Yep, I know, a bit quiet here again, but we’ve been super busy organising this autumn’s run of Angel Academe Studio Events – and all that goes with them – and we’ll be reporting back on some of that activity I’m sure.

Anyhow, I wanted to have a little bit of a rant about streaming music, as a couple of bits of recent news have caught my eye. (It’s a bit of a long rant at that, so I’m going to break it up into some shorter posts which I’ll put up over the next few days.)

Anyone who’s been reading me on here or over on my own DGMFS blog will pretty much know my position on the streaming debate.  It certainly makes me smile wryly when I read Bob Lefsetz talking triumphantly about the triumph of streaming. Not that he’s wrong – in fact he’s dead right – it’s just that I’ve been convinced this is the case since going on the DTI Digital Music Mission to the US West Coast back in 2001.

That was quite a moment, looking back. The DTI (now BIS) took over about a dozen of us with various involvements of digital representing radio, the record industry, music practitioners, academia and so on. (I was, at that point, the BBC’s Head of Music Online.) Now remember: this was 2001.  It was years before the iPhone or iPad, the iPod had only just launched, the iTunes store was years away, as was Spotify. Furthermore, despite the advert of Napster, the record industry had only just (slowly) begun its decline, and that was from the astonishing peak at the end of the 90s (financially rather than creativity, of course).  Oh, and the dotcom crash was raging.

And yet, and yet… it was obvious to me at that point that in many ways the game was up. Moreover, it was equally apparent that while downloads were the future, they were a short-term future. Once ubiquitous, mobile broadband was a reality, then no-one would need to download anything – you’d simply stream it.

But surely, people would ask, consumers would want to own what they bought? Well, yes, if what they bought was a physical thing – but not if it was intangible data. Why would they? And I said (and still say) this as a man whose walls groan under the weight books, LPs and CDs (and who got rid of his VHS and cassette collection more or less at gunpoint). I simply didn’t buy then, and buy even less now, the idea that, given the choice of access to music on a rental basis, consumers would elect to buy downloads.

Now of course the decade plus since has given us the iTunes store and Amazon’s digital marketplace and, yes, the iPad, the iPhone, the Kindle. And so a lot of people have paid an awful lot of money to download digital content. Some have suggested I should eat my words, but I’ve stuck to my guns on this, and I think I’ve been proved right.

Oh there are still some big issues here. Certainly in the UK, ubiquitous high bandwidth mobile connectivity remains, well let’s say it’s an aspiration.  And frankly any compressed audio files are, once you “tune in”, something of a sonic travesty. But these are tech issues which will be overcome: ISPs and MSPs, somehow, will sort their shit out, and streaming lossless is, I’m assured, around the corner.

So the real issues, the real stumbling blocks, will remain around business and legal frameworks. And that’s where the various bits of news I discussed come in. So over the next few posts I’ll be discussing Frank Zappa, Ministry of Sound, Thom Yorke and, of course, Spotify. And jazz backing tracks on YouTube. Betcha can’t wait.

Simon

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