Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else


There’s a lovely little moment in Win Win, the film I was talking about yesterday, when two of the characters are shooting the breeze about tattoos. Noticing that the teenage wrestler has wings tattooed across his shoulder, the older woman …

Wed, Mar 16, 2011, 08:45


There’s a lovely little moment in Win Win, the film I was talking about yesterday, when two of the characters are shooting the breeze about tattoos. Noticing that the teenage wrestler has wings tattooed across his shoulder, the older woman points to a tiny, almost indistinct mark on her calf, ink she got decades before on a spring break. It reads “JBJ”. The kid asks her what it stands for. “Jon Bon Jovi”, she says proudly. It’s a New Jersey thing.

This week, the man from New Jersey decided to share some thoughts on the music biz with the world. “Steve Jobs”, he said in an interview with The Sunday Times “is personally responsible for killing the music business.” Oh yes, a man in a black poloneck killed the goose who used to lay the golden eggs, to strangle a couple of metaphors.

JBJ also had a few flowery lines about the death of the record shop. “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”. I bet I’m not the only one who thinks that sounds like a Bon Jovi song in the making. I can see the storyboard for the video already. The scowling kid in the leather jacket. The dusty, fusty record store. The yawning, bored clerk in a black Metallica t-shirt. The large stack of unsold Bon Jovi records. The look of disgust on the kid’s face when he closes his eyes and realises how much he’s going to have to pay to bring that piece of plastic by JBJ and his pals home. The kid thinking “doh, MediaFire”.

But back to JBJ’s dig at Jobs and Apple. As any avid follower of the music business’ trials and tribulations knows only too well, Jobs didn’t kill the music business, but gave it a get out of jail free card instead. Before the iTunes store came along, remember, there was no legal download options. Oh sure, the record industry had bet like an amateur gambler during Cheltenham week on all sorts of nags and three-legged rides, but none of them had any traction with the public. After the industry had spent a couple of years scratching its head about what to do, Jobs came along with the clean, simple, uncluttered iTunes set-up and the rest is history. Yes, Jobs got the best of the deal, but those so-called sharks in suits who run the record business should have figured out before they gave away the farm that Jobs was only interested in flogging hardware rather than helping them out. Nothing personal, just business.

Jobs and Apple didn’t kill the music business, they changed it. Just as the lads who invented the CD changed the industry, Jobs and Apple dragged it kicking and screaming into a new age. The problem is that JBJ and his peers can no longer make out like bandits as used to be the case when they were flogging CDs during that golden age. Album sales for heritage acts, like album sales across the board (unless you’re Adele), are down. Heritage acts have to tour like bejaysus to keep up payments on their pension plans, botox treatments and hair-care. That’s why Bon Jovi are back again like a bad smell to play in Ireland this summer. The band has to keep touring because this is the only way they can make cash.

Perhaps JBJ would prefer to be back home in NJ writing songs about dusty old record shops and hence his pique at what had become him. Or perhaps JBJ doesn’t really have a clue what he’s on about. We’ve had a couple of these senior rock star moments of late, when John Lydon and Prince lashed out in anger at the internet. Problem is that the rest of us feel that blaming for the internet for your woes is just a waste of time and breath. Every single business has had to deal with the arrival of the internet. Many businesses have adopted and changed and worked things out. Most businesses are still doing this and will be for some time. They’re doing stuff, rather than giving out. To simply blame the head of a technology company for your sector’s ills – ills which were clear for all to see long before Jobs and Apple ever decided to do give the music business a dig-out – is to avoid the real issues.

That, though, is artists of JBJ’s ilk for you. They prefer to blame people and hide behind handy whipping boys like Ticketmaster, rather than tackle the issue head on. High ticket prices? Nothing to do with us, guv, it’s all Ticketmaster’s fault with their big fat fees. You won’t hear about the fact that huge fees charged by bands like Bon Jovi are what determine those high ticket prices in the first place. You won’t hear about the fact that bands like Bon Jovi and the permanent establishment of label bosses, management, legal eagles and bean-counters who rely on those big-ass bands for their income are the ones running scared from innovation. You won’t hear about the fact that there’s been a better time for the music business because everything is up for grabs. And you certainly won’t hear about the fact that it’s this change which terrifies JBJ and his friends most of all.