What is the direction of music accessibility heading?
We all are probably conscious or somewhat aware by now how illegally downloading music hurts bands and what the best way to put music is from the artist’s perspective. At least in the general indie scene, the general consensus is selling mostly audio files, but coming up with cool vinyl and compact disc collector items. However, with the announcement of the Google Music Beta, let’s think about the consumer for a minute. As the one paying for a music collection, what is your preference? Are you sticking to the old school mentality of only physical music formats? Do you enjoy the pay as you service at Amazon, i-Tunes, Bandcamp, etc. and then move your files to an i-Pod or jump drive? Finally, do you take part in monthly payment cloud software like Rdio? Rdio is a cloud-based software that allows consumers to pay a fee structure that allows them the right to access music so long as they have internet connection. To have a phone application there is an additional fee. There are other services like Youtube playlists, Pandora, and many others, but I would like to focus away from those formats a bit.
Just like music artists do not know what is truly the best way to tackle the format question, the consumers have the same dilemma: what is the best way to access music? With Amazon and i-Tunes, the listener can move the music to a library service installed on a computer, moved to an mp3 device, or to an i-Pod. The problem with this as the exclusive way to go about things is the lack of a device to access your library at all times. For example, if you buy and therefore own a terabyte or even a more reasonable 300 GB worth of music, how do you access all of that at all times? Not everyone enjoys or wants to constantly manage that aspect of their life by switching stuff back and forth. The more music collected the more tedious this task becomes.
With the physical format, the biggest point of contention is that the formats can be damaged or ruined and that eventually they take up too much space. Vinyl, CDs, and even cassettes now all have at least good quality these days, with vinyl edging out compact discs for the best. However, vinyl is not feasible to take on the go or in the car. While portable compact disc players are still around they are considered bulky and are not the most accessible device to purchase. When going for a jog, do you really want a CD walkman on your hip? I didn’t think so. Also, CDs are becoming less and less available as sales continue to trend downwards. Places like Bestbuy have cut their inventory significantly over the years. With cassette players it mostly comes down to an availability issue as well as the fact only a select amount of music is produced on cassettes. Quite frankly, cassettes are a fun and affordable way to make collector items for the rabid fans. It is no way to make a living off music in the general market place. Portable cassette and CD players are just dated technology that is not the future.
With cloud networks, this begins the shift or the mindset of the consumer not actually owning the music, but the right to listen. While the Google Beta allows the consumer to upload up to 20,000 songs, it is yet to be a licensed product and lawsuits could be heading its way. Amazon has a cloud network that works for the most part because they already sell licensed music. However, one of the complaints with it is the lack of quality streaming from a car or mobile device. Rdio seems to work a little more seamlessly, but their major setback is in their overall library availability. Also, being tied completely to a pay as you go service for now seems unappealing because what if Rdio goes down? As a paying customer you no longer have the ability to listen even though you have the right.
So as a paying customer of music, what do you want? How do you want it? And when do you want to access it? These questions, among others is what a lot of people are sifting through at the moment. This is quite an interesting time as companies like WMG seem married to the old way while new services are coming about, but may not be long-term options. Therefore, as the one who is dolling out hard-earned money, what do you want to see happen?