Music & Technology, Part 5

OK, there aren’t 4 other parts to this story but just an update to what’s been going on with Music. In our last episode, our arch enemies (Record Companies, RIAA, etc.) were suing college kids and grandmothers, digitally locking up their stolen goods (remember, the artist is the ones creating what you want!) to the point of using hacking tools to keep you from digitizing your CD’s (Sony story). Our hero’s (artists) continued to be gathered liked sheep at an ever quickening rate to compete against each other in – winners to be praised, the loser to disappear and be forgotten.

iTunes continues to reign over the digital music market, good for them. I’m not a Mac or Apple fan but I do respect them. Did you know the next largest digital music provider is eMusic? The main differences are eMusic works with smaller record distributors – so lessor known artists; BUT all their mp3’s are Digital Rights Management (DRM) free. And now iTunes is beginning to offer DRM-free digital songs (Here’s a brief iTunes lesson – iTunes uses the .acc format to protect their songs. This means not only can you not send them to your friends to play, they will only play on up to 5 pc’s. iPods (and Nano’s, Shuffles, etc) will also play .mp3’s. But they will not play .wma’s – which is Microsoft’s format).

So what has happened lately? First, Amazon is entered the digital music fray. It is predicted they will quickly become #3 in digital music and potentially #2. While this doesn’t really change anything for us (the consumer) it verifies the potential money involved with digital music.

But this may – Radiohead announced their new album ‘In Rainbows’ will be available directly from the artist. How much? what ever you want. OK, that’s not 100% correct – there is a transaction fee of 45 pence (92 cents) but that is deducted from how much you pay (no you can’t pay less then 92 cents and make money). You can also preorder their ‘DiscBox‘ for £40 (or $82). Their downloaded album is sold an average of $6 each. People DO pay for their music.

Similarly but even more amazing is a ‘no-name’ making it. Enter Jonathan Coulton featured in Wired.com article about giving music away. Jonathan is a ‘Pop Geek’ that is building a fanbase with the use of Slide Song. His song ‘Code Monkey’ was the theme song for G4’s cable show and he has an original song in the latest release of the gaming classic Half Life ‘Orange Box’. He has become professional musician all without the help of the radio or the record companies.

The industry continues to evolve and stagnate still. CD’s were down 15% from last year but digital download versions were up 55%. Studies have shown that sharing music doesn’t kill CD sales. Yet the industry still doesn’t quite get it. But in a recent Wired article, Universal Music redid it’s contract with iTunes to help introduce competition and release iTunes stranglehold on digital downloads by cutting a deal with Zune (Microsoft’s answer to the iPod). But they want an ‘all you can eat’ model so you can download as many Universal songs as you want – and Microsoft is eager enough to cover your costs to overthrow iTunes. But that still means DRM files and that still won’t work, especial when everyone is now beginning to offer DRM-free songs. What doesn’t Universal get?

I’m still like a kid in a candy store. There is just so much great music out there but most people can’t find it – heck, I can’t find it! Music ain’t dead (but it is in another way but that’s a different article). Technology has made music easy, fun and more consumable then ever. Enjoy it and as I always say, ‘If you like it, Buy it!”

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