Starting about twenty years ago, the CD took off like a rocket, burying both the LP and the audio cassette in a few short years. At that time, the CD was the last word in simplicity and convenience. I remember meeting an audiophile at a record-industry convention in the late 1980s. The popularity of the CD appalled and befuddled him. Couldn’t people hear that digital sound was cold and harsh compared to the warm, luxurious sound of an LP? Sure. But most consumers of music are not high-end audiophiles. Now you could hear all 74 minutes of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on one side of one disk.
If this was merely the extent of the problem, the record industry might be doing okay right now. The majors could have adjusted and reinvented themselves for the digital era. Instead, they took too long to start selling music online (and even when they did agree to start selling digital downloads, they screwed it up by insisting on digital rights management).
The lack of legal, paid-for downloads created a vacuum in the pre-iTunes era, one that numerous peer-to-peer file-sharing networks were happy to fill. A generation of kids got used to the idea that music was free, and given the infinite amount of freely — if illegally — available music out there, it was hard to argue with the facts on the ground. Music seemed free, so it was free. It didn’t help that the industry had been gouging consumers for years with high CD prices; prices rose even as the cost of producing CDs plummeted. Digital downloads should have made it possible to slash prices for recorded music, but the majors have done their best to keep prices at around a dollar a track — an artificially high price point that makes piracy more attractive than it should be.
Shots ring out in South Central Los Angeles. A man screams in horror. This man has been shot in a heated gang war. This is everyday life for gang members. Gang members are used to cold blooded murder and most attend at least 5 funerals a week. Similar situations occur in Harlem, New York and in other places around the country. Why is this happening? Many people think that rap music is making kids ...