This week Jon Bon Jovi proclaimed that Steve Jobs is to blame for the malaise of the music industry. He feels the lack of a tangible product has devalued the product. While there is some merit to that argument, I don’t feel like that is a big problem. Too, Steve Jobs really isn’t to blame for that aspect of the music industry, as digital downloads were coming no matter what (I came up with this idea while in dental school in 1995. I wasn’t the only one thinking that way in the internet’s early days).
1) BIG RADIO – Radio likes to have very few stars. They have bought up all of the radio stations, homogenized the product across the country, and shut the door on exposure for any artist that isn’t hand-picked by the labels’ A&R teams. Back when Jon Bon Jovi was breaking big, the record/radio industry wasn’t so intent on cramming the same old music down our throats. To make it clear: WE ARE TIRED OF B.T.O., BOSTON, AC/DC, ETC. When JBJ was coming along, music that was 20-40 years old was called "Oldies". New music today has a hard time getting to the surface because of overly conservative radio programming. Now radio is still cramming the same old classic rock down our throats, and we’ve lost interest.
2) DRINKING AGE – In the mid 1980’s the federal government began denying highway funds to states that didn’t changing their minimum drinking age to 21. Since then, bars in college towns and downtowns have somewhat languished. By the time potential artists find themselves into that setting, they have already committed to other career paths. Therefore there is less product than there used to be.
3) THE INTERNET – In the 70’s and 80’s, we had radio, records/cds, VHS movies, and perhaps 35 cable channels to watch. Now we have many, many more entertainment outlets. Game systems, the internet, hundreds of cable channels, and smartphones/tablets all compete for our disposable time. I used to thrill at lying in the floor with headphones to listen to music. Now I just don’t have time for that passive entertainment.
4) HOSTILITY BY THE MUSIC INDUSTRY – The role that Jobs DID play was inventing a large-storage music device and marketing it well. Once Napster allowed us to get songs for free, music was devalued. If anything, Steve Jobs’ iTunes has TAUGHT Americans to spend money again on music. Ever since the Napster craze, however, the music industry has treated its customers all as thieves. Absurd lawsuits put a very bad taste in our mouths and tilted our decision trees regarding competing entertainment options.
Music will come back, but it probably won’t be until arrogant baby boomers finally let go of the reins. That day will be sooner if the record company acts like it gives a rat’s _____ about what the PEOPLE want.