John Mellencamp: The Internet Is An Atomic Bomb For Music

from the that-radioactivity-may-have-gone-to-your-brain dept

What is it with old, out of touch and just downright wrong music industry folks slamming things they just don’t understand? Following U2 manager Paul McGuinness’ recent rant, rocker John Mellencamp has announced that “the Internet is the most dangerous thing invented since the atomic bomb,” and that “It’s destroyed the music business. It’s going to destroy the movie business.” Funny. If it’s the atomic bomb, it seems that living here in the nuclear winter is actually quite nice. After all, more new music is being released than ever before in history, more artists are making money from their music, and the overall industry (if you don’t just look at direct music sales) appears to be continually growing.

That’s a funny sort of “destroyed” industry, and a funny sort of atomic bomb. The music industry appears to be absolutely thriving. It’s true that the selling music business may be having some trouble, but that’s not the music industry. So why does the press simply take the obviously false claims of folks like John Mellencamp and repeat them? Aren’t journalists supposed to point out when people say things that are false?

Either way, this isn’t the first time Mellencamp has made this sorts of claims. Last year, he wrote an article about the mythical good old days of the music industry, where apparently his success came from the ground up — as compared to today… when it’s all top down. Of course, that made us scratch our heads, because Mellencamp was a major label artist, who benefited tremendously from major label (i.e., top down) promotions. And that was fine. Because there was no bottom up option in those days for most artists. Yet, today, we hear about totally independent artists building successful bottom up careers all the time. So, once again, it seems like Mellencamp has a view of the industry that might sound good from where he’s sitting, but don’t seem to reflect reality.

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Comments on “John Mellencamp: The Internet Is An Atomic Bomb For Music”

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RD says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not M.A.D.

“Not sure how you can say that….”

But I (and you) werent talking about SOLAR radiation, or UV, or any of what plays in to photosynthesis etc.

It was about NUCLEAR (as in, bomb, as in, plutonium, uranium etc) and that will most certainly have a destructive effect. I seriously doubt anyone would attempt to state that you could get a constructive mutation result from the fallout of an atomic bomb.

RD says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Not M.A.D.

“Because SOLAR radiation does not occur due to a NUCLEAR reaction …. oh wait “Solar energy is created at the core of the sun when hydrogen atoms are fused into helium by nuclear fusion” ;)”

Oh good lord, please learn some physics! 🙂

Yes, the sun is a giant nuclear reactor. But the SOLAR radiation that hits EARTH isnt the same kind of radiation as the direct-line fallout of a nuclear bomb. Please take a look at the EM scale and see where UV falls compared to U238 or Plutonium. Remember the scale: the higher the frequency, the more damaging and deadly it is.

Also, the EM shield of the earth itself plays a MAJOR role in this too. You dont have that kind of a shield at ground zero of a bomb.

DigThatFunk(Scottie V) (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Not M.A.D.

LOL, RD, you said, and I quote: “Radiation never leads to positive mutations or new forms of life man….”; proceed to you getting schooled, and yet you continue to kick and fight about how you are right and they simply misunderstood you. Be a grown up. Admit defeat, learn something new, and get over it.

ChimpBush McHitlerBurton says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Not M.A.D.

Radiation is Radiation. The odds of a positive (which is a subjective opinion, but nevertheless) result coming from solar radiation is about the same at the likelihood of a positive result from any other type of radiation.

I think what you are pointing out is the well-held scientific belief that most mutations – whatever the source – are usually not beneficial to the organism. And when we say usually, we mean, like 999,999 times out of a million. Probably more.

But I think what others are saying is that 999,999 times out of a million is not “never”.

And they are exactly right about that.

It’s kinda like the argument about life on other planets: Is it likely? Not even close to likely.
Is it impossible? Not even close to impossible.

When you’re dealing with infinite possibilities, ANYTHING is POSSIBLE.

Class dismissed.


Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Not M.A.D.

“It’s kinda like the argument about life on other planets: Is it likely? Not even close to likely.
Is it impossible? Not even close to impossible.”

If you’re talking about the Drake Equation, that isn’t quite what it states. More like alien life within range of communication is somewhere slightly less than 50/50….

Berenerd (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Not M.A.D.

“It was about NUCLEAR (as in, bomb, as in, plutonium, uranium etc) and that will most certainly have a destructive effect. I seriously doubt anyone would attempt to state that you could get a constructive mutation result from the fallout of an atomic bomb.”

Well its a matter of point of view. I am sure the twinky loving cockroaches that will then take over the earth will make it a lovely place…for them…

Stephen says:

john cougar redux

I mean, just check out his early history on Wikipedia to show what his life and all life was like under the studio system, just a big circle jerk, plus the record company thought his biggest album to date would bomb:

After about 18 months of traveling back and forth from Indiana to New York City in 1974 and ’75, Mellencamp finally found someone receptive to his music and image in Tony DeFries of MainMan Management.[2] DeFries insisted that Mellencamp’s first album, Chestnut Street Incident, a collection of covers and a handful of original songs, be released under the stage name Johnny Cougar. The album sold 12,000 copies.

Mellencamp recorded The Kid Inside in 1977, the follow-up to Chestnut Street Incident, but DeFries eventually decided against releasing the album and Mellencamp was dropped from MCA records. He drew interest from Rod Stewart’s manager, Billy Gaff, after parting ways with DeFries and was signed to the tiny Riva Records label. At Gaff’s request, Mellencamp moved to London, England for nearly a year to record, promote and tour behind 1978’s A Biography. The record wasn’t released in the United States, but it yielded a hit in Australia with “I Need a Lover”.[2] Riva Records added “I Need a Lover” to Mellencamp’s next album released in the United States, 1979’s John Cougar, where the song became a No. 28 single in late 1979. Pat Benatar recorded “I Need a Lover” on her debut album In the Heat of the Night.

In 1980, Mellencamp returned with the Steve Cropper-produced Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did, which yielded two Top 40 singles — “This Time” (No. 27) and “Ain’t Even Done With the Night” (No. 17). “The singles were stupid little pop songs,” he told Record Magazine in 1983. “I take no credit for that record. It wasn’t like the title was made up — it wasn’t supposed to be punky or cocky like some people thought. Toward the end, I didn’t even go to the studio. Me and the guys in the band thought we were finished, anyway. It was the most expensive record I ever made. It cost $280,000, do you believe that? The worst thing was that I could have gone on making records like that for hundreds of years. Hell, as long as you sell a few records and the record company isn’t putting lot of money into promotion, you’re making money for ’em and that’s all they care about. PolyGram loved Nothin’ Matters. They thought I was going to turn into the next Neil Diamond.”

In 1982, Mellencamp released his breakthrough album, American Fool, which contained the singles “Hurts So Good”, an uptempo rock tune that spent four weeks at No. 2 and 16 weeks in the top 10, and “Jack & Diane”, which was a No. 1 hit for four weeks. A third single, “Hand to Hold On To”, made it to No. 19. “Hurts So Good” went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 25th Grammys. “To be real honest, there’s three good songs on that record, and the rest is just sort of filler,” Mellencamp told Creem Magazine of American Fool in 1984. “It was too labored over, too thought about, and it wasn’t organic enough. The record company thought it would bomb, but I think the reason it took off was – not that the songs were better than my others – but people liked the sound of it, the ‘bam-bam-bam’ drums. It was a different sound.”

MrWilson says:

Re: john cougar redux

Yeah, the A-bomb of the internet and related technological progression saved us from having to buy an album of “filler” just to get the “three good songs on that record” or having to buy an album of “stupid little pop songs” before being able to actually listen to the whole thing first to see if we like it.

lavi d (profile) says:

Not Surprising

I saw Mellencamp a few years ago. John Fogarty (of Creedence Clearwater) opened
for him. Fogarty really got the crowd going with extended git-tar jams and
smiles and good vibes.

When Mellencamp took the stage, the crowd was ready for the energy level to
increase, but a strange thing happened. We cheered the first couple of
songs, but not as enthusiastically as the closing Fogarty tunes. To my
way of thinking, it meant that “Cougar” needed to up his game and pull the fans
along. Instead, he got sulky and made a smart-ass comment about how maybe we
liked Fogarty better.

I guess we did…

Kevin (profile) says:


Why do we pay any attention to an old rock has been who is so indoctrinated into the virtue of the the recording label???? People are going to comment on his comments and then we will have another internet horde attacking a musician for sharing his concern over the theft of his music. Paul McGuinness must be salivating over this.

We all know or should know that what he said is completely incorrect and on the gaffe scale of “a series of tubes.” Next thing you know we are going to have Lars from Metallica equating P2P file sharing as the next holocaust(no offense to those who may be offended).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why?

As much as we would like to ignore these pro IP morons that have managed to destroy our society, technologicla nad medical advancement, and culture the fact is that our bought politicians don’t ignore them. It is difficult to ignore someone when they have such a disproportional influence over our laws. We need to resist their control and find ways to undermine their influence.

Matthew (profile) says:


It was much easier when the record companies decided you were going to be a hit and made it that way via near total control of the media outlets. Relying on your own talent and effort to bring you success is a scary prospect, but that’s the world artists live in now. The vast majority of us have been living in this world for a long, long time. Deal with to it.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Not an A-Bomb just an expired career

While Mellancamp’s longing for the good old days has some validity (not much, just some) he’s mixing up the fact that if anything hit his career it’s his crabbiness at concerts (thanks for reminding me of that lavi d) and that he doesn’t understand what’s going on around him any more than the record companies do. (He’s right about the Wall St aspect of the recording industry, mind. But that has zero to do with the Internet.)

It may have been much easier back-in-the-day when he was on a major label and they set it all up for him but if his essay on HuffPo is any indication he didn’t like it much.

Actually, it seems what he’s complaining about is the lack of a “United Artists” label like the one he talked over with Don Henley. Perhaps one with reps on it’s board like the indies that have and are making it (Arcade Fire comes to mind cause I’m listening to them right now) while mainstream pop continues to stagnate and not sell. One that has something more than a cursory familiarity with the Internet, Web and other ways of popularizing, promoting and organizing music in ways that will sell to the masses. Of course, he and they would have to work at it while he’d rather complain.

Sad really, when you consider that the older John Fogarty can take a stage and just wind up an audience, which requires that they see him having as much fun as they are while Mellencamp would rather made snide remarks that Fogerty seemed to be more popular.


Re: Not an A-Bomb just an expired career

Some rock acts just have a high energy stage performance and won’t continue their set unless they feel that the audience is sufficiently engaged. While other acts are more about technical accuracy and will gladly let the audience vegetate like a bunch of classical music listeners.

The fact that Cougar whines about it is really sad.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not an A-Bomb just an expired career

Fogerty has always been high energy, even back with CCR. At one time Mellencamp was too.

I agree about acts that are all about technical accuracy and if they have great energetic music they get away with that. Otherwise they’re as boring as watching paint dry.

There’s the middle too. Jethro Tull is quite high energy as well as technically accurate and proficient and like Fogerty put on one hell of a show.

Then again, Tull, like Mellencamp is about telling stories set to music and not just 3 min silly love songs to they’d better connect for it to work. Mellencamp is an example of why and when it doesn’t work.

Marc Morrell (profile) says:

Maybe the ATOMIC Bomb already occurred

If most people were to listen to the old A&R executives from the major studios and NOT use the Internet to distribute their own music, they’d be waiting for a VERY LONG TIME for anyone to get to hear their music, even if they went out every night, playing at the lowliest dives in town. Artists in the past struggled, and the ones that did make it, made it big because all the money was filtered through one medium. How else do you think the RIAA became so powerful? They controlled that 1 medium for as long as they could, until the Internet came along.

If you’d ask any major artist from the past 30 years, “Hey, would you want 100,000 times more competition out there, and thus, make less money, or do you want to keep getting richer?”, what do you think they would say?

I am a fan of John Mellencamp. I have all his albums, and have seen him in concert twice. I think he WAS a great songwriter and musician. Lately, his new music offerings have not been to my taste. That’s fine. People change as they get older. He smoked for so many years, he just doesn’t have the energy to give the same shows he did when he was younger. Let’s not forget, he did sell-out to make it as a big star when he was younger. Most artists thought they had to. He would have kept his own name, and used all of his own material, had he not listened to what the people who gave him his contract told him to do. But, he wanted to be a star.

Not everybody who makes music out there today needs to make millions, and be a big star. They just get a thrill that they can make any kind of a living playing music, and that people respond to their music with positive feedback.

Maybe the ATOMIC bomb has occurred, and the playing field has leveled a bit. If those older artists want to continue to use the traditional methods of getting their music to the people, so be it. Frankly, I will still listen to their old music, but I am looking forward to hearing some fresh new stuff that my ears will enjoy and my feet can tap to.

Maxwell Smart says:

Nude Bomb?

It’s more likely the internet is the “Get Smart” nude bomb, stripping down bare the lies, deceptions, corruption and manipulations of an industry grown fat and repungant by standing on the backs of musicians. A giant leech that was once needed for “bleeding the wounds”, but which is now a repulsive, life-draining creature only interested in bleeding more and more artists dry.

Whereas before, they were the only outlet to distribute your music, now there are many, many outlets… including direct sales from a band’s own website… not to mention artists can now put their music DIRECTLY onto services like iTunes WITHOUT granting the lion’s share to some big brother corporation.

And sadly, only the old, senile leech addicts are proclaiming “The End is Near!”

All of the new artists – especially ones who have not felt the sting of the leech’s bite – who think that this wonderful “Nuclear Winter” is truly a paradise for their kind. No longer are they bound in shackles to the slavery of the almighty music beast. Now, they are free. Free to make whatever music they want. Free to sell it at whatever price they want. Free to reap the unadulterated rewards of their labor and creativity without the mammoth, bloated leech sucking their life away.

The problem is, those to whom the warped, blood-gorged leech is already attached are having the leech suck away SO much of their profts, that the tiny amount of blood it leaves them is so pitiful, of course they feel starved. Of course they’re going to feel like they need more.

But, instead of looking an the huge monstrosity attached to them, they look around at the tools of the new generation and cry out in frustration.

The true frustration is that they are so helplessly, hopelessly bound to that leech, that they can’t even imagine a world without it.

Truly… sad.

rangda (profile) says:

In a bizzarro way he's right

If you think of the music industry as the music copying industry then he’s right, the internet is the biggest threat since the atomic bomb. Both eliminate the need for the industry by eliminating demand.

Major labels have classically made money by getting artists to sell them their proverbial souls in that initial contract and then making money copying the content. They provided useful services at the cost of taking the bulk of the fees associated with making the copy.

I have noticed the trend that almost all of the musicians that bemoan the death of the music copying industry are the ones who would have made it to super stardom where they would be in line for a much higher percentage of the residuals, thus they stand to lose more than many other artists when the fee to copy music drops to $0.

Patrik (user link) says:

Re: In a bizzarro way he's right

“Both eliminate the need for the industry by eliminating demand.”

There’s still plenty of demand for recorded music. And trust me, when all you’ve got to listen to is Wavvves and Times New Viking and Sleigh Bells, or else cranky old codgers with the money to buy real audio gear, you’ll be wishing there was still a recording industry.

Can we get this straight now? The RECORDING industry is not the problem. These are the people that HELP your favorite artists achieve their vision. Recording a solid single (nevermind an album!) is an arduous process that requires quite a bit of knowledge and experience on the technical end, not to mention a healthy investment in the environment (do you know how involved a process acoustically treating a room is?). Steve Albini, Jack Endino, Butch Vig, Bob Katz, et al have NOTHING to do with the fact that record labels don’t know how to market to consumers. Please don’t shit on them.

ZD says:

F--- you Mellendump

This is what I don’t understand about washed up music stars. They seem to think they are entitled to have a job.

Boohoo, I can’t make any money at what I used to do.

Guess what, the steel industry went bellyup in the 70s and life continued forward. Here is my argument to the situation, I myself am a musician and don’t feel bitter or ill feelings for making no money on it. Hell, a good number of songs I write never even see a release because I write them for my own enjoyment. If Mellencamp, U2 and Metallica are so worried about making money, maybe they should start thinking more realistically, come down to Earth and get a real job.

The RIAA members have pulled this veil over these artist’s eyes causing them to believe that music should be for profit rather than enjoyment. Going back to the mid-1800s and prior, most musicians were either employed by an opera house to perform for plays or they had other jobs and practiced in their free time simply because they enjoyed doing it; the thought of becoming a millionaire by writing music wasn’t even a fleeting thought.

Let the music industry return to realistic proportions. Inflating it to such high amounts was guarenteed to cause it to fail (see housing bubble). The internet is just making it easier to force this bubble to pop.

Danny says:


Yeah Atomic Bombs and the Internet? Jeez talk about over dramatic.

One (well two bombs) killed millions of people who had no choice in the matter and the other is killing off the money flow for a bunch of greedy executives that openly refuse to take proper advantage of available technology.

Mellencamp fails. Unless he can someone draw a proper analogy between those millions of innocent Japanese people who had no power to stop those bombs and those hundreds of old executives that have had more than enough opportunity to get with the times and prevent their current “hardships”.

Planespotter (profile) says:

err… funny…

“Had the industry not been decimated by a lack of vision caused by corporate bean counters obsessed with the bottom line, musicians would have been able to stick with creating music rather than trying to market it as well.”

“Record companies soon discovered that because of BDS, they only needed to concentrate on about 12 radio stations; there was no longer a business rationale for working secondary markets that were soon forgotten — despite the fact that these were the very places where rock and roll was born and thrived. Why pay attention to Louisville — worth a comparatively few potential listeners — when the same one spin in New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta, etc., was worth so many more potential listeners? All of a sudden there were #1 records that few of us had ever heard of. At the time we asked ourselves, “Am I out of touch?” We didn’t realize that this was the start of change that would grow to kill, if not the whole of the music business, then most certainly, the record companies.”

Taken from his Huff Post piece dated 22nd March 2009

R. Miles (profile) says:

Damn. I was hoping this was an audible...

…so I can hear him say “nuke-you-ler”. Bummer.

I never thought Valenti’s statement would ever be surpassed.

I can’t wait for someone to take the next technological wonder and relate it to the Holocaust.

I love these messages’ hidden message of: The fight against piracy is more important than human life itself.

Pirates, feel free to continue your generous work and do know some of us greatly appreciate everything you do while breaking countless laws.

C. Learned says:

Old Men

What is the age in which we turn inward and why? Is it success or perceived failure that causes us to wish for the past? Mr. Mellencamp has obviously hit that wall.

His new album is actually recorded in mono. Artistically I can certainly appreciate it, but not exactly a forward thinker that should be quoted about topics like the Internet.

He can supply a hell of a quote on buggywhips though.

Brendan (profile) says:

I accept and extend his analogy.

“The internet is an atomic bomb for music.”

I like this analogy, it works.

Sure, the internet has caused some pain for some limited parts of the music industry. A few small segments of the industry will be destroyed.

But, there’s a bright side, too. The atomic bomb helped bring the end of World War 2. The world was able to return to a state of relative peace. Similarly, the internet will bring about a new era of peace within the music industry once the death throes of the former giants fades away to a dull moan.

The technology of the atomic bomb brought us nuclear power – the cleanest and most sustainable way we currently have to satisfy our growing energy demand.

The internet will bring cleaner and more efficient operations for music businesses. Artists can market themselves and communicate to fans directly, world wide, without the need for middlemen. Businesses like Amazon can sell music (physical goods!) to customers around the world from a virtually unlimited catalog. The availability of storage allows for near perfect archiving of nearly all music ever created, fully available and searchable by anyone in any language.

You’re right: the internet is the atomic bomb for music. It has already dropped, and the worst is behind us. The future is looking very bright.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This from a man who released a song in 1980 called “Cheap Shot.” Sample lyrics:

Well the record company’s going out of business.
They price their records too damn high
and the boys in the band could use some assistance
Get daytime job to get by.

Did you get a license to post those lyrics?

djcrill says:

I totally agree with mellencamp…ppl dont see the destruction until the end result…i wouldnt go as far as saying its destroying the buisness because as long as theres gifted artist theres always gonna be good music but because of the internet its much easier to get heard which in fact has deminished the overall product of the industry…i mean just listen to some of the garbage that has been produced the past few years especially in rap the overall product has faded for sure not to mention what it does to sales…and not just music or movies its society in general the internet is the best and worst thing to ever happen to the world

Rick Kepple (profile) says:

Mellencamp, Nicks, same difference

The last statistics I read were that 60 percent of music sales are from downloading and many of those songs were just ringtones. There is no warehousing. It’s the ultimate in outsourcing jobs. BMI and ASCAP both say that ripping off the music artist is widespread. I’ve turned in one recording studio that was charging some really good starter artists money for recording other people’s songs. Licensing is through the Harry Fox Agency for that sort of thing and protected by BMI. Stevie Nicks saying the Internet is obscene and John Mellencamp saying it’s an atom bomb won’t fix anything. I fix problems and I find professionals, in this case, Internet professionals to help figure things out. I’m a PR consultant and often, these things are so simple and it might be just some kid that has the answer! I’m a widower and our world could be so much better.

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