The author of several classic histories of pop music including Rip It Up And Start Again, Generation Ecstasy and Retromania, Simon Reynolds is as well placed as anyone to understand how the Internet has changed the music industry.
But while Reynolds might not go as far as critics like Jaron Lanier, he is nonetheless far from optimistic about the impact of the Internet on the music industry. As Reynolds told me when he came into our San Francisco TechCrunchTV studio, the Internet is bad for artists because it’s much harder now to make a living recording music. And it’s bad for fans too, Reynolds insists, because all the free music on the Internet has created a problem of what he calls “over abundance.”
So is Simon Reynolds correct? Has the Internet really had such detrimental impact on artists and fans alike? And if so, then how can we return to a time when musicians like the Beatles, Stevie Wonder or Talking Heads, rather than Steve Jobs or the iPhone, captured the zeitgeist of our age?
Reynolds’ first experience writing about music was with Monitor, a fanzine he helped to found in 1984 while he was studying history at Oxford. The publication only lasted for six issues.When it was discontinued in 1986, Reynolds was already making his name writing for Melody Maker, one of the three major British music magazines of the time (the other two being the New Musical Express and Sounds). His early Melody Maker writings often contained strong criticisms of the concept...