Guest author Wayne Rosso founded Mashboxx, arguably the first open file sharing application to be authorized by the major recording labels, having previously been president of Grokster and chief executive officer of Blubster and Piolet’s parent company Optisoft.
After a long career working with artists including The Bee Gees, The Beach Boys, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac and Branford Marsalis, Rosso currently revels in being an outspoken, controversial and pioneering digital music consultant. He regularly shares his thoughts on his blog, Wayne’s World, and on The Music Void, where he serves as editor.
Hypocrisy on Parade
How to rewrite history with one little press release.by Wayne Rosso
The news that NARAS is honoring Steve Jobs with a Trustee Award has been picked up by media outlets worldwide. In making the announcement, the Academy said, “As former CEO and co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs helped create products and technology that transformed the way we consume music, TV, movies, and books. A creative visionary, Jobs’ innovations such as the iPod and its counterpart, the online iTunes store, revolutionized the industry and how music was distributed and purchased. In 2002 Apple Computer Inc. was a recipient of a Technical Grammy Award for contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field. The company continues to lead the way with new technology and in-demand products such as the iPhone and iPad.”
All true, but disingenuous at best. I find it to be just another cynical public relations stunt by an industry seeped in hypocrisy.
Let’s look at the facts. Does anyone remember how Steve Jobs had to drag the labels into iTunes kicking and screaming? Prior to iTunes, Sony Music septuagenarian CEO Doug Morris, then CEO of Universal Music, called iPods “repositories for stolen music”. He later went to war with Jobs, enlisting Sony and Warner’s help, whining that the industry had been “rolled like a bunch of puppies” with the iTunes terms. They complained about the $.99 price point. They complained that Jobs had too much control. Artists and managers started to line up behind Morris’ ill-fated jihad. Irving Azoff (Eagles, Journey, Christina Aguilera, and others) told Businessweek ”Doug is doing the right thing taking on Steve Jobs. The artists are behind him.”
As the digital age has matured, labels have bent over backward to protect their iTunes revenues while simultaneously chafing under the strong arm of Apple. They called Jobs “pigheaded” and Machiavellian. Once the industry woke up to Apple’s business model, they cried like babies over not getting a cut of iPod sales. Genius Doug Morris got everyone together to teach Jobs a lesson and start their own digital initiative, Total Music (not exactly a household brand name today). They hated Steve Jobs.
Sure Steve Jobs was a genius. I read the book. I’m a big Apple fan and have been for many years. But Jobs didn’t invent anything. Digital music services existed before iTunes. So did MP3 players. Jobs’ talent was in making these, and other, products so much better. He didn’t invent the mobile phone but the iPhone is now the gold standard. Same with computers, tablets and soon TVs.
Several years ago Apple was awarded a technical Grammy, and it was certainly deserved. Apple computers and software have become integral components in the recording process. The Trustees Award is given to those who have significant contributions to the field of recording in areas other than performance. So did Steve Jobs produce, engineer, compose or arrange music like his co-honorees Dave Bartholomew and Rudy Van Gelder?
If the Academy wanted to honor the actual pioneers of digital music they’d be giving an award to Michael Robertson or Diamond, the manufacturers of the first portable mp3 player. The industry chose to sue them at the time. Michael Robertson was the guy who popularized the MP3 format and was even the first to launch music in the cloud. But Michael isn’t dead yet and the industry enjoys suing him too much to give him credit for anything.
The NARAS press release was picked up everywhere and got lots of play. The lead in every story was about Steve Jobs getting a “special Grammy.” A special honor for the guy that every label hated. An award for the guy who held the industry in a stranglehold for years. A man they all cursed and whined about. So do you think that this is just a big publicity gimmick?
Now that Steve Jobs is gone, they seem to have changed their tune.