Bon Jovi said Steve Jobs is Killing the Music Biz? How does THAT work?

Jon Bon Jovi recently said that, in his opinion, “Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business”. It’s a mystifying comment that made me wonder what really is responsible for the slide in the music business.

Jon Bon Jovi, courtesy of Screwflanders

In a recent interview in the Sunday Times of London Magazine, Jon Bon Jovi says “Kids today have missed the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, 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.” He then went on to add, “Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.”

Yikes! You’d think that for a guy who’s band grossed $146.5 milllion from North American shows in the past year and who sells millions of songs via iTunes he’d be a bit more circumspect.

Walk by any teenager today and you’ll be able to hear the music from a few feet away – they still crank it up to ten – or eleven if they can. Can’t you just see your teenager listening to his or her favourite tunes while clutching the album cover to their chest with their eyes closed? Kids today would never listen to albums – they’re far too mobile and busy. The simple act of putting a record on a turntable and placing the stylus on the album would take too long.

Kids have missed the whole experience of the record album to be sure. Not many homes feature a record player any more, and I’d venture to say that those people who do own one wouldn’t let their kids touch the thing in any event. Aficionados say that vinyl LPs offer a superior, more in-depth sound than digital reproductions do, so their home systems might not be the type that the kids could fool with.

Kids also missed the experience of playing Monopoly, listening to radio dramas and having to write letters in longhand on paper. Why Mr. Bon Jovi had to attach blame to something that’s merely the evolution of a society is vexing to me.

He’s right on one count though, the music business is in decline. “Record” sales – (why do they still call it record sales?) are down again.

Up until the 80’s LPs were king, but the introduction of the Sony Walkman in 1979 saw the first salvo fired across the bows of the record industry. Now consumers could copy their LPs onto cassette tapes and mix and match songs to their heart’s content. Pre-recorded cassettes didn’t really kill the vinyl industry, although music sales started to see the impact of consumers mixing their own tapes and lending records to others so they could copy songs.

Compact Disks took that one step farther although at first the ability to create your own mixes of content was so restricted that pre-recorded CDs were able to get lots of traction for a few years. In one way, Bon Jovi is correct because the introduction of the iPod and iTunes in 2001 was the first major blow to the industry.

But even the iPod and iTunes isn’t responsible for the “death” of the music industry. The Internet, and Napster in particular, probably had the largest impact of all. There’s no doubt that Napster and Torrent sites like it, along with newsgroups, offered users the ability to download just about any amount music without having to pay a cent – that’s when I think the music industry really started to die.

Online streaming sites like Pandora and satellite radio like Sirius have also changed the way we listen to music. Unlike commercial radio, satellite radio and streaming radio can be programmed to provide you with the genre of music you want to hear, so you don’t have to buy an album to hear your favourite kind of music.

What’s really interesting is that iTunes accounts for about 70% of all online music sales, and, of course Bon Jovi’s music is all there. While their iTunes LP idea hasn’t really caught on to any large extent, the fact remains that iTunes has made a lot of artists rich. Maybe not as rich as they might have otherwise been, but rich nonetheless.

Neilsen SoundScan keeps track of the music business sales and figures. They say that since 2001, when CD sales were at their peak, they’ve steadily declined. In the first of this year, CD album sales were down about 18% to 110.3 million units from 134.6 million units during that same time last year. In contrast, Apple’s iTunes announced the 10-billionth music download from iTunes on February 24th 2010.

Peter Tschmuck did a terrific analysis of what has caused the recession in the music industry, and he found that there are many parts to the decline in music sales, and no one aspect of the business is the sole reason for this decline.

As far as the experience of reading a record album cover, seeing interesting information on the band and information on the tracks etc. iTunes LP offers that at no extra cost. I downloaded Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits and the iTunes LP portion offers a look at a video from the album, photos from the jacket, information and other interesting tidbits – it’s actually better than the old album covers were. So a question I think of is “if Steve Jobs has killed the music industry why is Bon Jovi even selling content on iTunes?” Because there isn’t enough money in the concert and CD business without online sales to generate interest might be a possible reason.

The original article that was posted as a result of Bon Jovi’s comments to the Times is what started this whole thing, and musician Patrick Pentland’s take on the quote makes a great read as well.

What do you think about this comment of Bon Jovi’s? Is he just a rock star shooting his mouth off, or does he have a point?

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28. March 2011 von hotk
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