How Music Got Free

How Music Got Free

The End of An Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy

Book - 2015
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A story of greed, cunning, brilliance, and deceit explores the music-piracy revolution and the man who almost singlehandedly brought down the industry from a small town in North Carolina, where he leaked thousands of albums with the help of a network of smugglers.
Publisher: New York, New York : Viking, [2015]
ISBN: 9780525426615
Characteristics: 296 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

True crime in the music industry ¬ conspiracy, piracy, technology,
and money. Wonder how the business changed so quickly and
irrevocably? Witt lays out a thrilling labyrinth of format wars,
obsession, and lawsuits, all connected to a small town in North
Carolina. A fascinating journey from radio ... Read More »

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Apr 05, 2018

All of the huge changes in the music industry from the 1990s onward may boil down to two fundamental questions. First, how exactly did scientists manage to take all of the audio information of a full vinyl record and squeeze it down to a tiny file on a computer's hard drive? Second, how exactly did random kids on the internet manage to get access to CDs that even music business people yet didn't have, despite the expensive security in place?

The whole story, with all of the details filled in, would probably take something like a six-hour long documentary film to describe. Yet the author does a wonderful job in taking those two big questions head on. He writes about the bunch of quirky little moments that made music history with a thoughtful and curious tone, capturing just how interesting everything wound up being. The book is absolutely worth reading.

Jun 19, 2016

As someone who grew up on computers beginning in the early 90s, a lot of the stuff mentioned in this book really brought back some fond memories. IRC, Warez and of course, Napster, the file sharing service that revolutionized the way we listen to music are all covered in How Music Got Free, which looks at the pirates that took the wind out of the sails of greedy record companies who were gouging their customers for years with overpriced CDs that usually only had one or two good songs on it. What I found to be the most interesting chapters were the one's dealing with the origins of the mp3 format and how it was for many years considered to be the "Beta" of audio compression in comparison with mp2. But with the explosion of broadband and file sharing software, mp3 files, and later devices like the iPod which served as a money launderer for Napster's spoils took off, leaving the recording industry flat footed. Also interesting was the true crime aspect of this book. Ever wonder how albums got leaked weeks before their release date? It all goes back to a plant in North Carolina and employees who did the old fashioned way: by literally stuffing CDs in their pants behind their belt buckles to evade the metal detectors. A really great look at early computer history and how a bunch of kids operating in their parents' basements dismantled a multi-billion dollar industry.

Jan 07, 2016

I'm of two minds of this book. One mind, the book is well thought-out history of the music business. Ever wanted to know how the music biz came to be as powerful as it was back in the day? This book contains that history.

On the other hand, the writing and grammar of this book is terrible. Even the title "How Music Got Free". Terrible. Instead "How Music Became Free" is much more appropriate. If you can look past the writing, then by all means the book a read.

Dec 09, 2015

Awesome read! Walks you through the transition of music from CD's to Peer-to-Peer sharing and the creation of new devices/platforms that totally shifts how our generation experiences music. I especially liked the stories about how CD's used to be leaked online prior to official release dates. Shows you how serious people were about getting free access to pre-released music!


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