Banking on the Stream


Photo by Kenneth Moyle — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Has the music biz turned us from collectors into only users, from connoisseurs into mere consumers?

At SXSW and the recent Canadian Music Week industry gatherings, the future of the recorded music business appears to be about converting us from owners to streamers.

For the listener, access to a digital file is a lot less expensive than paying for the packaging and transportation of a physical product. For the industry, as its profits have rapidly decreased from the loss of high margins on record and cd sales, increasing the availability of streaming the music to you creates new potential markets.

The current technology play is to move away from digital downloads to cloud access. Why worry about which device you are using at the moment (desktop, laptop, phone, iPod, etc.) when your music can be stored in a cloud accessible from any device at any moment? For example, one of the buzz-producing companies at SXSW was the new Mog service that integrates on-demand music service for cars.

In Kate Taylor’s coverage of the Canadian Music Week in The Globe and Mail, Alan Cross, senior program director of Corus Radio, poses a really interesting question. Do we have the same value relationship with our music from a digital file, let alone one in a cloud?

When we collected and owned those vinyls and cds, each of the albums had a tangible value. Not only was each one a precious possession, but it was also a physical representation of our identity. (Remember going through a date’s record collection? Remember seeing the frayed edges and learning which albums our friends played the most?) We owned the music. We had something to guard.

Even though music is now more ubiquitous and more accessible, is it losing its value as something that is part of our self-created identity, as something that is prized and integrated in our lives?

Fortunately for artists and the industry, the live event music festival scene continues to flourish. Even as the music business has had to endure a complete change in their business model of recorded music, festivals endure, expand, and sell out.

Perhaps the reasons are that we still want to be collectors, the “I was there” tag for our identity; we still want to be connoisseurs, the in-the-know and discriminating who put a premium on integrating music into our lives.

While the passive experience of listening to a record or a digital file is fundamentally the same, nothing can replace the connection between a performer onstage and a fan in the audience.

Imagine if the tech companies could help solve the music recording biz problem by making us all collectors and connoisseurs again.

Who wouldn’t want to be in that stream?

- Bill Reichblum

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