Saturday 25 September 2010
Dylan Jones: 'Today’s young consumers of recorded music are the most churlish generation in history'
Books read on holiday often have a greater resonance than those we snatch at when we're busy working. This summer, my favourite book was Fortune's Fool by Fred Goodman, and it tells the story of how Edgar Bronfman, Jr, bought Warner Music and tried – so far, rather successfully – to turn it around.
Bronfman, the controversial heir to Seagram's, who, after dismantling his family's empire made a high-stakes gamble to remake both the music industry and his own reputation, and this is largely his story. However, the book also charts the decline of the CD market and the collapse of the traditional record company, and the way in which those companies have tried to initiate "360" deals with their artists, trying to siphon off monies from touring and merchandising.
"This whole system of 'give me your music for free, and I'll buy a T-shirt, and maybe I'll buy a ticket' – that kind of thing, you are begging recordings to go away," says Goodman. "All you're saying to the artist is, 'See if you can find a way to sell me a ticket and a T-shirt without losing a ton of money on a recording you won't make a dime on.' Frankly, I think recordings are valuable. And since they're valuable, we should find a way to value them. Otherwise, we're going to lose them."
Eleven years ago, when Napster shockingly made music available free online, the music industry found itself in a fight for its life. Over a decade later, having allowed a computer company to come and park its tank on their lawns – stand up Steve Jobs – the music industry still hasn't successfully remade itself, even though the likes of Bronfman have battled bravely on.
Having read Goodman's book I was left with the feeling that not only are today's young consumers of recorded music the most churlish generation in history, but that it is even more important that the notion of free entertainment be banished forever. Personally I've felt this way for ages – why should people read newspapers, listen to music and watch films for free? – and one can only hope that Goodman's lucid appraisal strikes more than a minor chord with some of those who obviously vehemently disagree.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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