Appetite for Self-Destruction


This is the title of a book by Steve Knopper, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, who outlines the missteps, bad choices, denial, greed, and bad luck that led to the demise of the once mighty music industry.

At first, when compact discs came out, it looked like anything but the end for Warner, Sony, and company. In fact, they exploited the occasion by slapping $16 price tags on the music they had been selling for $8. Not satisfied with that, they creatively extracted "technology deductions" from artists' royalties.

Digital audio tape (DAT) scared them a little, but clever legislation called the "Audio Home Recording Act" plugged that dike. Well, not quite. There was a concession to computer companies who objected that people ought to be able to make copies of their CD ROMS. Big mistake. And no one anticipated the invention of the CD burner three or four years later.

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Then there was Napster, all the music you want all the time, bypassing the powers that be. A desperate Goliath shut it down by court order, but the genie of peer-to-peer file distribution was out of the bottle. Cold-blooded security technology to prevent music sharing and aggressive suing of customers proved to be toxic PR.

The labels' strategy of quadrupling sales through the big box stores backfired. The Best Buys and Wal-Marts were happy to sell CDs at a loss to lure customers in the door for computers. Don't get me started on Steve Jobs and iTunes.

The Napster creator who took down an empire was 19 years old. I thought of what the Wicked Witch said to Dorothy when a well-aimed bucket of water melted her: "Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?"

Moral of the story: You're not smart enough to pilot your life. Trust in the Lord.

To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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