Stuff That Works - a review of "Ripped" by Greg Kot

Once upon a time, in an earlier life, I had occasion to create some music for a multi-media presentation at a nature theme park in Northern Michigan. Project Nature was in Vanderbilt (just North of Gaylord) and when you first entered the park you were treated to a surround sound audio-visual presentation in a small theatre with a kick-ass sound system (designed by yours truly) and a slide show with 7 screens and 27 projections linked to the music as well as falling water, some fog and other effects.

What does all of that have to do with the book "Ripped - How The Wired Generation Revolutionized Music" by Greg Kot? Well, before Project Nature was forced into closing by bankruptcy, the musical program created by my former wife and I was illegally duplicated.  This not only devastated us on a personal level, but the financial impact was insane.
Anyway, that experience made me pretty hard line when it came to music and copyrights thereof. I had a pretty dim view of the whole Napster thing as well as all the sampling in popular music. When my wife and I opened a retail store, I signed up for Rhapsody and happily paid $14.99 a month (it has been reduced to $9.99) to have access to thousands of songs to play in my store.
I picked up "Ripped" along with a couple other books a few weeks ago and finally worked my way through the stack - I could not put it down. Read it in my spare time over the last two or three days. Great stuff and very enlightening for me. Greg Kot ( is well informed and passionate about music. He knows a lot about the subject. Kot writes for the Chicago Tribune (Turn It Up) and has a nationally syndicated radio show Sound Opinions .

Kot brings his knowledge, contacts, and expertise to play in "Ripped". He traces the history of the collision of Big Music Biz and the Internet in an easy to read, very engaging way. He gives examples of a wide variety of diverse artists and shows the different ways in which the artists and/or their management has responded to the wired generation. He tells the tales of artists like Metallica, Prince, Trent Reznor (aka Nine Inch Nails), Arcade Fire, Girl Talk, Dan Deacon and others and gives the perspectives of all kinds of people in and around the music industry on file sharing, sampling, and just who should "own" music and how the creators of songs should be compensated. If you have any interest in these subjects, you will enjoy the book as much as I did. (Plus, I learned a lot about several of these artists and gained respect for them, even if I am not big fans of their music.)

There are no easy answers, but "Ripped" sure made me question and change what I believe is right and wrong about file sharing and sampling. With a simple section about how, prior to the recording process, music has been passed down from one artist to another put things in a whole new light for me. When someone learns a song from a teacher/mentor they MIGHT play it note for note or they just might add their own artistic creativity to their rendering. This is especially true in blues and other forms of music where little to nothing was written out and scored for the band/orchestra. A light bulb went off in my head with this truth was used to defend the practice of sampling so evident in a lot of hip-hop and other forms of modern pop music.
Kot covers the subject(s) well in "Ripped" and his writing style pretty much allows you to draw your own conclusions. The plus and minus sides of the old way of making a record and getting it to the people are examined as well as the positives and draw backs of the new Internet based methods available to musicians. If you love music and the people who create it - then you will enjoy this book.
Solid 5 stars and two thumbs up on this one!

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