the MP3 killer: cloud music

Sawnd (french-language) blog makes some predictions WRT digital music in 2010. The gist of their vision is that per-piece downloads are disappearing in the face of all-you-can-eat streaming services.

They think the iTunes music store has had its day, because of its dependence on per-piece sales. For the same reason they say MP3 and P2P will both start to fade.

There’s a real grain of truth to this. The way that streaming services offer value beyond any per-piece product is that they’re cloud-based. No install, no maintenance. No tag editors. No duplicate files. No need to make backups, no lost backups.

But the way that streaming services offer less value is that they aren’t scalable, their GUIs suck because they’re tightly coupled to their catalogs, and their model is prohibitively expensive for most publishers.

You can’t use Winamp for Spotify tracks, even if Winamp kicks the Spotify llama’s ass as a player. But if you could interface Winamp to Spotify, so that one was the player and the other was the service, then you’d have a real competitor to MP3.

Sawnd continues the sharing of playlists is going to becoming popular. …type “spotify playlist” into Google to see. So, well, yes and no. The sharing of song references across services will become common. But only a common infrastructure can do that. Spotify playlists not so much.

/via Remixtures.

5 thoughts on “the MP3 killer: cloud music

  1. I find myself concerned though, when services like this become centralized (and the same goes for iTunes), about the “llama’s ass…” which I’m pretty sure is a quote from a Wesley Willis song. I mean, streaming services make sense as a main*stream*… but there will always be a place for the underground (or rhizome) nature of mp3s, much as vinyl is great, but cassettes are more mutable.

    Also, as you’ve mentioned many times before, the value in the “song” is not just in the encoded audio, but in the entire envelope. Whether this becomes a strict namespace per music artifact, referencing sheet music, licensing, artwork and provenance to a single url, or something cloudier, I couldn’t say. But this is something mp3 can’t provide. Once it’s on my iPod, because there is no associated provenance, I don’t know where the hell it came from, and this is a liability.

    1. Piers, I think the value proposition is about being able to live in the cloud, and to have dsomebody else deal with maintenance tasks like backups, duplicates, and accurate metadata. It’s the URL rather than the MP3 that matters. Genuinely underground music is very competitive in the cloud.

      The deal about the song not being just in the encoded artifact but in the entire envelope is so weird and avant that I don’t feel confident saying aything about it fits into this conversation. I mean, yeah I completely agree that “Once it’s on my iPod, because there is no associated provenance, I don’t know where the hell it came from, and this is a liability.”

      Now that I think about it, that seems like an argument for streaming music over downloaded stuff, because the streamed stuff can’t be separated from its URL.

    1. Seems like podcasting used up all the oxygen for music in RSS. Which is an shame, because podcasting is a captive of Apple so can’t be grown further. For example you can’t break up a podcast into a playlist, then mark off songs one by one as the user listens.

  2. My honest belief is that Sawnd is right, and that with adequate meta data available, the cloud has more to offer for less effort than the alternative. For instance, if I could tag streaming tracks delicious-style as I am listening to them, then stop into 7/11 or someplace, hand them $7.95 and walk away with a cheap SD card containing those tracks that I can playback in my phone or music player, that would be ideal – like a backup.

    I do believe, however, that a cloud system needs to be underpinned by one or more centralized curators. Internet Archive, for instance, is doing a fantastic job with many different type of audio recording because IA identifies everything as artifact first, and product second. This is as important for our songs as it is for our books.

    I am personally inspired when I search IA for a recording of a live show, and find two different recordings taken from different vantages and with different equipment. Parallax necessitates the cloud; monoliths, not so much.

    This sort of discussion always takes me back to working as a college-radio DJ – part of our mission was to add content to airplay, a direct attack on computer-driven stations which provide nothing but a stream of music. Whether people actually care one way or the other remains undecided, I suppose. The advantage of the cloud approach is that it covers both bases. I can’t argue against that.

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