The raw multitrack sources for my musical output over the last year are on the order of 25 gigs total. It’d all easily fit on any current iPod-like device or be inexpensive to store and serve up from Amazon S3 or Dreamhost.
It’s absolutely practical to now release many versions and raw sources of music online–it’s in many respects simpler to release 25 gigs of raw audio sources online than it is to get 650 mb of that onto a CD that is shipped to people.
But, at what point are we just talking about recorded sound objects vs music? Not that I think there is a big distinction that needs to be made in absolute terms, but rather in any specific relationship between music creator and listener (or, co-creator).
There is an art to the “release” of music, which reflects the process of curating, editing, aggregating, sequencing, packaging etc., as well as the relationship with the music’s potential audiences.
And, this gets back to what I was saying before about what you choose to be the “atoms” of your music–you are choosing a certain kind of release, either as an expression of your art, or for arbitrary reasons, or for both. And that choice both reflects and influence how people hear it–e.g., is it just a bunch of recordings or is it music? Is it an album or a song? Is there one version or are there many?
I see my own recorded music as creating musical instruments that other people play. I think everyone’s recorded music really functions in this way, but I definitely feel this way about my own. Everyone (who listens to or plays the music) makes it into their own music when they play it. And, with my own, I am excited by the possibility that some people will find creative and interactive ways to play it beyond just the songs passively showing up in the shuffle on iTunes. (But, even in the passive case, the music itself is interactive and can become your own–can change into something new and personal to you.)
btw, FLAC supports up to 8 channels. But, besides the disk space / file size, digital devices that process multiple channel audio need faster processors and more memory than 2 channel devices. Still, devices like the H4 show that iPod-like devices already can do a lot with hi-fi multitrack audio.