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About the book
  • Published: 2 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9780099590071
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $28.00
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How Music Got Free

What happens when an entire generation commits the same crime?




One accidental mastermind, one king-pin, two geniuses, and what happens when an entire generation commits the same crime.

What links Taylor Swift to a factory worker?
Kanye West to a German engineer?
Beyoncé to a boardroom mogul?

They’ve all changed the face of the music business, in the most unexpected ways.

How Music Got Free is the incredible true story of how online piracy and the MP3 revolutionised the way our world works, one track at a time.

‘This brilliant book tells you exactly how the perfect storm that forever changed the way we consume music took shape. Like many great works of investigative journalism it makes it clear that this is one of those stories you think you know. Until you realise you don’t’ John Niven, The Spectator

‘Reads like an underworld crime story… concise and very funny… The most remarkable thing about Witt’s book is that virtually none of the names is familiar… Witt finds unlikely heroes in unlikely places’ New Statesman

  • Pub date: 2 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9780099590071
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $28.00

About the Author

Stephen Witt

A member of what he calls the ‘pirate generation’, Stephen Witt has been bootlegging music since the mid-1990s. While amassing an archive of hundreds of thousands of pirated mp3s, he became obsessed with the subject of digital piracy, and eventually changed careers to write this thrilling investigative history.

He was born in New Hampshire in 1979, raised in the Midwest and graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in mathematics. He spent the next six years working for hedge funds in Chicago and New York. Following a spell in East Africa working in economic development, he graduated from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2011.

He lives in Brooklyn, New York. How Music Got Free is his first book.


Praise for How Music Got Free

“Enthralling… A terrific, timely, informative book… Witt is an authoritative, enthusiastic, sure-footed guide, and his research and his storytelling are exemplary… How Music Got Free stands comparison to The Social Network”

Nick Hornby, Sunday Times

“Incredible, possibly canonical. . . . A story that's too bizarre to make up, but needed to be told. . . . Even if you're not a music geek, How Music Got Free is one of the most gripping investigative books of the year.”

Vice

“Like Bond meets 28 Days Later... Witt tells a thrilling tale, with a cast of music biz bigwigs, painstaking German boffins, and pirates and petty thieves. Witt’s writing reminded me of all my favourite modern essayists: Remnick, Franzen and John Jeremiah Sullivan. I loved it”

Colin Greenwood, Radiohead

“Brilliant... Like many great works of investigative journalism it makes it clear that this is one of those stories you think you know until you realise you don’t”

John Niven, The Spectator

“A fantastic book and a scintillating achievement”

Felix Martin, author of Money: the unauthorised biography

“[How Music Got Free] has the clear writing and brisk reportorial acumen of a Michael Lewis book”

Dwight Garner, New York Times

“[How Music Got Free] has the clear writing and brisk reportorial acumen of a Michael Lewis book”

Dwight Garner, New York Times

“Reads like an underworld crime story… Engaging even on the tech side of the story… Witt is concise and very funny”

Bob Stanley, New Statesman

“Closely reported and brilliantly written … highly entertaining… Exemplary in its clarity… this story is full of surprises as well”

Steven Poole, Guardian

“This is the definitive history of a media revolution… I was hooked late into the night… There are lots of big lessons here… it is the story of all creative industries, and in the end, the internet itself”

Hugo Rifkind, The Times

“You need to get hold of Stephen Witt's jaundiced, whip-smart, superbly reported and indispensable How Music Got Free”

Washington Post

“Fascinating… An engrossing story… surely the year's most important music book”

Independent

“Astonishing”

Guardian

“Astonishing”

Guardian

“Enthralling”

Sunday Times

“An accomplished first book… So compelling”

Economist

“Lucid, page-turning, engaging… A cross between a nail-biting true-crime story and the type of blow-by-blow books penned by Bob Woodward… Deeply sourced and dramatic”

Scott Timberg, Literary Review

“Witt's first book has great strengths — primarily that he is a natural storyteller, with an eye for character and the ability to digest large amounts of technical detail, and turn it into a colourful tale”

Financial Times

“Scorching investigative history of how the music industry found itself staring catastrophe in the face... Full of colourful characters... Essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of our creative industries”

The Bookseller

“This is a riveting account of greed, huge characters and the collapse of a kind of empire, and will be the benchmark by which future books are judged”

Jamie Atkins, 4 stars, Record Collector

“The richest explanation to date about how the arrival of the MP3 upended almost everything about how music is distributed, consumed and stored”

Dwight Garner, New York Times

“A rare thing… Compulsively readable”

Andrew Orlowski, Register

“Definitive exploration of the turmoil the music industry has experiences in the last 20 years”

Daily Mail

“A surprisingly engaging guide”

Rachel Farrow, UK Press Syndication

“Remarkable”

Ed Power, Irish Independent

“Hats off to Witt…because the book he’s delivered is sensational: lucid, informative, breathlessly exciting, with the pounding narrative tempo of a first-class thriller”

Allan Jones, Uncut

“Witt brings the many-layered tale to vibrant life”

Andrew Hill, Financial Times

“Witt’s sharp prose and pace grips... His narrative hurtles like a thriller toward the “sin cleansing” development of iTunes and the profit shift from recorded to live music. It is – in both senses – a ripping yarn”

Helen Brown, Telegraph

“One of the most gripping investigative books of the year - my mind reels at who will play Glover in the inevitable movie adaptation”

Zach Sokol, Vice UK

“An exhaustive and entertaining account of how digital music piracy started, what effect it had on the industry and who was involved”

Andrew Williams, Metro

“Jaundiced, whip-smart, superbly reported and indispensable”

Louis Bayard, Guardian Weekly

“Brilliant… Witt's account is every bit as riveting as a thriller… Required reading for anybody interested in how we came to consume music today”

John Meagher, Irish Independent

“It’s a truly terrific read. Thoughtful, compelling, action-packed (surprisingly), utterly robust and guaranteed to be one of those nonfictions you rip through as if it was a novel by your favourite author”

Bookmunch

“Excellent”

Sonny Bunch, Miami Herald

“A terrific tale of music piracy at the dawn of the digital era”

Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph

“The collapse of the music industry, thanks to the emergence of the internet and illegal downloading, is told here with all the urgency and colour of a thriller”

Louis Wise, Sunday Times

“Witt tells the captivating and tense story of how the digital music revolution transformed the music industry, and made criminals out of many of us. Read it to learn all about a landmark moment in music and technology that still affects us today.”

Isaac Fitzgerald, Buzzfeed

“His book is a tour de force, delving into the criminal underworld of hackers and pilferers as well as the complacent corporate boardroom”

Lionel Barber, Financial Times

“A must-read. It flows like a captivating novel.”

Mohamed El Erian, The National

“A terrific book… Rich and fascinating.”

Waitrose Weekend

“Page-­turner about how piracy nearly destroyed the established music industry.”

Andrew Hill, Financial Times

“A great read.”

Disrupts

“A great read.”

Disrupts

“Brilliant.”

Hugo Rifkind, The Times

“Witt skillfully and thoroughly documents this “warez” scene of file sharers… Absolutely enthralling, and occasionally cinematic.”

Jon Fine, Strategy + Business

“Beautifully told.”

William Leith, Evening Standard


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