Jon Bon Jovi: Steve Jobs killed the music business

In a curious fit of nostalgia, the Bon Jovi frontman declares it's sad that people can no longer buy an album just by looking at its cover. This is all, apparently, the fault of Steve Jobs.

It's always dangerous to have an emotional relationship with a business. Businesses change, often driven by innovation. Or merely the desperate desire to make more money.

So there is something rather touching in the notion that Jon Bon Jovi--he who named a band after himself--still feels emotional about the very process of buying music. A process he believes that Steve Jobs has ruined, nay, destroyed, nay, killed.

In comments to the Sunday Times magazine (actual story is subscription only), he offered this nostalgic version of what the music business truly is: "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."

Now, I know that many people did precisely this on holding their first ever Floyd album, their first ever Sabbath album. Some even did it with Madonna.

Still, Bon Jovi, who generally seems like a very nice man, feels very deeply about jackets. For he believes people today miss "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."

Bon Jovi doesn't think Steve Jobs is magical. CC Zana Stardust/Flickr

Beauty may well be in the eye of the jacket-beholder. However, I know that many bought one particular Scorpions album--"Lovedrive"--whose jacket featured a man, a lovely girl, and some chewing gum, and imagined rather more than the record delivered. But that, I suppose, is the risk one takes when one judges an album by its cover.

Bon Jovi, though, reportedly described this period of music history in very Jobsian terms: "Magical."

And yet he accuses Steve Jobs of being the scorpion in the decline of jacket-based music purchases: "I hate to sound like an old man now, but I am, and you mark my words, in a generation from now people are going to say: 'What happened?' Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business."

There will be some who feel his pain. There will, however, be many who will feel less sympathy. They are the people who have donated countless albums to Goodwill, albums that they bought just because the jacket looked cool--though the music turned out to be a touch rancid.

To blame Jobs for introducing the quaint idea that you can listen to a piece of music before you buy it seems a little like blaming a shoe store for inventing the ridiculous notion of trying on a size 10, just in case it's really a size 11.

As businesses change, we all lose something along the way. I fear, for example, that when The Beatles came along, there were many classical musicians who railed at those who had invented such dreadful technologies as amps and electric guitars.

Gone, for them, was the magical time when you put on a tux, went to a chilly concert hall, and listened to something miserable from 17th century Germany. Yet the practice still survives, in some form or another. Just as some people will, no doubt, still care about album covers more than albums.

But business gets us all in the end. One minute Blockbuster has you paying late fees, the next minute it's the late Blockbuster. One minute Bon Jovi is a rock band, the next it's recording something blessedly close to country music.

To give Steve Jobs a bad name because of that seems a little sad.

 

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