Review: Appetite For Self-Destruction by Steve Knopper
Steve Knopper is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and has 30 years of experience in the music industry. It’s with this insight that he presents an overview of the record industry from the early 80s through to 2009 when the book was published. The main theme of Appetite For Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash Of The Record Industry In The Digital Age (to give the book its full title) is that the industry was unwilling to move away from their old business models and recognise that the digital era had changed everything.
Rather than takes a progressive approach, they wasted eight years fighting the digital revolution and in the process let both consumers and digital business take control. The book presents a detailed timeline of episodes and incidents that changed the way the business worked. The old phrase of how you can’t get the genie back in the bottle pretty much describes the challenges they faced! It’s strange to think that the record companies never really saw the threat of digital downloads coming – or perhaps more to the point they never turned that threat into an opportunity.
Mind you, if you’re looking for an answer to the problem, the book doesn’t really get there – other than the common belief that the answer probably disappeared when the record industry failed to do a deal with Napster.
This is a great book that while not breaking too much new ground, is a great aggregator of the whole era.
Amazon as usual has some nice comments from reviews at the time:
“[A] stark accounting of the mistakes major record labels have made since the end of the LP era and the arrival of digital music . . . A wide-angled, morally complicated view of the current state of the music business . . . [Knopper] suggests that with even a little foresight, record companies could have adapted to the Internet’s brutish and quizzical new realities and thrived . . . He paints a devastating picture of the industry’s fumbling, corruption, greed and bad faith over the decades.” —The New York Times
“Knopper, a Rolling Stone music business writer, thoughtfully reports on the record racket’s slow, painful march into financial ruin and irrelevance, starting with the near-catastrophic sales slump that began in 1979 after the demise of disco. Though the labels persevered, they finally lost control of their product when they chose to ignore the possibilities of the Internet . . . Knopper piles on examples of incompetence, making a convincing case that the industry’s collapse is a drawn-out suicide.” —The Los Angeles Times
“[Knopper has a] nose for the story’s human element . . . The best parts of the book, such as Knopper’s analysis of the late-’90s teen-pop bubble (and how it ultimately burst), move with the style and drama of a great legal thriller—think Michael Clayton with headphones . . . This is gripping stuff. Crank it up.” —Time Out New York
“The music industry is toast, my friends. And congrats to Rolling Stone vet Steve Knopper, whose fantastic new book Appetite for Self-Destruction explains why.” —Village Voice
“Laced with anecdote, buttressed by detailed accounts of the most flagrant record-industry transgressions, Appetite (its title nicked from that of the Guns N’ Roses debut disc) is an enthralling read, equal parts anger and regret. Knopper’s writing is sharp, his approach sharper.” —Boston Globe