Jon Bon Jovi doesn't get it.
"Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business," the New Jersey rocker told London's The Sunday Times over the weekend.
Bon Jovi's an accomplished singer/songwriter. He's had a somewhat successful acting career. He was the biggest name in arena football ownership.
Unfortunately, he's also a lousy historian.
Blaming Jobs for destroying the music industry is like blaming a raft for a flood. Apple's
Replace "killing" with "saving" in Bon Jovi's quote and you'll land closer to the truth, but why stop there?
If Apple's actions are what destroyed the prerecorded music industry, let's go over a few names that also deserve to be tried for this grave injustice alongside the cool cat of Cupertino.
The major labels
These aren't the best of times for the majors. The initial spike in premium downloads may have offset the perpetual plunge in CD sales, but that's not true anymore. Warner Music Group
However, this isn't some old-fashioned purist rant on how labels are faltering because they're just not putting out good music like they used to back in the day. I think there are plenty of talented young musical artists out there.
The labels need to be tried here because they're the ones behind MusicNet and pressplay. Before the debut of iTunes Music Store, the five major labels split up to launch rival music services. They were restrictive. They were incomplete. They were charging for a product that was inferior to the rampant piracy that was already eating into CD sales.
Oh, and CD sales peaked in 2000 -- three years before Apple began selling digital music.
One of the websites that I miss the most is the original MP3.com website. Michael Robertson parlayed a $1,000 domain name purchase into an indie music hub that at one time hosted more than 1.2 million freely available tunes by 250,000 musical acts.
Bon Jovi forgets that the Internet was the great leveler. Instead of having to impress label execs -- as Bon Jovi did in his prime -- garage bands these days can cultivate global audiences in cyberspace. Everyone is a click away from an aspiring band's demo tape. In the end, consumers are spending money on music and concerts from a larger pool of artists than the chosen few inked to major label deals.
MP3.com wasn't the first site to showcase largely unsigned artists, but it became the biggest. It went public! Then Robertson dabbled too far into the gray area. He was sued by the majors for launching a controversial digital locker service. The legal battles mounted, and MP3.com sold itself off to one of the labels. MP3.com is now owned in a neutered state by CBS
MySpace, satellite radio, and American Idol
It doesn't end there. Major music careers couldn't be launched without major label blessing during Bon Jovi's heyday. It's a whole new world these days. CKX's
Music fans are also consuming a broader variety of tunes. Remember commercial-laden terrestrial radio with repetitive play lists sandwiched between long ad breaks? Sirius XM Radio
YouTube's collection of music videos -- often served in revenue-sharing cahoots with the labels themselves -- are also a fair substitute for the premium streams that music subscription services offer.
There are limitations to on-demand streaming, of course, but it'll do in a pinch (especially for a platform that is raising the bar on music discovery by giving unsigned artists a way to visually connect with potential fans).
Web 2.0 in general
Finally, we may as well have Facebook and Twitter don blindfolds before the firing squad. Whether these sites are promotional vehicles for previously unheard artists, or simply a part of the generational time suck that is moving young music fans away from vinyl-needling listening sessions, they point to the likelihood of the continuing decline in major label music sales.
It's happening, Jon. It's been happening for years well before Steve Jobs. Consider yourself lucky to have been able to reach out to a wider audience in an era when prerecorded music sales mattered. It's a different -- and I would argue better -- system in place today.
You'll come around. In time, you will retract that statement and thank Steve for still being relevant on this side of the digital revolution.
Is Jon Bon Jovi right or wrong? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz was once signed to a major label. Paris By Air didn't last long on Sony's Columbia Records. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.