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There’ll yet be music in the skies!

December 23, 2010 2 comments

It’s been a long time coming, and probably still a long way to go, but the vision of a celestial jukebox for music “anywhere, anytime and on any device”, is creeping ever closer to becoming reality. A couple of interesting, if unrelated, developments provide support for my optimism.

Ok, first of all, the means to access music, anywhere, anytime and on any device is already available (and it’s called the Internet). Thanks to file-sharing, P2P, Torrent and streaming technologies, anyone with a decent connection can do just that. However, it is not always legal, nor in the best interests of creative industries and their artistes. Therefore, the solution must be to find a legal way to harness that capability, right? The answer is yes, but the challenges are enormous for any one entity to bear alone. Imagine a target scenario whereby anyone can identify, acquire and play any song wherever, whenever and on whatever device they chose. For example, won’t it be great, if/when you hear a new song you like on the radio, TV, or anywhere else, you could seamlessly add it to your collection, or playlist, for immediate listening or later reference.

Well a colleague suggested that such identify-and-acquire services already exist with the likes of Shazam, but such services don’t deliver a truly seamless experience for many reasons e.g.:

  1. the user has to know to go to Shazam, or some other such service,
  2. she’ll need an account on iTunes or similar in order to purchase that track, and finally,
  3. She must have an appropriate device with which to play it.

Oh, and heaven help her if there are legal restrictions on that purchase, e.g. if she happens to be in a region or territory where that song is not licensed, for whatever reason. See the pattern?

There are simply too many hurdles to jump in order to satisfy an immediate desire or impulse purchase. To my mind, instant gratification is not unreasonable given that the tools with which to make it happen are already available. The following are some key pieces of the jigsaw which might just help address such a challenging picture:

1. Music in the Cloud – There already exist various services / providers like Spotify, Pandora (i.e. streaming); Omnifone, Nokia (i.e. mobile); as well as rumoured propositions from high tech players like Google and Apple. However, it’s always been a challenge to negotiate with music labels, so when a newly launched service claims to allow users to upload their music to the cloud with access any place / time / device, one starts to wonder how long it will take for the law suites to start happening.

2. Global Repertoire Database (GRD) – The GRD is a major initiative to create a single, unified database of musical works that will facilitate music licensing right across the globe. It was launched by an eponymous working group of key industry players including music publishers (i.e. EMI and Universal); collecting societies (i.e. PRS for Music, STIM and SACEM); and major digital / mobile players (i.e. Amazon, iTunes and Nokia). More information on GRD can be found at: http://globalrepertoiredatabase.com/faq.html.  So how does GRD help make the celestial jukebox a reality? Why, by reducing the burden of cross border licensing (i.e. tracking and sharing music royalties and revenue across various territories and regions) which is currently a major headache for the industry.

3. Music Ubiquity – This is the theme for next month’s MidemNet conference, and which hopefully means that we’ll all be singing from the same hymn sheet, at long last, (assuming the twin devils of profit margins and competitive advantage do not get in the way as always). With the appropriate technology available, it has become even more urgent for commercial and legislative stakeholders to deliver the primary desire, of both artistes and consumers, for easier access to music anytime, anywhere and on any device.

Have a wonderful holiday / festive period, and here’s looking forward to an even more productive and progressive 2011!

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