Appetite For Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age – The Arts Desk

At the heart of Knopper’s story is the record industry’s longterm tendency to view technological opportunities as threats. When the recession of 1979-1982 reversed a 20-year boom which had seen record sales steadily quadruple in value, opposition to the introduction of compact disc was rife. The tech guru at CBS demanded to know “what the hell we can expect to happen here with CD.” His boss, Walter Yetnikoff, a rambunctious mogul of the old school, rejected it as an invitation to make pirated copies of albums on cassette tape, and refused to invest in new manufacturing plants. “I have no idea what they’re talking about,” Yetnikoff told his underlings.

Knopper does some impressive maths showing that had a more equitable deal been struck offering legal downloads via Napster for a $1 a track, the record industry could have benefited to the tune of $16 billion a year. What he doesn’t explain is just how unlikely this was in a business increasingly run by lawyers, or former lawyers, with a narrow fixation on control and ownership. It was their preoccupation with bashing the sons of Napster – so-called “peer-to-peer” services such as Kazaa which operated without an easily identifiable central server and were thus harder to sue – that led to the record industry losing the battle for the digital music market.

via Appetite For Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age – The Arts Desk – Arts Reviews, Features and News.

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