our Price no longer exists). And you could argue that this has been replaced by rushing to file-sharing networks to download a leaked album weeks before its release, meaning the anticipation during the build up to a new record’s official launch is lessened.
But if you’re looking for someone to blame for making music boring and predictable, well, I think Jon might want to look a little closer to home.