April 18th 2017

ISBN-13: 9780316275743

MOVE FasT and Break Things

How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy

A stinging polemic that traces the destructive monopolization of the Internet by Google, Facebook and Amazon, and that proposes a new future for musicians, journalists, authors and filmmakers in the digital age.

Jonathan Taplin’s Move Fast and Break Things, a rock and roll memoir cum internet history cum artists’ manifesto, provides a bracing antidote to corporate triumphalism—and a reminder that writers and musicians need a place at the tech table and, more to the point, a way to make a decent living.

Move Fast and Break Things tells the story of how a small group of libertarian entrepreneurs began in the 1990s to hijack the original decentralized vision of the Internet, in the process creating a set of monopoly firms—Facebook, Amazon and Google—that now determine the future of the music, film, television, publishing and news industries.

Taplin offers a succinct and powerful history of how we got to this point. He begins with a small group of libertarian entrepreneurs, Peter Thiel and Larry Page among them, who in the 1990s began to hijack the original decentralized version of the Internet. Taplin show how these firms and individuals began to shape online life in their own image:  tolerating piracy of books, music and film while at the same time promoting opaque business practices and subordinating privacy of individual users to create the surveillance marketing monoculture in which we now live.

The enormous profits that have come with this concentration of power tell their own story. Since 2001, newspaper and music revenues have fallen by 70%, book publishing, film and television profits have also fallen dramatically. Revenues at Google in this same period grew from $400 million to $74.5 Billion. Google’s YouTube today controls 60% of the streaming audio business and pays only 11% of the streaming audio revenues. More creative content is being consumed that ever before, but less revenue is actually flowing to creators and owners of the content.

If you think this is a problem only for musicians, or journalists, you are wrong. With the reallocation of money to monopoly platforms comes a shift in power. Google, Facebook and Amazon now enjoy political power on par with Big Oil and Big Pharma, which makes finding solutions to this problem even more difficult.

But Taplin has answers. Move Fast and Break Things offers a vital, forward-thinking way for how artists everywhere can reclaim their audiences with knowledge of the past and determination to work together. Using his own half century career as a music and film producer and early pioneer of streaming video online, Taplin offers solutions that would allow us all to reimagine the design of the World Wide Web and specifically our interaction with the firms that dominate it.

Jonathan Taplin, more than anyone I know, can articulate the paralyzing complexities that have arisen from the intertwining of the tech and music industries. He counters the catastrophic implications for musicians with solutions and inspiration for a renaissance. He shows the way for artists to reclaim and reinvent subversion, rather than be in servitude to Big Tech. Every musician and every creator should read this book.
This is an essential book and singular hybrid—lucid alternate history of our digital transformation, juicy memoir of a pioneering culture industry player, and bracing polemic on how our culture was hijacked and might still be redeemed. And my reaction to Move Fast and Break Things was a three-part hybrid too—provoked, enlightened and inspired. Thanks, Jon Taplin.
— Kurt Andersen, Host of NPR's Studio 360
Move Fast and Break Things goes on my bookshelf beside a few other indispensable signposts in the maze of the 21st Century—The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul and The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan. I pray the deepest and highest prayer I can get to that this clarion warning is heeded. The survival of our species is at stake.
Jonathan Taplin’s new book could not be more timely. Twenty years after the initial euphoria of the Web, ten years after the invention of social media, it’s time to stop breaking things and start thinking seriously about the new habitat we’re creating. Move Fast and Break Things provides a blueprint for a future that humans can live in.
— Frank Rose, author of The Art of Immersion
Jonathan Taplin’s brave new book unmasks a grid of high tech corporate domination that didn’t have to be but that now threatens democracy itself. Like the great muckrakers of a century ago. Taplin explains clearly how that domination works and challenges us to do something about it. Our future may well depend on whether we heed him.
— Professor Sean Wilentz, Author of The Rise of American Democracy
Move Fast and Break Things is the definitive exploration of the platforms, apps and digital destinations that have emerged over the last 30 years, and is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to gain a little savvy in the internet era—and learn a little bit about the culture of the last three decades while they’re at it.
— Newsweek
Taplin’s broader explanation of the upheaval in the music and media industries is illuminating.
— Wall Street Journal
A bracing, unromantic account of how the internet was captured...a timely and useful book.
— Guardian
A breakthrough, must-read book...a tour de force—a compelling, story-driven work focusing on the handful of men who have shaped and essentially taken over the massive tech industry. Along the way, Taplin tells his own personal story with charm and insight. If you want to understand what happened to our country and where tech will take us in the era of Trump, put aside some time to read this book. It will take your breath away.
— Alternet
One can only hope that the growing chorus of voices, now joined by Taplin, will cause Google and Facebook to follow through more vigorously on their efforts to address the fake news debacle.... Most every creator of music and film should welcome the clarion call of Taplin’s book.
— Forbes