Jon Bon Jovi says Steve Jobs is “personally responsible for killing the music business” – Here’s why he’s wrong

Wed, Mar 16, 2011

Analysis, Featured, News

So many song titles to riff off of, it’s hard to know where to start. Well, here goes. Not only does rocker Jon Bon Jovi give love a bad name, he’s now taken to trashing iTunes and Steve Jobs as well.

The Bon Jovi front man recently lamented the changing landscape of the music buying experience in an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine.

Kids today have missed the whole 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.

And to a certain extent, he’s right. There was something to the experience of rummaging through record stores, leaving with something tangible in your hand, and rushing home to pop in your newly purchased album while devouring the liner notes and getting lost in the music. With no way to really preview an album in its entirety at the time, consumers were often familiar with only one or two songs, something which made listening to a new album an adventure of sorts, each new song a potential new favorite.

So yes, that particular experience of getting lost in an album may be a vestige of the past, but the digitization of music with the advent of the iTunes Music Store brings with it a number of new experiences that in the long run supercede idealistic memories of connecting wtih a band and discovering new songs the old fashioned way.

While driving to a record store and clumsily browsing through CD racks may seem fun in a nostalgic sense, the ability to download almost any song on a whim at any time and from any place – at home and even via a smartphone – has undeniably made music acquisition infinitely more convenient. The iTunes Music Store, coupled with the web at large, gives music lovers a chance to read user reviews and preview songs before deciding whether or not something is worth purchasing. More informed consumers equates to happier consumers which ultimately results in consumers more likely to spend money on music in the future. Anyone who bought music in the pre-digital age can relate to feeling ripped off upon discovering that the $18 CD you bought only has 1 decent song.

But Jon Bon Jovi isn’t convinced.

God, it was a magical, magical time. I hate to sound like an old man now, but I am, and you mark my words, in a generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’. Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.

On the contrary, you can argue that Steve Jobs and Apple actually saved the music business by providing users with an easy and legal way to download music. While the wild west days of illegal music sharing have come and gone, it really wasn’t all that long ago when kids were stockpiling hundreds, if not thousands, of illegally downloaded songs onto their computers. Indeed, iTunes spot as the top music retailer in the US is a testament to the idea that users are willing to pay for content provided its affordable and an easy process.

Suffice it to say, Bon Jovi does sound like an old man, and while he mourns the death of a particular type of consumer shopping experience, he’s been on the other side of that equation for so long that he probably doesn’t remember what it’s like to be a regular ole’ music lover. He’s an artist, a bona fide superstar who’s so deeply entrenched on the artist side of the equation that he can’t appreciate the net positives ushered in by the digitization of music from the vantage point of a consumer. Indeed, note that Bon Jovi references the music business.

A generation from now, only music snobs will be looking back and asking “What happened?” On the contrary, most everyone else will be asking “Can you believe that you used to have to get in a car to buy music?!”

Also, it’s worth noting, if it’s not already abundantly obvious, that some lost experiences, though positive they might have been, are often supplanted by even better ones. As an example, there was an element of fun in the pre-iPod days to showing off your music collection and poring over a large selection of CDs and figuring out which ones were worthy enough to accompany you on whatever journey you were embarking on. But that dynamic was supplanted with a new experience where you can now carry thousands upon thousands of songs on a small little portable device. Who cares about the fun derived from plucking a few key records from an album collection when we now have the ability to bring our entire album collection along for the ride.

And speaking of albums, and though some music snobs might talk your ear off about an entire album being a piece of art meant to be consumed in its entirety, it’s exceedingly delightful that we’re now able to purchase individual songs for $1.29 (at the most) when CD singles used to sell for as much as $4.

Given the portability of music, the convenience of purchasing music online, the advent of services like Pandora, and even the ability to purchase music subscriptions from sites like Rhapsody, it’s hard to argue that there’s ever been a better time in history to be a music lover. Music lovers today have unparalleled access to music from all around the world and can purchase it at prices that are quite shocking if you think about it.

Jon Bon Jovi, not surprisingly, isn’t the only artist quick to appear laughably behind the times. John Mellencamp this Summer said that the Internet was the most dangerous thing invented since the atomic bomb and that it was responsible for destroying the music business.

At the time we wrote,

How can you not argue that breaking down the draconian walls of the recording industry isn’t a good thing? Artists today have a lot more control over their careers, and they’re no longer subject to the tastes and whims of cranky old white men in suits. How is that a bad thing? Independent artists who, in the past, would have been ignored can now have their music heard by the masses. The level of music accessibility these days is nothing short of astounding.

Sorry Jon, you’ve just been served some Bad Medicine while being shot down in a Blaze of Glory.


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11 Comments For This Post

  1. Harold Says:

    How about us “old farts” that still play LP’s? I’m slowly converting them to mp3’s as they are not available in digital form. Back when I was a youngster, most of the tracks on LP’s were good. Very few bad ones. All my 45’s have been converted to mp3’s. Even the flip side throw-away songs. It’s not Steve and iTunes killing the industry. It’s all the extra “throw-away” songs on a lot of CD’s today. The last CD I bought was “I Dreamed a Dream” by Susan Boyle. Great CD.

  2. Howie Isaacks Says:

    Jon Bon Jovi is just pissed off that we can do without the “bad” songs on his albums, and only buy the good ones. I’ve never been a fan of his, but his music is good… but not all of it is good. That’s why I love iTunes so much. I can preview, and purchase ONLY the songs that I like, and not all of the songs that I don’t. I remember lots of times when I bought a whole CD or cassette tape, only to realize that I liked only 1 or 2 songs on it. It’s a waste of money, and I don’t see the point of filling Jon Bon Jov’s pocket with money for songs that were merely filler so he could get out a whole album. Art is a subjective thing. Not all of us think of a whole album as a single work of art. Sometimes they’re just a few good songs with filler in between.

  3. Beamer Says:

    This artical speaks to the laziness of the new generation, always more concerned about the end result and not the experience along the way. Bon Jovi is completely accurate in his asertation. The buying experience was a part of the of music experience and it is now gone. Digital music is far inferior to the analog days of LP’s and the new generation of music listeners have no idea what good quality sound is. All you people worried about buying an album and getting a few songs you don’t like have no concept of what an album is. It is a story with all the songs connected and arranged for a reason. Cherry picking songs is like dismantling a book and not reading all the pages. You don’t get the entire story. Anyway I’m sure I won’t change many people’s minds about this subject and I just feel sorry for those that have never experienced what Bon Jovi is relating. You are the one’s missing out! Long live the album, cover art, liner notes and great quality analog music!!

  4. Pete Says:

    Ask the customers. Does any music buyer now want to give up her/his music buying experience of today for walking into a store and basing album buying decisions on the cover, or one or two popular tunes?

    Would Bon Jovi be in favor of forcing people to go back to that experience?

    What a charlatan!

  5. beatdown Says:

    I think everything is moving towards digital. So to say that Jobs killed it, is just not correct. His company just made it better and more accessible.

  6. Joshua Ludd Says:

    No, crappy pop music like Bon Jovi has been playing for decades as well as the record company price fixing are what killed the music business. As the Dead Kennedys said “But record sales are slumping and no one will say why. Could be they put out one to many LOUSY RECORDS.”

  7. Dirk Diggler Says:

    Steve didn’t kill the music business. Napster did that, I was there when it happened. It was 1999, pretty much everybody had the internet by then and broadband was just moving into homes, but the online music-pirating trade was still an insignificant occurrence. No one cared. No one even talked about it. Suddenly, everyone you knew was buzzing about this new client software, written by a college student no less, called “Napster.” Napster would let you search for a song by name, and then download it to your computer. Completely brilliant! Next thing you know, everybody’s downloading music for free. Tons of it. Complete albums. Entire artist catalogs. And not one single penny went into the pockets of the artists who created the music. A new market was emerging. People went out and bought Rio mp3 players and spent hours playing stolen music in Winamp (and Macamp). But the music industry refused to bend. They just tried to squash it (with the help of Lars Ulrich). Here was a brand new, ready-to-pay market and the old farts who ran the record companies had no freaking clue as to what to do with it. So here comes Steve Jobs with his iPod and convinces them to sell their music online through his then Mac-only store. The iTunes Music Store takes off and becomes so popular it gets released as a Windows product as well. The next thing you know people are buying music again, albeit in a different way, but at least the money was going back into the pockets of the artists who rightfully deserved to get paid. Bon Jovi is an idiot but he’s old enough, although probably not tech savvy enough, to have been aware of what Napster was doing back then in ’99. He should certainly be able to see that what Steve Jobs has done is usher in a new era of legal/corporate music distribution that seemed to be, to most intelligent people anyway, an inevitable progression. So Jon, before you claim that Steve Jobs and iTunes have killed the music industry, go have a quick talk with Lady Ga-Ga or for that matter, Journey, whose “Don’t Stop Believin'” was the first digital song to reach 2 million in sales and remains the most-downloaded catalog song on the iTunes store (thanks Edible Apple!) And now that I think about it, Journey’s even older than you, Jon.

  8. Carajo Says:


    His exact words were:
    Steve Jobs is “personally responsible for killing the music business and I’m personally responsible for killing the good music”

  9. Howie Isaacks Says:

    Hey Beamer… Maybe I don’t want the buying experience that he describes! Why should that be forced on us? Cut the BS! The album is not a “story”. It’s a grouping of songs. Musical artists frequently fill their albums with crap just to get the album out. That is a fact. I’m not interested in subsidizing laziness, and I’m not interested in driving to a store, rummaging through CDs, plunking down lots of money, and then finding out that the whole excursion was a waste of time. On iTunes, I can preview the album, and decide what songs I want. Screw the story! Your book analogy is stupid.

  10. Beamer Says:

    I am a musician (studio) and I guess you are too, knowing everything about us and the recording process. I’m glad you state facts about artists filling their albums with crap – you must have been in the industry along time to have that kind of information. Let me guess your under 28 right? Keep listening to Britney and Christina what you probably consider music anyways. Oh and ask the members of the Beatles or LZ or RUSH or countless other bands about the album story concept – Oh I forgot you know everything for a fact!

  11. Gen Y Says:

    Apple is not killing the music business, but opening more opportunities to discover music you previously may not have come across. Up and coming artists and musicians can be recognised and discovered through itunes as Apple helps to market and generate the potential careers that these young artists are looking to achieve. Many people do still go to music stores to buy CDs, but itunes just makes this process easier and is a big timesaver, and potential money saver. If you prefer having the genuine CD, you can still go out and buy it…but if you want the music there and then with more choice, go on itunes and buy it. The choice is still out there, it is not as if itunes has destroyed the ability to be able to physically go out to a store to buy the CD! it is a matter of preference, opinion and how you wish to buy your music.

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