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:: 09 the future of Media & Entertainment
The Future of Music - An Introductury Essay
09 the future of Media & Entertainment    4/20/2004 9:16:39 AM

As music products become music services, access replaces ownership, and the customer drives the business – will it all mean a bigger pie for everyone?

The music industry is in a very exciting if somewhat stressful transition phase - and one through which the other so-called 'content industries' (film, television and publishing) will also have to pass. Seven years after the first digital music 'revolution' and the subsequent burst of the .com bubble, the 'creatives' (musicians, producers, writers, composers…) are finally starting to get a glimpse of what a 'second generation music business' may ultimately have in store for them: less hassle and more cash.

At the same time, forced by the incessant decline in CD sales, the industry's leaders are finally starting to follow where the consumer has been leading all along the inevitable transition from content as a service, rather than a product. The winners: the creatives, and you and me - the 'users' (formerly known as consumers). An interesting side-effect: an industry that was once (in)famous for its 'top-down' style learns how to embrace a 'bottom-up' paradigm.

Digital technologies - though still cumbersome and not quite user-friendly enough - have become an unobtrusive and omnipresent part of our lives. The way that the entertainment, media and 'content' industries must conduct their business has therefore changed forever. The digital tide cannot be reversed; digital technologies have simply become part of our lifestyle. Our habits have changed, and our own inventions are starting to challenge our old assumptions. A lot of changes are coming, bringing with them much uncertainty, but also an ocean of opportunities.

In 2004, we will see a second, more mature coming of digital media ventures, and thankfully, "the rising tide will float all boats". Savvy independent players will have a major role on this new digital music era, simply because they can be more agile, often have a much shorter decision-making process, and can more quickly embrace change.

Ready for serious business

The music business has made the transition from wax records to vinyl, from the Walkman to the CD and the DVD, in a very short time, and has only recently arrived at the broad acceptance of 'disembodied' digital downloading. Broadband Internet is quickly becoming the standard, and as greater connectivity heightens the desire for more content (and vice versa!) we are now finally ready for some serious business. We already have more wireless phones than landlines, world-wide, and it seems very likely indeed that mobile music will become bigger, in an even shorter time, than 'online music' has ever been. All of this is a boon for the consumer, promising more value, less restrictions, total transparency, endless choices, and lower prices.

From service to product and back again

Interestingly music has already been transformed from a service to a product, and back to a service: from the pre-electricity era of the agricultural society to the industrial society (the gramophone and the CD) to the information society, and digital music. Before there were any music 'products' that could be purchased just like a box of soap or a can of beans, music was controlled 'by foot', i.e. the artists had to be physically present to perform, and equally the listener had to be present at the place and time of the performance. Music was simply a service (as it still is in many developing countries) and artists enjoyed great influence and appreciation. The productizing and, to use one of those good old Silicon Valley buzzwords, monetizing of music brought us the music industry, the few and seemingly almighty gate keepers, the arduous and self-serving legal frameworks, and the often criticized 'content oligop-olies' that many cutting-edge music fans and Peer-to-Peer file-sharers loath so vehemently.

The full article can be downloaded as a *.pdf file [640KB]: click here

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