Meet Dell Glover – the accidental pirate
Meet ‘Kali’ – the mastermind
And meet Karlheinz – the man who made it all possible
How Music Got Free is a blistering story of obsession, music and obscene money. A story of visionaries, criminals and tycoons. It’s about the greatest pirate in history, the most powerful exec in the music business, and an illegal website six times the size of iTunes.
It begins with a small-time thief at a CD-pressing plant, and a groundbreaking invention on the other side of the globe. Then pans from the multi-million-dollar deals of the music industry to the darkest corners of the web; from German audio laboratories to a tiny Polynesian radio station.
This is also the story of the music industry – the rise of rap, the death of the album, and how much can rest on the flip of a coin. How the fate of artists like Kanye West, Jay-Z and 50 Cent were being controlled by a guy no one had ever heard of. How suddenly all the tracks ever recorded could be accessed by anyone, for free. And the industry imploded.
As journalist Witt engagingly explains, in 2011, Americans spent more money on live concerts than on recorded music; in 2012, sales of digital music surpassed sales of CDs; and in 2013, revenues from subscription and advertiser-supported-streaming took in billions of dollars. Thanks to piracy and clever technicians, music got free of vinyl and CDs and entered more portable formats, and it also became free for individuals to download or stream widely. Drawing on interviews, Witt profiles various individuals who played crucial roles in the rise of digital music. In the late 1980s and in the early 1990s, a group of German scientists and technicians invented the mp3, the technology that later audio pirates would use to share files of the latest music. Dell Glover, according to Witt, is likely the greatest music pirate of all time; in cahoots with Rabid Neurosis, an online organization run by someone called Kali, Glover leaks over 2,000 CDs to the internet over the course of eight years. Witt engages in careful analysis of the trial of Glover and his associates; the Texas jury decided that the "laws that prohibited piracy did not have to be obeyed," regardless of the economic damage done to the record labels. Witt also writes about music executive Doug Morris, who rose rapidly through the ranks of various record companies to bring Tupac Shakur, Suge Knight, and Dr. Dre to the world. This captivating book goes behind the scenes to help readers understand the current state of the music industry.