Newsletter #73 July 2010
HI HO SILVER LINING
Whilst much of the UK has been enjoying a few surprisingly blue skied weeks, in the music industry at least, clouds are gathering – cloud services that is. Scarcely a day passes without another locker service launching or mobile hack being developed and as smartphones make the transition from niche to mainstream, we’ve only just seen the start of it.
With Spotify having blazed a trail, it’s clear that streaming’s time has come. Apple and Google both seem convinced of this and are busy prepping new services to join growing competition from the likes of Catch Media’s Play Anywhere, Audiobox.fm and mSpot, all of whom are selling themselves on the idea of letting you access your music, any place, any time.
If we’ve learned anything over the past decade it’s that once something is technologically possible, it’ll be used, adapted and abused in ways we’ve not yet considered. Indeed before both Apple and Google make it to market with their offerings, a cheeky new iPhone app has just been published that turns the already existing Google Documents service into a usable if basic music streaming service, beating both to the punch.
What this latest paradigm shift will mean for an industry that has struggled to hold it together during the past ten years as it has witnessed a steady and increasing migration from physical to digital collections remains to be seen. While ten years digital experience means we’re better prepared than ever to make the most of the heavenly jukebox, there are still plenty of reasons to feel unsettled by this long-promised trend.
If revenues from downloads have to-date been depressing, then that fug is unlikely to be lifted by income from streaming. Just ask anyone who has ever seen a royalty statement from a streaming service and struggled to comprehend exactly how many plays are needed to make just one UK pound.
All of which explains the general lack of enthusiasm from many labels, a tendency for new services failing to have the correct licenses in place to do what they’re designed to do, and why the next few months will no doubt see several of them dragged before the bar and a sense of déja-vu for those standing on the sidelines.
Let’s hope though that this time round, wiser heads will prevail. In fighting services such as Napster back at the start of the decade we ended up creating a radical black market and forcing many who would have been happy to use licensed services into their arms.
Lets not make the same mistake this time, the industry needs to engage with these services – like it or not the public seems to love them and that means they’re here to stay. If we can encourage them to operate within a properly licensed framework then at least we can help shape their evolution and have something left at the end of it even if tomorrow’s recorded sector bears little resemblance to the industry of yesteryear.
This isn’t about waving the white flag and going quietly into the night, it’s about making sure that when wholesale change happens we’re not once again caught on the outside. You can be sure that someone will be making money out of these services – lets make sure that it’s the people whose content is being used that reap the lion’s share.
Editorial by John Power
That's all for this issue - 'til next time...
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