How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back
Doubleday, Hardcover, 9780385533768, 320pp.
Publication Date: October 25, 2011
How did the newspaper, music, and film industries go from raking in big bucks to scooping up digital dimes? Their customers were lured away by the free ride of technology. Now, business journalist Robert Levine shows how they can get back on track.
On the Internet, “information wants to be free.” This memorable phrase shaped the online business model, but it is now driving the media companies on whom the digital industry feeds out of business. Today, newspaper stocks have fallen to all-time lows as papers are pressured to give away content, music sales have fallen by more than half since file sharing became common, TV ratings are plummeting as viewership migrates online, and publishers face off against Amazon over the price of digital books.
In Free Ride, Robert Levine narrates an epic tale of value destruction that moves from the corridors of Congress, where the law was passed that legalized YouTube, to the dorm room of Shawn Fanning, the founder of Napster; from the bargain-pricing dramas involving iTunes and Kindle to Google’s fateful decision to digitize first and ask questions later. Levine charts how the media industry lost control of its destiny and suggests innovative ways it can resist the pull of zero.
Fearless in its reporting and analysis, Free Ride is the business history of the decade and a much-needed call to action.
Praise for Free Ride
“A book that should change the debate about the future of culture….With this stylishly written and well-reported manifesto, Levine has become a leading voice on one side of our most hotly contested debate involving law and technology.”
—Jeffrey Rosen, The New York Times Book Review
"Turbo-reported....Free Ride is a timely and impressive book--part guilt trip, part wake-up call, and full of the kind of reporting that could only have been done with a book advance from an Old Media company."
"[A] smart, caustic tour of the modern culture industry."
“Brilliant…A crash course in the existential problems facing the [media].”
—Richard Morrison, The Times
“The most convincing defense of the current predicament of the creative industries that I have read.”
—James Crabtree, Financial Times
“With penetrating analysis and insight, Levine, a former executive editor of Billboard magazine, dissects the current economic climate of the struggling American media companies caught in the powerful fiscal grip of the digital industry…. This incisive book is a start at an informed dialogue.”
“Can the culture business survive the digital age? That’s the burning question Robert Levine poses in his provocative new book. And his answer is one that will get your blood boiling. Rich with revealing stories and telling tales, Free Ride makes a lucid case that information is actually expensive – and that it’s only the big technology firms profiting most from the work of others that demand information be free.”
—Gary Rivlin, author of Broke, USA
“One of the great issues of the digital age is how people who create content will be able to make a living. Robert Levine’s timely and well-researched book provides a valuable look at how copyright protection was lost on the internet and offers suggestions about how it could be restored.”
—Walter Isaacson, President/CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of Benjamin Franklin
“This book thoroughly documents a wide-spread outbreak of cyber amnesia. Despite libertarian delusions, industries often get Free Rides, especially in their early days, but they eventually give back. Taxpayers build roads, then get hired to build cars. The Internet gives back a lot in exchange for its Free Ride, but one thing it defiantly isn’t giving back is a way for enough people to make a living. No matter how amusing or addictive the Internet becomes, its foundation will crumble unless it starts returning the favors it was given and still depends on.”
—Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget
“Free Ride is a brilliantly written book that exposes the dark side of the Internet. A must read for anyone interested in the horrific undermining of our intellectual culture.”
—Edward Jay Epstein, author of The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood
“Robert Levine deftly dissects the self-serving Orwellian freedom-speak being served up by Silicon Valley’s digital new lords as they amass fortunes devaluing the work of artists, journalists and other old-fashioned ‘content creators.’ Free Ride begs us to remove our blinders and take a hard look down a cultural dead-end road.”
—Fred Goodman, author of Fortune’s Fool: Edgar Bronfman Jr., Warner Music, and an Industry in Crisis
“Without being a Luddite, Levine makes the phony digital media gurus of our day seem as simple-minded as their slogans.”
—Ron Rosenbaum, author of How the End Begins and Explaining Hitler