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Ripped (book review)

July 17, 2009

Originally appeared in the Star-Ledger, July 10, 2009

A new wall of sound

Greg Kot
Scribner, 252 pp., $25

Greg Kot brings a rock journalist’s perspective to questions of copyright that emerged when music files and players went digital.

Some of his points seem fairly obvious: The internet’s wider fan community sped bands’ rise to fame; the existing legal system failed to keep pace with digital sharing technology.

Kot zeros in on specific bands in detail. Although Metallica’s battle against Napster was widely publicized, not everyone knows Metallica encouraged fans to trade bootleg recordings of early concerts; nor does everyone know why Prince changed his name to a symbol.

By presenting the impact of the technological shift on newer bands like Death Cab for Cutie, and established musicians like Paul McCartney, Kot constructs a decent survey of evolving music consumption over the past decades. He covers the economics and generational aspect, perhaps because they are the most obvious.

Although his character sketches are detailed, he seldom pushes innovative questions about new technology shaping musicians’ process, or what the next phase in music distribution might be.

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