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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* Named one of Time magazine's Best Books of 2015 So Far *

"[ How Music Got Free ] has the clear writing and brisk reportorial acumen of a Michael Lewis book."--Dwight Garner, The New York Times

What happens when an entire generation commits the same crime?

How Music Got Free is a riveting story of obsession, music, crime, and money, featuring visionaries and criminals, moguls and tech-savvy teenagers. It's about the greatest pirate in history, the most powerful executive in the music business, a revolutionary invention and an illegal website four times the size of the iTunes Music Store. 

Journalist Stephen Witt traces the secret history of digital music piracy, from the German audio engineers who invented the mp3, to a North Carolina compact-disc manufacturing plant where factory worker Dell Glover leaked nearly two thousand albums over the course of a decade, to the high-rises of midtown Manhattan where music executive Doug Morris cornered the global market on rap, and, finally, into the darkest recesses of the Internet.

Through these interwoven narratives, Witt has written a thrilling book that depicts the moment in history when ordinary life became forever entwined with the world online -- when, suddenly, all the music ever recorded was available for free. In the page-turning tradition of writers like Michael Lewis and Lawrence Wright, Witt's deeply-reported first book introduces the unforgettable characters--inventors, executives, factory workers, and smugglers--who revolutionized an entire artform, and reveals for the first time the secret underworld of media pirates that transformed our digital lives.

An irresistible never-before-told story of greed, cunning, genius, and deceit, How Music Got Free isn't just a story of the music industry--it's a must-read history of the Internet itself.
Publisher: New York, New York :, Viking,, [2015]
ISBN: 9780525426615
Branch Call Number: 381.457802
Characteristics: 296 pages ;,24 cm


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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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