Jonathan Taplin

Director Emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab, University of Southern California

An expert in international communication management and digital media entertainment

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Biography

Jonathan Taplin is a prophet warning us not to sleep through a technological revolution that has already nearly destroyed four industries and threatens to undermine humane culture and democracy in other important ways. His book Move Fast and Break Things tells the story of how Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, as his book’s subtitle. An expert in international communication management and digital media entertainment, Jonathan Taplin is Director Emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Sleeping through the revolution. We are sleeping through a revolution in which three firms have transferred wealth and revenue from people who create to people who own platforms. The extreme libertarians behind these platforms have abandoned the vision that first inspired the Internet and operate as unregulated monopolies based on advertising and surveillance. They already control the future of the music, television, publishing, and news industries and their power is expanding. Unless we resist.

The solution. In Move Fast and Break Things, Taplin calls for a renaissance, a movement to revive the creative class and the healthy culture that creativity gives us when it is fairly rewarded. He lays out both the social and the technical requirements for such a movement with an optimism that declares that citizens and consumers are not powerless, despite the money, control, and power these giants enjoy.

Other topics. Jonathan Taplin also speaks on the Future of the Mobile Video Revolution, which is fast supplanting TV advertising as the marketing vehicle that companies can no longer ignore. He also describes an emerging New Federalism in the Age of Trump, as progressives turn to the heretofore conservative principle of state’s rights to resist the Trump administration. And he regales audiences with his personal journey through forty years in the music and movie business with Adventures in Rock and Roll and the Movies.

Credentials. Jonathan Taplin spent thirty years as a creator himself in music, movies, and television, and the last twenty years studying the Internet economy from the inside. He produced the tours of Bob Dylan and the Band, Janis Joplin, and other major artists of the 1960s and ‘70s. He also produced Martin Scorsese’s first major feature film Mean Streets, then went on to produce many more films, including The Last Waltz, films that earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. He was an independent producer at Walt Disney Pictures.

Then Taplin joined Merrill Lynch Investment Banking as Vice President for Media Mergers and Acquisitions and went on to found Intertainer, the first Internet video on demand service. In 2004, he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and became a full Clinical Professor in 2008. He is a member of the Annenberg Research Network for International Communication and was appointed Director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab in 2010.

In addition to Move Fast and Break Things, Jonathan Taplin is the author of the groundbreaking eBook Outlaw Blues: Adventures in the Counter-Culture Wars, an innovative cultural memoir with 105 videos embedded in its pages.

Books

Move Fast and Break Things

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

Jonathan Taplin

Move Fast and Break Thingslized vision of the Internet, in the process creating three 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 online life began to be shaped around the values of the men who founded these companies, including Peter Thiel and Larry Page: 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 flowing to creators and owners of the content.

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 in part explains how such a tremendous shift in revenues from artists to platforms could have been achieved and why it has gone unchallenged for so long.

The stakes in this story go far beyond the livelihood of any one musician or journalist. As Taplin observes, the fact that more and more Americans receive their news, music and other forms of entertainment from a small group of companies poses a real threat to democracy. Move Fast and Break Things offers a vital, forward-thinking prescription for how artists can reclaim their audiences using knowledge of the past and a 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 new ways to think about the design of the World Wide Web and specifically the way we live with the firms that dominate it.

Little, Brown and Company (April 18, 2017)

Praise

"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."
― Jeffrey Toobin, author of American Heiress

"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 and The Medium is the Message 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."
― T Bone Burnett, Grammy-winning producer and musician

"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."
― Rosanne Cash, Grammy-winning Singer and Songwriter

"This is an essential book and a singular hybrid — lucid alternate history of our digital transformation, digital 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-party hybrid too — provoked, enlightened and inspired."
― Kurt Andersen, host of the Peabody-winning public radio program Studio 360

"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

"In a remarkably innovative and precise amalgam of political economy and cultural criticism, Taplin delivers a devastating critique of our "knowledge-based" economy. This book is a profound analysis of the ruinous impact of the internet economy on the promise of American life."
― Benjamin Schwarz, national editor, The American Conservative, former national editor, The Atlantic

Topics

Jonathan tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy

Beginning in the 1990s, a small group of libertarian entrepreneurs hijacked the original decentralized vision of the Internet and in the process created three monopoly firms — Facebook, Amazon and Google — that now determine the future of the music, film, television, publishing and news industries. Life online, at one time the domain of hackers and scientific researchers, began to be shaped around the values of the men who founded these companies, including Peter Thiel and Larry Page, 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.

Five Billion Smartphones;The Future of the Mobile Video Revolution

79% of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from mobile. Increasingly that revenue will come from video content. This talk explains the importance of mobile video content for every corporation in the world. Anyone who still believes that TV advertising is the core of their marketing strategy needs to rethink their plans in light of the startling information provided by Taplin.

America 3.0: New Federalism in the Age of Trump

With the election of Donald Trump the theoretical ideas behind federalism have taken on new urgency. The New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb, noting the resistance to Trump’s immigration and environmental policies in New York and California, wrote, “Now the two states have triggered an uncommon development in a year that has offered us a great number of them: liberals invoking states’ rights.” This talk explores both the roots of federalism and the contemporary application of the doctrine as progressive states take on the Trump administration in the areas of climate change, gun control, immigration and civil rights.

Outlaw Blues: Adventures in Rock and Roll and the Movies

This talk is a personal journey through 40 years in the music and movie business working with artists like Bob Dylan and The Band, George Harrison, Janis Joplin, Martin Scorsese and Wim Wenders. It is illustrated with film clips and filled with intimate stories of the men and women who made the cultural revolutions of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Videos

Sleeping Through a Revolution | USC Annenberg Innovation Lab