Shot through the heart, and Steve Jobs is to blame.
That is Jon Bon Jovi’s assessment of the current state of the music industry. Bon Jovi (of the iconic rock group “Jon”) had some uncharacteristically harsh words for Apple and its turtlenecked benevolent dictator Steve Jobs in an interview with the London-based Sunday Times Magazine.
Sounding a bit like an older man protective of his lawn — the quote literally starts with “kids today” — Bon Jovi bemoaned the fact that the young’uns no longer have “the experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album, and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like, and looking at a couple of still pictures and imagining it.”
There are plenty of things to worry about with Apple and its friendly, jangly-themed chokehold on the way we consume music, but this sort of nostalgia grief isn’t one of them. Sure, that particular visceral experience is gone, replaced by one of swiping and tapping, but kids now have literally hundreds of thousands of songs at their fingertips thanks to the Internet, whole genres they can peruse on YouTube that they would have never even considered back when they had to shell out their weekly allowance for a single album.
To put it simply: Whereas Tommy used to work on the docks, bringing home his pay for the newest lackluster Whitesnake album, now he can freely test-drive that album and nearly any other before deciding to buy it. It doesn’t eliminate the sense of discovery, only the sense of paying a bunch of money to the already bloated record industry for a potential disappointment.
The other problem with Bon Jovi singling out Steve Jobs as a straw man to blame for the decline of the music industry is that Jobs is really pretty much the only guy who has managed to successfully monetize online music consumption. It’s fine if you want to mourn the loss of physical albums — preferably by lighting votive candles around a copy of Cracked Rear View — but just know that you might as well also own a gramophone and a Kinetoscope.
Old media die, new media are born, it’s the circle of iLife: YouTube killed the video star, video killed the radio star, radio killed the traveling minstrel, and minstrelsy killed banging rocks on other rocks to some sort of rhythm. No doubt in fifty years, Justin Bieber will complain in his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech about how kids no longer know the joy of flipping through an iPod library now that music is just beamed directly into their frontal lobes.
Ah, well. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Slippery When Wet on my iPod.