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Smackdown: The Most Influential Person in Music in 25 Years

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Last week, in response to Steve Jobs’ announcement that he’s stepping down from Apple, our host John Schaefer wrote this on his blog: “Steve Jobs has probably had more of an impact on the music world than any other person in the last quarter century - and possibly since Thomas Edison.” Needless to say, not everyone agreed with his statement. Today, we explore just how important has Steve Jobs been to the music world – and, if he’s NOT the most influential person in music in the past 25 years … who is? Rolling Stone managing deputy editor Nathan Brackett and Village Voice music editor Maura Johnston join us to discuss. Plus, we’ll take calls from our listeners.


Nathan Brackett and Maura Johnston

Comments [40]

Bryan from Michigan

For the math-challenged: the last 25 years means "since 1986". So what has been influential since ABBA passed on?

I think the internet itself opened up access to all of the music that had been tucked away into tiny corners of the world. It gave me a way to learn about music played on radios around the world, giving rise to internet radio, YouTube, MySpace, napster, iTunes and the rest.

Aug. 31 2011 02:34 PM
Agatha from Warsaw

Rick Rubin

Aug. 30 2011 10:56 PM
Frances Apgar from New York City

Most influential person in MUSIC.
Hip Hop is NOT music. Hello?
It's FOLK, if you will, as a category.
It the WORST thing that has happened
to music in a century to think that
music listening has sunk so low.

Staying with artists, I would say
Michael Jackson. But, if you say
Michael Jackson you must say
Quincy Jones who MADE all the
Michael's music come alive.

So, I would say Quincy Jones as
Producer, Arranger, and a fine trained

Aug. 30 2011 10:49 PM
Jennine from Nolita

Surprised no one brought up Kurt cobain for opening up alternative music to the mainstream?

Aug. 30 2011 10:46 PM
Terry from Bronx

Luigi Russolo. No contest.

Aug. 30 2011 10:16 PM
Raymond Helfrich from West Orange, NJ

Derek Sivers, the creator and mastermind of CD Baby (!

Aug. 30 2011 10:16 PM
Len from Olive Branch Ms

Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder of Acetone, an organ company that evolved into Hammond Organ Japan and Roland inc. All modern digital music (Rock Hip Hop, Soul, Techno and Clasical) has been influenced by his "music machine engineering".

Aug. 30 2011 02:57 PM
Patrick J Carroll from Hawthorne, NJ

Assuming that by "music" we mean recorded music, since that's how most of us experience most of our music, I believe credit should continue to be given to the inventor of the vinyl record, which even today is still revered as the playback medium of choice of many audiophiles. And in recent years the sales of vinyl records have increased while those of digital discs are on the decline. More and more indie recording artists are releasing their product on vinyl. As someone who sttill listens to vinyl records, I suggest that you are missing something if you only know your recorded music via CD's or mp3 downloads.

Aug. 30 2011 02:49 PM
Bruce Armstrong from Flushing

Influential in an entirely negative way for contributing to the decline of radio by not including FM tuners on iPods, at least in early iterations (do recent models at least have them?) Sounds trivial, but I think it had a real effect.

Aug. 30 2011 02:49 PM
Rebeca from Queens

Is the question asking for “the most influential person in music” or “the music industry?” I find these to be two different questions.

Aug. 30 2011 02:42 PM
Siraj from Nj

How bout the people at CERN for the creation of the Internet

Aug. 30 2011 02:34 PM
Alex V. Cook from Baton Rouge, LA

Having foisted the Black Eyed Peas to the world isn't helping anybody's case...

Aug. 30 2011 02:34 PM
Dave from Shrewsbury, NJ

I think we're all missing the real change - the Sony Walkman - the cassette version. So some engineer in Japan was the real power behind going portable.

I remember copying albums onto cassette so we could take our music with us.

Aug. 30 2011 02:33 PM
PatV from New York City

Suzanne Vega because she was praised by Rolling Stone for opening up a new path for folk and for women in the 80's. Look who came after her! Also known as the 'mother of the MP3' and the first 'avatar' . Groundbreaking

Aug. 30 2011 02:32 PM
Mar from NYC

Steve Jobs is arguably the most influential person in music but strictly from the business standpoint - distribution and technology etc, but certainly not from a musical or artistic standpoint which is what its really all about when your talking music per se and not the business

Aug. 30 2011 02:32 PM
dylan from greenpoint, brooklyn

I think your assertion would have gone over better if you had called Mr. Jobs the most influential person in the "music industry." Regardless of innovation in technology and thing of that nature, the most influential people in music will always be musicians. Many musicians and fans regard the "industry" side of things with varying degrees of contempt, particularly when they receive credit for things such as being the "most influential person in msuic."

Aug. 30 2011 02:30 PM
Joe from Lower East Side

Who remembers the walkman? The original portable music device.
The creator from analog to digital music.

Aug. 30 2011 02:29 PM
Amy from Putnam valley

I think that GarageBand and iMovie easy ways to let people of all ages and abilities to get in to creating music. The iTunes store allows for people to easily post the work. At least Jobs made creating and getting music an easy and essential part to so many people's lives.

Aug. 30 2011 02:28 PM
Erika from Brooklyn

Simon Cowell? Simon Cowell ruined music. He set the annoying precedent of oversinging every single note.

Aug. 30 2011 02:28 PM
Jerry from Queens

Obviously a subjective topic with many choices. my choice Bob Geldoff.

Aug. 30 2011 02:27 PM
Jeffrey from Upper West Side

Your guests are all confusing oranges with an Apple. Steve Jobs influence extended to all kinds of music, not just one style or another.

Aug. 30 2011 02:26 PM
Tom Palasits from NYC

Shawn Fanning deserves a mention.

Aug. 30 2011 02:26 PM
David Kempler from Island Park

The idiots behind American Idol

Aug. 30 2011 02:25 PM

Agree with nomination of Prince.

Additional candidates:

-- Afrika Bambaataa

-- Grandmaster Flash

(No hard feelings about the Jobs nomination though)

Aug. 30 2011 02:25 PM
Danny from NYC

Video Killed the Radio Star
It may be a negative but MTV's impact over the last 1/4 century has made Music disposable soundtracks

Aug. 30 2011 02:25 PM
john from nj

Brian Eno!

Aug. 30 2011 02:24 PM
Antonio from Mexico City

My pick would be Trent Reznor, not only has he been the creative mind behind Nine Inch Nails, constantly defying his own production.

As well as a visionary in being one of the precursors in accepting new media, such as digital payments, the internet, and pay what you like model, keeping with a very devoted fanbase that supports his ventures. The fantastic buzz he can create with his own music and his new enterprises composing soundtracks for the Oscar winner Social Network to the upcoming Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Aug. 30 2011 02:23 PM
rich k from UCNJ

Richard Goldmark, head of the effort by CBS that led to the LP record. Steve Jobs has made a similarly disruptive change with iTunes, but it will take years to know whether it will fundamentally change music the way the LP did.

Aug. 30 2011 02:23 PM

I love Apple and what Steve Jobs has created. You could make the same case about Thomas Edison since electricity had a tremendous influence on music of the 20th Century.

I would prefer to think someone like Mozart who actually influenced and still influences other musicians.

Technology has democratized music so that there are no longer any super bands (Beatles) who influenced our culture. There was a time not too long age when everybody listened to the same hit songs at the same time in their cars. There was something wonderful about how we shared the same music experience.

Today everyone can listen to whatever they want all alone on their headphones. Technology has killed off the shared experience of contemporary music and thereby has watered down its impact on our culture.

Aug. 30 2011 02:22 PM
john from nj

Brian Eno!

Aug. 30 2011 02:22 PM
William from Manhattan

I don't understand what you're talking about. You're saying "music" but I think you mean "the music industry", no? They are two different things.

Aug. 30 2011 02:22 PM
Vinny_G from Upper West Side NYC

The most important person in my opinion is the designer of the MP3 format from the Fraunhoffer Group of the MPEG specifically Karlheinz Brandenburg

Aug. 30 2011 02:21 PM
Brian Kerr from Brooklyn, NY

Thom Yorke. The one and only.

Aug. 30 2011 02:20 PM
Aaron from the heights

MJ was popular- not a game changer- cop to your bottomless fan-dom and be done with it please.

Aug. 30 2011 02:18 PM
thlthl3 from NJ

Thomas Edison. The invention of recorded music fundamentally changed the way artists deliver music and make a living. Prior to recorded music, musicians had to travel and were only know by those who heard them live. Steve Jobs may be number 2 since he greatly improved the distribution process!

Aug. 30 2011 02:17 PM
Gary from the Village

He forced the record industry to stop cramming albums with one hit song and 10 really bad ones down our throats at twenty bucks a shot!

Aug. 30 2011 02:14 PM
Sandra Lee from LES

I'm not sure changing the delivery of music is really that revolutionary. What is more interesting are the rise of musicians like Susan Boyle and Rebecca Black who became rockstars GLOBALLY in days. So what about Youtube creators?

Aug. 30 2011 02:14 PM
Jon from Manhattan

If by influence you mean driving the last nail in the coffin, lighting the pyre and then dancing around the flames of an already moribund industry then you might have a point.

Aug. 30 2011 02:12 PM
Jon from Manhattan

If by influence you mean driving the last nail in the coffin, lighting the pyre and then dancing around the flames of an already moribund industry then you might have a point.

Aug. 30 2011 02:10 PM
Scott from Brooklyn

(Quincy Jones)

Aug. 30 2011 02:09 PM

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