Among their advisors is Gerd Leonhard who together with David Kusek wrote The Future Of Music Book, which has been the subject of blogicles here. Kusek and Leonhard believe that the future of music includes high-quality streaming music services that are probably subscription-based.
BlueBeat.com is an embodiment of that vision.
A few weeks ago BlueBeat announced Version 2 of their website and client-side software. I've finally had the time to install it on one of my machines (1999 vintage Dell tower, Win2000 Pro, SP4, Media Player 9, Firefox 1.0.4, IE 6). The reinstall requires two boots, but apart from that, everything went smoothly.
Although I'm not one of the "golden ears", at 320 kbs the sound is, in my view, nothing short of stunning. Leonhard, Kusek, and MRT may well be right: BlueBeat-type services will be important to the Future of Music by striking a balance between very high quality audio and protecting the rights of artists and distributors.
MSNBC has carried an article from the Sacramento Biz Journal describing Tower Record's new strategies. Snippets:
"This is an exciting time for us at Tower Records," Kevin Cassidy,
executive vice president of retail, said in a statement about the
Arizona store. "This new Tempe location continues our trend of opening
and refurbishing stores in Tower's key markets."
According to this press release, TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence says that "music radio will have to come to grips with the fact that technology is fracturing the overarching listener base while simultaneously personalizing consumer's interaction with pop culture." Nicely put. Additional Snippet:
Walmart has announced it is offering custom CDs. Example news coverage here. Snipets:
The cost to download music from the site is 88 cents per song or typically $9.44 an album, Colella said. The cost for a customized CD of three songs is $4.62 plus 88 cents for each additional song. Shipping costs $1.97.
Analyst Phil Leigh of Tampa, Fla., founder of Inside Digital Media Inc., said other companies have been-there, done-that.
"I think they (Wal-Mart) are going to be disappointed. The price isn't that attractive. It was tried before" by a few startup companies in the dot-com boom and was not successful, Leigh said. Also, other companies, like Apple iTunes, offer downloadable music that provides consumers "instant gratification."
"There's no real cost advantage to what Wal-Mart is offering here," Leigh said.
A major purpose of scenario planning is to empower people, organizations, and industries to evaluate a diverse set of possible futures, decide which future they prefer, and to identify those key milestones or Events that lead logically to the desired outcome. In short, scenario planning provides a structured framework for strategy determination and implementation.
Participants can then monitor the environment using War Rooms and similar techniques to identify counter and confirming Events and trends. More importantly, participants can also organize and utilize available resources to pursue the Events that are key to the desired outcome.
We've considered four alternative futures for the music industry:
I've been considering Endates that are alternative visions to the one proposed by Leonhard and Kusek, Music Like Water, which I call The Music Utility. The second installment of this series outlined the 10,000 Mainiac MTV Channels Endstate, an oversimplification of which is that music videos become far more important than simple audio. Yesterday's third installment, The Return of the Artists, suggested that change in industry structure in which Artists and their agents are the most important players is the future of the industry. Today, naturally, The Empires Strike Back.
I've been considering Endstates that are alternative visions to the one
proposed by Leonhard and Kusek, Music Like Water, which I call, the
Music Utility. The second installment of this series outlined the 10,000 Maniac MTV Channels Endstate, an oversimplification of which is that music videos become far more important than simple audio.
The Music Utility Endstate is mainly about the evolution of the supporting technology infrastructure and business models, principally wireless and audio-enabled devices and subscription based streaming music rather than file downloads. In the Kusek and Leonhard version, Music Like Water, artists have much more power and leverage compared with other actors in the industry, such as the major music labels.
The Music Utility Endstate does not depend, in my view, on this fundamental change in the structure of the music industry. The majors, viewed as dinosaurs by some) could very well morph their service and business models and by doing so, avoid extinction. More on this point tomorrow.
Coincidentally with The Future of Music week here, economist and music fan Barry Ritholtz documents on his Big Picture blog a decline in the number of hours per person spent listening to music. Check it out.
The central organizing vision of the book is a future for the music industry that they refer to as "Music Like Water." Some of the essential elements of this Endstate are that for a fixed fee, consumers get access to a virtually unlimited music library. One important difference between this future and the present time is that Kusek and Leonhard expect that streaming music will be far more important than music distribution based on files and downloading.
Here I want to begin suggesting some other Endstates for the music industry. Today's Endstate might be called "10,000 Maniac MTV Channels". The hallmark of this Endstate is that music video is far more important than plain old music. A majority of music is experienced through video. Watching is more important than simply listening. And MVideo tastes change rapidly; attention spans are extremely short.
Scenario planning entails defining 4-6 disparate visions of the future of an industry, a company, strategic business unit, or global challenge issue, such as global warming. The Future of Music book defines one vision of the future that the authors call "Music Like Water," by which they mean that streaming music is available everywhere, much like water. They envision the evolution of business models, distribution channels, industry structure, and network and computing technologies such that music is available all the time in virtually all places on all devices. In The Music Like Water future, musicians are more empowered than today because the quintessential relationship is between the artist and the fan or consumer, which is to say that music is an experience rather than a physical product or a file to be download. The music experience is king (or queen).
Part of the support they offer for Music Like Water future is a discussion of 10 key truths about the music industry that reinforce the notion of music as experience and the primacy of the artist: