Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bon Jovi vs Apple

"Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business."

That's the quote that's been attributed to Jon Bon Jovi overnight in the UK's Sunday Times as he lamented the fact that kids will grow up never enjoying 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."

Since then, Jon's infamous dinosaur quote has popped up everywhere and influential music industry writer Bob Lefsetz was quick to pounce:
Bon Jovi On Jobs.

That's Steve Jobs. Responsible for the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

Not responsible for broadband, Napster, CD burning, hard-drive swapping and the rest of the elements that contributed to the demise of the old recording industry. As a matter of fact, Jobs was last. Macs came without CD burners. And Rio released the first MP3 player. All Steve Jobs did was make the experience easier and more elegant. And provided a way for the rights holders to get paid via the iTunes Store. Yes, before then, music online was FREE! There was nowhere to pay.

But you know all this.

It's only Jon Bongiovi who does not.

That's what happens when you surround yourself with yes-men, you lose contact with reality. You start to believe you're a grand pooh-bah with all the answers when really you're an uneducated nitwit with too much money and fans lost in the same old century you are.

Too bad Bon Jovi is not informed. If he were, he could make a difference. Instead, he's revealed himself to be in bed with Doug Morris and the rest of the music industry antiques who just don't get it.

I'm not saying an act has to know everything. But if it knows nothing, it shouldn't open its mouth.

Bon Jovi is old school. New school acts are Net-savvy. They have to be, that's where their fans are. You reach people online, you cement the relationship with them via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail... It's much more efficient than the old way. You know who your fans are. And they'll give you all their money if you treat them right.

But like the RIAA before him, Jon Bongiovi wants to place blame. Wants to find a scapegoat for the end of an era. As if overpriced CDs could go on forever.

Yes, in case you missed it, in yesterday's "Times", the English version, Jon Bongiovi said:

"Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business."

Funny how when Bongiovi finally decides to say something negative he gets it wrong.

In an era where electric cars are not only imminent, but available, when modern communications allow you to speak to friends across the world for free, Jon Bongiovi is lamenting the fact that we all don't buy vinyl records and get spoon-fed by radio.

The landscape might be murky now. But we're going to a better place. Where bland, written by committee confections like Bon Jovi's work will be the exception instead of the rule.

With one dumb statement Bon Jovi has become a laughingstock. This quote is all over the Web. My inbox is filling up.

What did they used to say in the sixties? You're either with us or against us?

Turns out Bongiovi is against us. He doesn't want more music for more people at a cheaper price, which the Internet affords, he just wants to maintain his private plane lifestyle.

He's what's wrong with America today. Ignorance.

You find it rampant amongst adults.

But not with kids. They read the news all day long online. They know which way the wind blows. They know Steve Jobs is a hero, not a zero.

Kids don't go to see Bon Jovi.

They're into something new. Or something old of value, true classic rock.

It's not Steve Jobs who killed the music business, it's the audience. An audience that had been ripped off for years, sold overpriced junk, who used new technologies to get what they wanted for free. If anything, as stated above, Mr. Jobs should be lauded for establishing a way for rights holders to get paid!

Some day in the future, Bongiovi and Jobs are going to die.

And who do you think will be remembered?

The guy with the feathered hairdo from New Jersey or the college dropout who revolutionized society by providing tools?

That's all Steve Jobs did, provide tools. Now people can use computers to create music, they don't need a rich uncle with a recording studio. Tunecore makes labels unnecessary.

If you don't think we're in a better place now than in the heyday of Bon Jovi then I sentence you to twenty four hours straight of "New Jersey". Hopefully, after that, you'll see the light.

The truth is slippery.

But the key is to keep trying to unearth it, to not be afraid of the future but to embrace it.

Bongiovi is living in a vacuum. And if he keeps coming out with heinous comments like this, his career will be living on a prayer.
To be honest, I'm a bit skeptical as to whether Jon even said this (or at least said it in quite the way it's been portrayed), given the age of his children and his apparent acceptance (if not complete understanding) of the changing music business landscape in the past. Hell, Richie Sambora uses iTunes, even though he's a vinyl boy. And the music business "died" way before iTunes, when it tried to kill Napster and sue music fans instead of recognising the fact that people wanted a cheap, convenient way to obtain music and giving them a place to do it legally.

But there's no doubting Jon's nostalgic for those "magical" days, and while I didn't grow up in the era of vinyl, I do still like buying CDs and studying the album sleeve, so I can relate to that. Having said that, I'm in my early 20s and practically grew up on the Internet. And if Bon Jovi wants to be genuinely relevant going forward, they'll need to embrace social media and the digital revolution much more than they currently do. Staying relevant involves making good music that connects with people and making sure they can access it easily, not churning out watered-down pop tunes and using outdated (or non-existent) marketing strategies.

Getting the crew to tweet a link every few days or post a video every time you hit a milestone for Facebook likes may be enough for existing fans, but does nothing to bring in new ones. That said, compared to where they were a couple of years ago, they're virtually acing the new media class.

On a somewhat related note, Bon Jovi the band is now 28 years old, having formed on March 14, 1983. They celebrated by hitting 10 million Facebook fans and inviting fans to join the celebration.


  1. As people age (I'm 33 and have experienced this somewhat), they get nostalgic for the way things used to be. I think that is all that is happening here and Lefsetz is going a bit overboard.

    Is the band (and Jon) surrounded by yes men and sometimes horrible handlers/management, most definitely. But I doubt that he was doing anything except pining for "the good old days" (like it was when he was young - and just like all of us tend to do at some point). He just is in the unfortunate position of having his words spread all around the globe. ;-)

  2. Bon Jovi has been a fairly consistent target of Lefsetz's attacks in the "old vs new" debate. As I said in the post, I think Bon Jovi could do more to adapt to the digital age. But yes, I do think Jon's comments have been blown out of proportion here, as I alluded to here and on other forums. :)

    FWIW, I pine for the good old days when I could come home from school and watch Rugrats until dinner, but alas... :P

  3. JBJ's comments were misguided at Steve ... but the point was a valid one and is shared by the crowd who do Vinyl Record Clubs

  4. Good article about Bon Jovi's comments: http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/backstage/comments/an-open-letter-to-jon-bon-jovi-on-whats-really-killing-the-music-business/


Thanks for giving me your time.