THE SONG MACHINE
Over the last two decades a new type of song has emerged. Today’s hits bristle with “hooks,” musical burrs designed to snag your ear every seven seconds. Painstakingly crafted to tweak the brain’s delight in melody, rhythm, and repetition, these songs are highly engineered experiences designed for malls, casinos, the gym, and the Super Bowl halftime show. Traveling from New York to Los Angeles, Stockholm to Korea, John Seabrook tells a story of what happens when an industry is catastrophically disrupted—spurring innovation, competition, intense greed, and seductive new products. One of the most memorable, scandalous, and deliciously entertaining books of the year, The Song Machine will change the way you listen to music.
“In The Song Machine, John Seabrook tells of a cutthroat and fascinating industry, where readers discover the gifted musical maestros who orchestrate hit after hit but rarely get their name in print. The narrative shows not just how technology has upended the music business but of how — despite prattle about “the long tail” — just one per cent of artists generate 80 per cent of the industry’s profits.” —Ken Auletta, author of Googled: The End of The World as We Know It
FLASH OF GENIUS
In Flash of Genius (2008), I explore the moment when inspiration strikes in an otherwise average life, and what happens when that idea moves out into the larger culture and takes on a life—and commercial possibilities—of its own. The title piece in this collection is the David v. Goliath story of Bob Kearns, a professor and inventor who came up with something we all use every chance we get: the intermittent windshield wiper. When Kearns’ patents were infringed, he fought General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, and eventually prevailed in a classic American story of never giving up, never backing down. It has been made into a major motion picture starring Greg Kinnear. Watch the Flash of Genius trailer.
Includes the Acclaimed Article that Inspired the Film from Universal Pictures and SpyglassEntertainment
Deeper (1998) was my first book. As the subtitle of the hard cover implies, it is a chronicle of the first two years I spent on the Internet. It is mostly about text-based interaction with strangers, both through private email and the kind of public email experiences of mailing lists and virtual communities like the Well (where much of the second half of Deeper takes place.) In some respects the book is of historical interest–it came out just before the Web caught on in a big way. But I think it remains relevant to net life today. I still witness flame wars and “thrashes” and other varieties of on-line experience described in Deeper. And somewhere out there, someone is getting an email from Bill Gates.
“What a relief and an enlightenment to read a book about the Internet which is neither naively utopian nor ignrantly Luddite.” —Brian Eno
“A very wise exploration of the Internet. Seabrook’s is one of the first books to take the discussion beyond advocacy to a careful study of the realities, possibilities and ideologies of the Internet. Written brilliantly…Great books about the idea of progress are great books about people. Seabrook has written one in Deeper.” —Kent Roberts, The Dallas Morning News
Nobrow (2001) is my attempt to write in a reported and personal way about a subject usually treated academically and theoretically–the loss of cultural hierarchy. The book is about what happened to American culture sometime between the appearance of the first and second Star Wars trilogies, and it’s also about what happened to me between the time I received my education and used it. When I was writing the book I made a conscious effort to take as much pop culture into my head as I could bear and then to blow it out through my saxophone (well, OK, my laptop) and believe in what came out. I think our culture gets more Nobrow all the time. But then, I would think that.
“Brilliant….[An] astonishingly acute analysis of the nature of our culture.” —The Boston Globe
“No one has captured so well the actual experience of living within the marketing mush, the combination of exhilarating freedom and claustrophobia.” —The Nation