I’m generally a fan of Ted Rall and his work, particularly his political cartoons and his syndicated column. Earlier this year I read his book, The Anti-American Manifesto, and liked it. But I have to say in his Steve Jobs RIP cartoon, he’s way off base. Dig it:
I’ll be honest. I’m not all broken up over the death of Steve Jobs, at least no more than I am over anyone else who dies in their 50s from the scourge of cancer. Yeah, he was behind some cool gadgets and stuff, but I didn’t know the guy, and for all I know he may have been a supreme dick. So I’m not going to come down on one side or the other when it comes to all the back-and-forth between fans and the people taking shots at him or praising him like he was some kind of geek prophet.
But Rall is dead wrong to pin the collapse of the music industry, both recorded and live, on Jobs and his gadgets. It’s the same as the old question as to whom to blame for the murder, the gun or the asshole who pulls the trigger?
Say what you want about the failure of the music industry to refrain from torpedoing itself into irrelevance, but speaking from a purely indy, underground perspective, it is the fans themselves who crushed music, not the makers of the gadgets where they are doing the bulk of their listening. On all the forums I used to frequent back when I was actively pursuing listeners, it was the smug throngs of listeners who thought it was okay to get pirate copies of new albums for free (i.e. steal them), and share and trade them for other albums. Didn’t matter if the record was released by a corporate behemoth like Sony or Joe Record Label releasing stuff out of his basement. This all started when these jerks were using computers (Mac or PC, doesn’t matter) to listen to and rip CDs. Drove me nuts to hear their bullshit justifications for it. Still does. There was a guy that used to frequent the stonerrock.com forums back in the day who lived in Columbus, OH, back when I was living in that state. Our paths crossed a couple times. He always had burned CDs with him, and he’d pass them out to people he thought might dig them, usually kind of underground stuff that he thought was cool. He’d hand it over with a comment like, “These guys are cool, you should check them out.” I was into that, because I discovered some great stuff I might not have heard otherwise. It’s one thing to burn a CD or something for a friend, or put together a mix tape, but download thousands and thousands of songs without ever paying for any of it? That’s theft, plain and simple, and it’s bullshit.
I realize that opens up the slippery slope argument as to who decides what is acceptable sharing and what isn’t. All I know is there is a clear line there, and I know it when I see it.
Yes, the music industry has failed to adapt, at both the indy level and the mainstream level. Charging too much, releasing bad music, the list goes on as to their reasons why. But blame Jobs? That’s ridiculous. I’m disappointed that Ted Rall couldn’t come up with a better angle than this one, because I’m sure there are plenty to choose from.