Ted Rall’s All Wrong on Steve Jobs

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:

Accurate? You Decide. . . .

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.

11 thoughts on “Ted Rall’s All Wrong on Steve Jobs”

  1. I stopped being a fan of Ted Rall a long time ago. This kind of misguided hatred is the reason why. I’m no fan of Apple, but 99 cent music replaced stealing outright. The music industry’s draconian contracts are what keep musicians from getting their fair share, not iTunes.

    1. I haven’t been aware of Ted long enough to have that much of an impression, but I definitely see where you’re coming from. I think .99 for a song is fair, putting an album around $10. I’m much more concerned about writers pricing entire BOOKS at .99, though.

  2. Ultimately it’s pretty much always about the consumers. No one has a gun to their head to make them pirate a CD, or a book, or anything else. Of course, many consumers continued to behave appropriately but many others were only too willing to take the easy route.

  3. Spot on. I’m not a huge fan of Apple products but the technology was there for the taking and they just got the handle on it better than anyone else. If it wasn’t for Apple, it might have been Mircrosoft or Sony but mp3’s, iTunes and digital music in general was always going to happen. The music industry still doesn’t know it’s arse from it’s face so if anything blame the fools who signed Robbie Williams for 80 million or any other ridiculous mega-deal.

  4. I am not sure I understand what happened well enough to really comment but I feel like I am stealing if I take a CD from the library and download and burn it. So usually I just buy the damn CDs even if the majority of the music on it sucks. I don’t buy enough to break the bank.

  5. Pretty pathetic if you ask me…to blame the death of a particular industry on one person is simply ludicrous..personally, i think that the fact that all of this new stuff (cheap music and artists bypassing the traditional means of releasing music) is simply payback for all the one sided deals, contracts and life +50 copyright shenanigans did them in. If you don’t change, you become irrelevant….

  6. I’m with Patti here. I am totally lost in this world of downloading songs. In fact, I still can’t figure out how to upload (or is it download) new stuff to my ipod gifted to me several years ago (it used to be what I used in the gym before a kindle). I switched computers and tried to put some opera CD’s (all paid for, full price) on the ipod and got that warning about erasing all that was on there already. Screw that. I’m stuck with what was on there from when I got the thing and before my old computer died.

    As to Steve Jobs … once again, late to the dance. Never paid much attention. I can only hope he wasn’t an asshole to those he employed.

    1. Maybe you got the “rock” ipod and it can’t abide the “opera” music?

      Just kidding. I operate on a want to know basis on this stuff. I learn the stuff I feel will be ultimately interesting, or will help me in some way, even when it involves much palm-to-face action. But a lot of this stuff, especially when it involved upgrades and things like that, I simply don’t want to know.

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