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Appetite for Self-Destruction

Appetite for Self-DestructionThe book, Appetite For Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash Of The Record Industry In The Digital Age, is one that people will be talking about a lot in the coming months. In it, author Steve Knopper lays out his theory of what happened to the music industry to make it fall from such great heights to such great lows.  It would be hard to argue with the basic premise that underlies Self-Destruction.  Many people already feel that the recording industry proved itself incompetent and behind the times (and maybe somewhat manic) in their response to the Internet and most pointedly, peer-to-peer services.  But Appetite still reeks of a book idea that someone was a little too eager to put out into the world, be it Knopper or his publishers.  The industry has been changing so quickly that Appetite was in danger of sounding dated before it came out, and self-consciously repeats phrases like “at the time of this writing…”.

Appetite certainly does a good job painting portraits of the colorful characters who have ‘guided’ the music industry over the last several decades, portraits that prove to be one of Appetite‘s biggest charms and its biggest let downs.  Knopper seems to rely a little too much on his unusual access to these record industry big-wigs, and, while interesting, often times seems more than a healthy dose of filler.

All in all, I think that Appetite for Self-Destruction is an important book.  It attacks the record industry while also maintaining an objective gaze on what brought it to its current state.  Music fans the world over are wondering why in hell the major labels are putting out such terrible drivel on a regular basis, and what happened to make all of it happen.  Appetite gives these music lovers a good starting place in trying to put the pieces together.


It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that is not for lack of goings on. I am continuing to mix (and add parts) to the ten songs I recorded for my band, Oryx and Crake, and, although post-production on the album is taking longer than I expected, I expect to be able to share those songs shortly. I also have been working on a Wiitles web site. It is officially online now, but I still have a little bit of work to do. It’s my first web site, so how was I supposed to know that it wouldn’t just stay in the middle of any web browser? So check that out if you must, but I’ll be writing a special little post when the site is looking more worthy.

I am writing tonight after being inspired by a quote. I am reading several books right now that I would highly recommend: John Cage’s Silence (itself full of quotable lines) and The Cartoon Music Book (a collection of interviews with the greatest cartoon music composers to ever live). One quote that I found inspiring came from Undercurrents, a collection of articles written around the turn of the century written by some of the great music theorists of our day (at least the ones who live somewhere in left field). The collection is from a series commissioned by the, at times, brilliant magazine, The Wire.

This is the quote by one of the authors, music and art critic, Ian Penman:

Beware of false prophets who come bearing essays which announce the ‘end’ of something: it usually marks little more than the exhaustion of their own resources – intellectual or financial. We need to think about not the end of song but the ends of song. Each singer must find their own will, their own way. In this way, song might be just beginning to truly speak… in the revivifying breath of a new mourning.

There are many who look at the state of music and get pissed off. They say things like ‘it’s terrible’, ‘people don’t value music’, ‘there’s no money to be made’, or ‘screw everybody and me too’. I find this way of thinking extremely irritating. I hear creative music being made all of the time. Some guy alone in his basement can make a life-altering album nowadays, and it’s happened in many lonely basements in the last decade. Everyone it seems is a musician. The shear number of bands able to get their music heard around the world by posting to Myspace or some similar site is so mind-boggling that sometimes it feels as if we’re in the middle of an uprising.

No matter how bad mainstream music may sound to some of us and no matter how ‘devalued’ music may become to an uploading culture, there will always be new songs, new styles of song, and scores of passionate people who will put their creativity and their souls in their recordings. In fact, there’s more of those types of individual now more than ever.