The Myth of Music Ownership

By Peter Drescher
December 26, 2009 | Comments: 27

The idea that you own your music is a MYTH, promulgated by the record companies to ensure their continued profitability!

Now, on the surface, that's a fairly provocative statement, seemingly designed to inflame music industry lawyers, and encourage outraged comments from audiophile readers. But it is actually intended to demonstrate/debunk an illogical yet widely-held belief, illustrate a precipitating technology trend, and put the idea of "my music" into historical perspective.

Looking Back (waaay back)

The ability to record and playback music is really quite a recent occurence, when you consider the span of human existence on planet Earth. Up until 1888, the only way to hear music was to experience the vibrating air molecules produced by musicians, up close and personal, live and in real time.

People have been making music for hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of years! Research on brain function, audio perception, language development, and social interaction, all point to music being one of the most basic of hominid activities, supporting all sorts of survival mechanisms, and civilizing behaviors. Man is "The Animal That Makes Music", and rhythm (the constant and measured perception of time passing) is a uniquely and intrinsically human trait.

Producing music has always been a thing that *everybody* does, young and old, male and female, professional and layman, commoner and king. Folks from every culture, on every continent, sing, dance, clap their hands, bang on drums, blow horns, pluck strings, make noise together in a myriad ways, for ceremony and celebration and just for fun.

Until Edison, music was not something you could own, only something you could make.
But whether it's the whole village dancing under a full moon, or a group of trained artisans playing for their supper in a duke's castle, or a solitary guitarist plucking tunes under a tree, music has always been a performance, a hand-crafted linear sequence of frequencies, each time subtly different and thereby unique, never to be heard again, like sonic snowflakes. As the most etheral and ephemeral of art forms, music, like the waves of air that carry it, or the energy required to produce those waves, was not something you could own, only something you could make, or experience.

Until Edison ...

And his Phonograph Machine. Now you can capture sound, and reproduce it exactly the same way each time - something never before possible. No longer a "live performance", music became a recorded sequence of events, like film, to be replayed at will. These days, we take that idea completely for granted, but it's the unnaturalness of repeated identical sounds that produces "annoying audio" (as described in David Battino's Digital Media Insider podcast of the same name).

The commercial innovation created by the invention of recorded audio was the ability to sell music to consumers. Before Edison, "sheet music publication" was the only way to make a buck composing, other than patronage, or charging a fee at the door. Even so, published scores and songs only supported the active production of music, not passive listening.

Phonograph records permitted the monetization of the performance ... without the performer. But make no mistake, the product being sold was the vinyl platter, not the grooves on it. The information contained on the record, reconstructed by the record player, can be thought of as a marketing ploy, designed to encourage customers to buy more discs.

Why? Because I can sell you a "thing", but I can't sell you vibrating air. Only one person can own a record, but anybody within earshot can listen to it, for free. In fact, that's one of its primary functions: to share "your" music with others. And so it continued for the next century, despite many changes in technology. Cassette tape, CD, DVD, all developed for the sole purpose of separating people from cash in exchange for pieces of plastic.

Atoms Versus Bits

Fast forward to the modern era, when for the first time, the information to be reconstituted by the media player is completely divorced from any physical medium, having been reduced to a series of ones and zeros, specifically engineered to be duplicated, transmitted, and played on a variety of systems.

Now the record companies have a problem. When the music is no longer married to the medium, how do you make money selling plastic discs? Obvious answer: you don't, as evidenced by the rise (and fall) of MP3 file sharing, the decline in Sony/UMG/Warner music revenues, and the increased number of musicians making a living playing live.

Of course, you can try selling the digital recordings without the physical component. That's what iTunes is for, and it's been pretty successful. Using an online catalog to purchase encrypted files is fun and easy for consumers, and profitable for music producers ... and yet, Apple has stated that the only reason the iTunes catalog exists is to sell more iPods/iPhones (meaning, atoms, not bits, is where the money's at).

The Myth

BUT (and this is where we came in) there is a fundamental difference between a file sitting on your hard drive, and grooves etched in vinyl or plastic. If I give you a disc in exchange for money, then I have the money, but not the disc. If I sell you a copy of a digital file, then I have both the money AND the file.

This is what I call The Myth Of Music Ownership: the belief that you own the recording, same as if it were integrally attached to a conglomeration of atoms, like the print on a dollar bill, just because you can play a copy of a digital audio file using a media player specifically designed to let you do just that.

Step back, and you'll see that's a marketing ploy, an elaborate con, an artifical construct designed to separate customers from credit. A file is NOT the same thing as a piece of plastic -- and you prove it every time you sync your iPod. You cannot duplicate a vinyl record simply by pushing a button; to do that, you have to go buy another record. But every time you download a song from iTunes to iPhone, you're just copying numbers, with restrictions that make it seem like a physical transfer of atoms, instead of a data transmission.

Copyright lawyers and media software engineers have built an entire industry on this concept: in certain cases, "bits are the same thing as atoms". Consumers have bought into it, because it's convenient, and fun, and they can't do anything about it anyway.

But soon, all that's going to change ...

A Catalog In The Clouds

In the not so distant future, most, if not all, of your data will live in "the Cloud", meaning an enormous network of data servers, always online and accessible via high-speed wireless connection. This approach has obvious advantages for business, social networks, gaming, some say software too ... but it will dramatically change the way you listen to music. Here's why:

  • Streaming: Given enough bandwidth, data transfer and CPU speeds, there is no reason why a high resolution music file cannot be played directly off the Cloud server, rather than from your hard drive or flash memory. In fact, we're pretty close to that ability already. If 3G/WiFi phones can play full-rez video off the Web, then much-less-data-intensive music file playback should be pretty easy ...

  • Service: It's only a matter of time before all access to Cloud services is paid for by a simple monthly subscription fee. "All you can eat" data plans are not only consumer-friendly, but technology-required, because your Cloud devices are connected all the time, and send UP as much data as they DOWNload. Even the greediest and most-shortsighted wireless carriers will eventually be unable to keep track of, and charge by, the enormous number of megabytes being transmitted back and forth ...

  • Storage: Seriously, how many gigabytes do you really need in your pocket? Answer: none! iPhones currently max out at 32GB ... but the Cloud will encompass so many kajillions of peta-tera-giga-mega-quantum-kiloquads of data (that's a lot!), any memory you carry around will simply be for convenience. You don't carry all your money in your wallet, just a few dollars for popcorn, and a wireless connection to your vast financial holdings (i.e. your credit card). Same thing for music: maybe you'll download a few days worth of music for that off-the-grid-on-purpose vacation, but usually you'll just listen to what the Cloud is playing ...

  • Selection: Yes, I know that people like to collect things, and that, like a snakeskin jacket, their music collection symbolizes their individuality, and belief in personal freedom. And I know that'll be hard for some to give up ... but when the Cloud offers you every piece of music ever recorded, accessible at any time, anywhere, well, that's going to make your collection of bits/atoms, no matter how extensive, seem kinda puny, hmm?

  • Sales: I like to joke that the ultimate Digital Rights Management system is "every time you hear a piece of music, some lawyer gets a penny" ... but the Cloud may actually implement something like that. Right now, you pay a buck to download a song from iTunes, and while the executives and sales people (and god forbid, even the actual musicians!) divvy up the pennies, you can play that song a thousand times ... or just once, halfway through, then never again. The benificiaries don't care; they already got your money.

    That never seemed fair to me, and the probablity of paying cold hard cash for tunes I subsequently hate has frequently prevented me from downloading songs I might love. The Cloud subscription model resolves that issue for both customer and merchant. My subscription lets me listen to whatever, whenever, for a flat monthly fee ... and the merchant knows exactly how many times any particular piece has been listened to [not downloaded, but actually heard], which makes doling out the subscription pennies more accurate and equitable for all.

The Good News Is ...

It'll be great when it happens; the bad news is, it ain't gonna happen tomorrow. In the meantime, there's going to be a whole lotta companies jostling for economic advantage, pundits proclaiming lots of unjustifiable hype and twaddle (like this blog?), and general technology chaos, as the various parts of the system get built (including the "wearable computing" part, but that's a whole 'nother story). But there's a ton o' money to be made in them there Clouds, and so I gotta figure people are working on it already ...
With Cloud computing, music becomes "a service you listen to", not "a thing that you buy".

And truth be told, music via Cloud service won't be that much different than digital radio is today, except that *you* will be the DJ, with basically infinite choices at your fingertips. In fact, your own playlists and shuffle parameters will include music genre channels, celebrity suggestions, your friends' recommendations, movie tie-ins, soundtracks to games you're playing, etc etc etc ...

Bottom Line

One of the first things I did when I got acquired by Microsoft was trade a guy a Sidekick for a Zune ... which both run on subscription models. I found the Zune's "download as much as you like for $15/month" plan quite liberating after agonizing over irrevocable "album versus individual songs" and "music I know I like, versus unknown music I might enjoy" purchases on iTunes. I was much more willing to try out new genres and musicians on the Zune than I ever was on my iPod.

Of course, now that I've let my subscription lapse, my Zune is a brick ... no pay, no play. But that's the way it's supposed to be, because "music as a service you listen to" (as opposed to "music as a thing that you buy") is what I call "the wave of the future" ...

   - pdx

Please feel free to comment below to tell me why I'm wrong ...

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how true..

Thanks for the podcast shout-out; repetition in music can get annoying. Still, it's great to be able to hear your favorite songs again. I think humans by nature like to hunt and gather, so there's something to be said for owning your music. We'll undoubtedly continue to have a variety of music-playback methods based on what feels right at the time. The cloud isn't always the best choice for text, or video, or photos, so I don't expect it to take over for music either.

Over the years I bought some 1500 vinyl records and more than 6000 CDs. I ripped the music and put it on my ipod and my homeserver. What a waist of time.

Two weeks ago I dicovered napster which allows me to reduce my spending for music considerably while letting me dicover new music at the same time. I had to replace the ipod by another device (sansa fuse), because the ipod does not talk "plays for sure".

While my music subscription right now is low resolution quality is not THAT bad, and if I really like an album I can go out and buy it in better quality.

The most interesting point: I could subscribe to napster (or a comparable service) for more than 400 years before I spend as much money than I have spent for records and CDs. Think about it.

Well, instead of paying Napster for 400 years, let's dial that back to something reasonable and say you paid for a while, say $500 worth. Then you stopped paying--you'd have nothing to listen to. Is that what you expect? If so, no problem, and it sounds like Napster's subscription model is ideal for you. But I get the feeling general consumer expectations haven't sorted themselves out neatly yet.

Personally, even if Napster costs per month what it costs me to buy (in the fullest sense) one CD, if it's a CD I'll always love, I'm definitely buying it.

In this sense, music "discovery" (which Napster is awesome for) and music "permanent collection building" aren't the same thing in my mind.

What I'm suggesting is that in a Cloud-covered world, there will be no difference between "music files played from your personal drive" and "music files played from the cloud server". Your "permanent collection" will merely be a series of pointers to, or sets of playlists of, music files you listen to.

There are numerous advantages to keeping your "permanent collection" in the Cloud, including:

Easy access by any music playing device -- whether it's your Cloud-phone, computer, home stereo system, or even in your friend's car, you can play "your" music any time, anywhere, no transfers necessary (as long as your subscription's paid) …

Backed up and secure -- your personal collection of atoms can be destroyed by fire, flood, theft, or technological obsolescence -- but not the Cloud, which is distributed, protected, and immortal …

Sharing playlists with friends -- already, some social networking systems display "what I'm listening to now", while other networks allow me to browse your iTunes playlists. This not only promotes the discovery of new music, based on people's tastes I (probably) share, it also encourages my feelings of belonging to the group. The Cloud enhances that dynamic by a couple orders of magnitude …

In the end, though, I suspect it may just be a matter of age … old farts (like me) will want to hang on to their paid-for conglomerations of atoms (which is why I illustrated this blog with shots from my own personal collections of vinyl, cassettes, and CDs), because we've been indoctrinated from birth (by record companies trying to make a buck) that music is "a thing you can own".

Kids growing up with a Cloud over their heads won't necessarily see it that way. Music, along with pretty much ALL the information in their lives (phone, email, web, video, games, social networks, medical history, etc etc etc) will simply be something accessed via "myCloud account". They won't "own" the music anymore than they currently own the images they watch on TV -- they'll just be able to access it on demand (and attach meaning to it in ways we can't even imagine).

Hi Peter,

Recorded music itself has lost one of its primary functions - that thing kids buy with their parents money to distinguish themselves from their peers. Now, you can have it all in the palm of your hand, and keep up with Johnny in the blink of a download.

The next distinguishing factor was video games - but that ran the same course; everyone has the latest game; not so scarce or boutique.

I think the next wave of what kids buy with their parents money to distinguish themselves is - hardware synth modules. There are enough modules at a (just) high enough price to impress your friends and be able to buy a new module every month - and they are just interoperable enough to be able to trade and connect up into bigger systems... And the result of that will be a new influx of electronic music to seed the clouds!


I agree that music will eventually hit the cloud and be the way 100% of music is delivered...
This also may well be a case of "Be careful what you wish for..." While there are great benefits to the kinds of subscription models you describe, a potential side effect is the commoddification of music.. if I can access 10,000,000 songs for $14.95/month, what does that say to the value of each song? Joachim may lament he paid far more for CD's and records than a lifetime of Napster fees, but far more of his money went to the artists he choose than it would have via subscription....

One positive side of the atom-less music distrubition would be a clarification as to the role of the "record label." Unlike most, I don't think these will go away-- rather their role will crystalize to what their real value has been all along-- not the transportation of vibrations from a studio to your ears, but in the development of artists and the promotion and marketing of them. One problem with the "anyone can publish their own music" model is figuring out how to get people to know who you are and want to hear/buy/stream/infuse your music. Labels are pretty darn good at that. Don't belive me? Twice a year, the "music industry" creates a star out of thin air through a process called "American Idol." And call me old fashioned, but there's nothing quite like a great producer getting ahold of a new band.

Getting the recording proceeds to the musicians who were actually recorded is (and has always been) somewhat problematic, and becomes an even tougher problem when applied to a "bits, not atoms" delivery system. But the "big pool, little money" argument doesn't take into account that your Cloud subscription will not be only for music, but also for Internet, movies, gaming, wireless, etc etc etc. Add up all the subscription services you pay for piece-meal today, combined with highly targeted advertising revenue streams, and (hopefully) that'll let everybody turn a profit …

Re: the role of record labels -- YES! In a world of overwhelming choices, and oceans of self-published crap, branding and marketing become MORE important (not less!) The service a record label provides is to A) help me find what I'm looking for, B) suggest other music I might want to listen to, and C) most importantly, identify me as part of this group [not that group]. For example, people I think are cool listen to Concord Jazz, but eschew Capitol Nashville … while those guys over there think both jazz and country are lame, preferring to listen to what DJ NewAndCool is spinning. Now, connect those kinds of preferences to your (Cloud-based, of course) social networks, and the possible avenues for targeted marketing of bands, gigs, and music events, expands exponentially …

Peter--you said:
"With Cloud computing, music becomes "a service you listen to", not "a thing that you buy".

Not quite sure how you make that jump... How the bits get to you is indepentent of the "ala-carte" or "all you can eat buffet" business model. I can easily envision a scenario where I "buy" "Purple Rain" and all that means is that I can listen to that whenever I want on whatever device now or in the future I happen to have.

Btw, I chose "purple rain" for a reason-- to show some of the bumps and bruises along the way...
Not that long ago, I had premiere/gold/top-notch subscriptions to all the major subscription music services because of something I was invovled with at my former employer... Well, I'm in a cover band as well and we'd just added "Purple Rain" to our setlist and I figured "Great--I just add that to my player." My experience was as follows:
Subscription Service A: Song not available at all.
Subscription Service B: Song available but only for 30 seconds! It asked me if I wanted to BUY it for $0.99. I'm thinking--Hey I have the mega-ultra-superior subscription plan and you're telling me I have to BUY the first song I tried to find!!!???
Subscription service C: Song available, so I went with that one :)

As a music business/tech guy, I understand 100%.. different labels have diferent contracts with artists that didn't forsee this sort of distribution, various deals made based on relationships and different understanding of probable rights, etc..
BUt as a general consumer, it would make no sense whatsoever... gonna be a slow slog on this, particularly for old catalog music..

You'll get no argument from me on this point, which aptly describes (one aspect of) the "general technology chaos" that will accompany getting from here to there. "Making the jump" will be difficult, particularly converting old catalogs to new systems … and yet, "adversity = opportunity", and there will be numerous companies fighting for your subscription dollars.

Fortunately, it won't be the music industry pushing that particular technology envelope. Cloud services will be so mind-boggling useful for so many other technologies, your music listening service will just be part of the package, along for the ride, so to speak. Then your Purple Rain experience is easily resolved in the Cloud, because all your music service providers will be accessible, all the time … same as you'll be able to play games from multiple publishers, or watch TV from anywhere on the planet.

And yes, consumers hate Hate HATE the kind of "this service has that content in this format, but not THIS content in that OTHER format" bullshit that frequently happens when varying technologies compete for dominance. Consumers DO NOT CARE who's got which songs in what format -- they only care about how easy it is to find and listen to the songs they want. I'm hoping that the lesson of the Internet (where mostly everything talks to mostly everything else) will translate to the Cloud, so that all music is always available, all the time (like web sites today).

Well ...

Yes, there are some good points supporting to move media with cultural goods thereon (not only music but also books etc.) to the cloud.

However, I do not buy that sort of cloud hype: It gives far too much contol to those who govern the cloud.

Here in Germany we saw Nazis burning piles of books on the street about 80 years or so ago. A society fully equipped with DRM-protected media in the cloud will be extremely vulnerable to private as well as state suppression of that what those who have power designate as 'undesirable': The cloud will be a single point of failure when it comes to fight suppression and censorship of cultural goods. If the Nazis had DRM there would not have been any need to stage physical book-burning events on the streets. And if someone who has control over the cloud loses commercial interest to further maintain certain music titles of books, those things might vanish forever.

Only if many subjects have local copies of cultural goods on their own storage media there will be sufficient redundancy to ensure that cultural goods can effectively be preserved and passed to the next generation.

Think of the 'Orwell 1984' incident at Amazon's Kindle store: This is the true representation of the perils of storing DRM-protected media in the cloud. Think twice before trusting the coud too much.

Thank you, this is a very insightful analysis - in my view you are absolutely correct.

I am of the view that in many ways we are reverting to the natural 'medieval village' and that 'modern marketing' an aberration.

The cloud model you suggest does exactly that.

First, the assertion that ' Before Edison, "sheet music publication" was the only way to make a buck composing, other than patronage, or charging a fee at the door' is not correct. The barrel organ, calliope, music box and church bells all very much predated Edison. It's as much composing as MIDI is, maybe more since the instrument is not as interchangeable.

Second, I think the premise of the article is kind of backwards. It's not that people aren't going to be able to "own" music anymore that's the issue really (although I agree that is true). It's that you won't be able to SELL it.

Let me be clear: I, and a vast majority of my peers, steal almost all of our music. The only advantage of cloud based services for us is access to other devices from large physical distances, but in the future this kind of access with be more ubiquitous with increased bandwidth etc and services won't be able to make their dollar with it. Music will be a loss leader to get people on buying actual experiences, which will have to be conducted in the real world, until we get our matrix jacks installed.

It's true that "programmable instruments" were available before audio recording (although in the long view, not by much), and while they were (and are) an interesting method of "capturing a performance", I suspect the revenue produced by writing for those instruments cannot be compared to mass-produced vinyl/CD album sales.

"Music service as a loss leader" may indeed end up being an accounting method used to justify its existence, since access to music will only be one of many services provided by the Cloud … and in fact, possibly one of the least lucrative (Enterprise Data services probably being the most profitable). But that doesn't make it any less important to, or desired by, subscription paying customers, and I suspect that a Cloud account that doesn't include a music subscription won't even be available, same as an iPhone without access to iTunes would be kinda pointless today.

But despite your peer's scofflaw attitude, it seems clear that, in a Cloud-covered world, not paying your account subscription will be the equivalent of not having a phone … you simply won't be able to do business without one, not to mention have any kind of social (network) life. By the time the Cloud services I'm describing are available, the cool new kids will look back at "stealing music" as an idea even more obsolete than player piano rolls ...


If your basic premise is that "music" is the actual soundwaves perceived during the physical performance, then at no point after the performance thereof, does ANYONE "own" the music.

They own the surrogate or the reproduction of a performance.Period.

It is the "commodification" of the production of performance surrogates that has led to this situation and it will continue to be a problem, whether the performance surrogates are in the cloud, on a hard drive, or even on vinyl.

It's really up to the musicians to wake up and take control over their own creations for things to begin to change.

I OWN my music, because I produce it and make sure that the release of performances are carefully monitored. As for my purchased performance surrogates, I do own them, but have no plans on reselling them and even entering into the horror of the fray of the "music bidness."

> With Cloud computing,
> music becomes "a service you listen to",
> not "a thing that you buy".

your argumentation is disingenuous.

you posit "listen to" as the opposite of "own".

you want us to think that the question is:
"why would a person want to "own" music,
if they can _listen_ to it any time they want?"

but the truth is that you are really contrasting
the _rental_ of music versus the _purchase_...

more specifically, we cannot "listen to" the music
unless we have paid our rental fee for that month.

now, there are some benefits to a rental model,
and some benefits to an ownership model, and
odds are that different people will evaluate those
various benefits differently. so some people just
might prefer a rental model, i'll grant you that...

but nobody will be able to do those computations
until you tell us the _cost_ of ownership and rental.

we have a good idea of the cost (and the benefits)
of ownership, since that has been the model used.

and we can certainly _imagine_ some of the benefits
that might accrue from a cloud-based service, like
instant access worldwide to the entirety of music...

the problem is that -- when it comes to the reality --
our _imagined_ perfection of the cloud-based service
is likely to fail, perhaps big-time. those failures are
thus a big part of the _cost_ that we'd have to bear.

and -- more importantly -- you haven't told us the
monetary _cost_ of your cloud vision. for $1/month,
i'd be happy to skip the benefits of music ownership,
assuming that the rental model wasn't badly flawed.
for $100/month, nope. maybe not even $100/year.

until you can tell us the costs -- both monetary and
in deviations from the "perfect" model we imagine --
you're just blowing hot air.

make your cloud model work in the marketplace --
where it has to compete against the ownership model
-- rather than trying to dictate it to people by fiat...


We're already there. All my music is on, so I can stream it to whatever device I want, including my Droid even using the 3G connection which is plenty fast enough for music. The same service is actually free on, which Apple recently acquired. We're already there.

I agree. People no longer buy music they stream it, (momentarily for free). Example of this include YouTube and Pandora.

Soon most cars will have built in web browsers eliminating the need for music players. The only questions arhatEhat service are you going to subscribe to and how much is that service going to pay copyright owners and bearers of mechanical liscenses?

In 2010 we wil begin seeing the slow and inevitable death of the MP3.

Not a bad article, a little redundant up front, and foolishly wound up on the assertion of The Cloud, which is highly questionable at this point and for the forseeable future. AT&T can't even handle my phone calls, but we're all going to stream music 24/7? Not anytime soon in this economy. Far cheaper/easier is hardware space for people's libraries. You're just plain wrong, and predicate your entire final argument on this mistaken assertation

I'm thinking the key elements of this discussion connect with the fragility of bits. Bits can be gone in an instant, like the dropping of an iPhone into a toilet which a friend of mine claims to have done five times. Another friend let a lap-top slip into a sink full of water. It can happen. Your relationship with those bits becomes immediately apparent in that instant. Do you care? Sometimes you'll care more than others, like when the bits are pictures of your wedding or kids or a song you wrote and recently spent hours mixing. Music on vinyl records is incredibly more enduring than both CDs and files of bits. People still invest in gold, right? There are items we want close and accessible at all times. We feel comfortable as a result. The range of this comfort and this want runs a very wide range, as do most human actions. Some people have a few music recordings, some people have thousands. Some people will be happy to replace their current list of music listening with whatever's made accessible to them next and others will do all they can to make sure they always have a way to listen to their favorite music in a way that compares to storing bottles of water for emergencies.

In 2003, at a wireless convention in Barcelona, Mark "the Red" Harlan demonstrated the power of Cloud computing in a dramatic way: He held up a soon-to-be-released "Danger Hiptop wireless device" (later known as the T-Mobile Sidekick), typed in a message, put the device on the floor … and dropped a bowling ball on it! BAM! SMASH! Bits of plastic everywhere!

He then retrieved the SIM card from the wreckage, put it into another (prototype) Hiptop, turned it on … and (drum roll, please) the message was still there! (ta-dah!) This is because ALL data on the device was automatically and wirelessly synced to the Danger data service (aka an early version of Cloud functionality).

Thus, one could argue that "your" music bits are actually safer in the Cloud, since they can't be destroyed by hardware failure, flame, flood, or earthquake. Nor can the music be ruined by the accidental-POP-accidental-POP-accidental-POP-kkkkerrrooof scratching of a vinyl surface, or the Daliesque melting of a cassette tape left on the dashboard of your car on a hot summer's day.

Do you feel insecure that you don't have a locally stored copy of the music you heard on the radio this morning? Of course not. Now imagine a commercial-free radio station that plays anything and everything you want, instantly and easily programmed according to your specific mood and tastes of the moment, as part of your indispensable, always-connected, lifeline "phone / browser / GPS / email / camera / game / unbelievably-cool-social-network-we-can't-even-conceive-of-yet" device …

When that kind of thing is commonly available, 5/10/?? years from now, kids will look back on the days of "they used to carry around music files in their phones!?", and laugh. They'll be living in (what I'm calling) "the Post-Edison era", where (as in the millennia before the Phonograph Machine), music is a listening experience, not a collection of disks …

I'm afraid this whole article / argument misses the single most important point of all. Musicians don't make vinyl disks, CD's, or files. We do not and never have made a single tangible thing - never in the entire history of mankind. What we make is the song that you hear and what you experience while listening to it. If you honestly believe that has zero value than I challenge you to go a year without music and see what your life is like at the end of it.

To say that music is without value and should be free just because it's easy to copy a file is stupid and short sighted.

It seems everyone has forgotten the history of music publishing and the rights given to creators of music.
Perhaps it would be advised to do some research on "history of music publishing."

You're wrong for a few reasons but the simplest, most obvious (to me anyway); with the cloud model, when you don't have money to pay the monthly subscription fee you have no access to music, LOL. With music as a product you buy, you may not have money today but you still have all the music you previously purchased to listen to. (Many people are particular and actually enjoy listening to the same thing over and over, which is why music as a product caught on in the first place - and music as a service is still struggling even though there are companies offering streaming services such as you describe in your blog.)

When I'm out of work and can't afford Netflix I can still sit back and watch all the great DVDs I purchased in the past. CHOICE!

Not choice of unlimited music but choice to even have music to listen to when you don't have money.

Think people!


Gentle Readers, please note:

Due to the popularity of this blog, and the admittedly provocative title, there has been a recent rush of vitriolic, wrong-headed, misinformed, foolish, hateful, insulting, off-topic, off-target, and ridiculous, invective posted in the comment section. From now on, comments of this nature will be met by the irrevocable power of my "delete" button.

Now, usually, I encourage disagreement, particularly when it points out a hole in my argument, as it gives me an opportunity to address the issue in a focused, and hopefully informative, manner. Of course, usually my readers are audio geeks, software engineers, and other technocrati …

But this blog seems to have had a much wider distribution in the mainstream blogosphere than my other works (nobody called me an asshole when I was talking about loop points in MP3 files!), and thus has attracted a rather fractious group of idiots, who apparently have nothing better to do than be violently and vociferously opposed to issues I'm not even talking about in this piece …

For the record: I am a professional musician, who has made a living performing, composing, recording, and publishing, music, sound effects, and voice-overs, for (gulp) over 30 years … I do not now, nor have I ever, nor would I ever, advocate that "music should be free" or "musicians should not be paid" or any of the other foolishness I've been accused of lately.

Really, people, did you even read the article? I'm not advocating anything like that! This article contains speculation on the future of audio distribution practices, based on current technology trends. With a Cloud based music service, musicians and record companies get paid out of subscription revenues, rather than per download. Copyright and intellectual property law is unaffected, as far as I can tell (I'm not a lawyer, and thus will not discuss legal issues).

A Cloud based music service would actually be MORE secure than current DRM based systems, as music files are not downloaded to your drive, where they can be shared, ripped, whatever. Rather, they are streamed to your audio buffer, and when the song is over … that's it, end of story, like listening to music on the radio -- but from a station that YOU control.

SO, Dear Reader, please, if you would like to comment on the blog, I will ask (enforce) that you:
a) be polite
b) stay on topic
c) read the piece in its entirety, and try to understand it my point of view, before weighing in with your opinion ... and try to say something about the article, not the author, m'kay? Thanks …

- pdx

I have memorized a lot of music, and I play it over and over in my head. It saves me money. I don't want to infringe on any copyright laws though, and hate to think that music producers might go penniless because of people like me, so tell me, please if it is OK.

By the time the requisite mind-monitoring technology is widely available, you'll simply "think about" paying royalties for memorized (or is it memorex?) music ... and voila! in fact, you'll be able to write your own songs, play them over and over in your head, and become an imaginary millionaire! (actually, that tech may already be available, it's called "rock star dreams") ... but for now, i think you're OK :)

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