Ok, finally most people now get the mp3 and digitization of music concept. It took you all about 6 years or so (was that when I had my first mp3 player?), but you seem to get it. Thanks to Apple and that lame old iPod.
How about I change the way you think about music by offering you a service. Pay no mind to how it can work or the details, just follow my broad strokes. And believe in the fact that I know what I propose can in fact be accomplished (from a technical standpoint) with just a little bit ofthinking.
Say I was offering you a box that was similar to your CD player that you hook up to your stereo. That box also would be connected to your internet connection and optionally (and preferrably) to your home network as well. Now, that box has a screen on it and a remote and is super easy to use (for examples sake, lets say apple designed the interface).
What would this box do? Well, it would play music for you, streamed, song by song over the internet. You could use your PC (or the remote) to decide what to listen to, create playlists, or listen by album or genre, or year, or whatever.
Pretty neat right? Ok, I know what you are thinking. Big deal, I can do that now, I have a bunch of my own music on my computer already and there are boxes that play it for me and I can also copy the music to my iPod or other mp3 player.
Ok, I'll swetten up the service I'm offering. Say the music you listen to on the box is stored inside of it so you could copy it to your iPod or burn it to a CD to listen to in your car? Better?
You're not convinced of the brilliance of my idea yet are you? Ok, here's where you will run to sign up. What if I told you that the library of songs to choose from, the songs that you could play over the box, or use on your mp3 player, was as big as the apple iTunes library?
Would you pay me $10 a month for that? I bet you would. But guess what? I'm not done yet. What if I told you that the library included every recorded piece of music ever recorded?
I have your attention now don't I? Think about it. You would never need a CD or a big hard drive or anything. All you would need to have a music collection would be a subscription to my service. CD collections would be replaced with your own collection of playlists. As long as you paid me my monthly fee you have full access to the music, to all music. Would $10 a month be a fair price? $20, $30?
There would be no need to go out and buy or store any more music. Think of where you listen to music and tell me how my system is not as good as the current one?
There are so many angles here. Once we do away with the psysical holders of music and the thought that to enjoy it we need to buy it and keep it and hold it in our hands, we can look at music (and by extension all media) in a totally new and very cool way.
I mean, the CD collection was the way to go for quite some time now, but all it really represents is one persons taste in music and all it gives the owner is the satisfaction that they can play what they want when and where they want it. If I can give you all that, why go through the process of holding onto it psysically? It's pointless.
So, you say, how can one company buy or own the rights to all music? Perhaps they can't. But if all music rights holders decided to share their music in this way, there could be other companies that buy rights in aggrigate and then sell them off to you and I as virutal collections.
From the perspective of a label, they are getting a huge amount of money for something that they already own. The labels would actually make more money if they didn't have to deal with the expenses of the distribution and pressing of CD's. Once recorded and stored digitally, the distribution is virtually free. They could go back to doing what they are supposed to be doing - finding new talent and recording them.
Why are the labels so stupid? Can't they see that if they just sat back and tried looking at things a bit differently, they may be able to in fact make more money?
Ok, so some of you are saying, whats to stop me from downloading everyting, storing it and not paying a monthly fee ever again? I have two reasons and I will leave you to decide which one will mean more in the end.
Reason #1 - people, on average are lazy. Sure we could do that, but why? Why would I spend 80% of my free time illegally downloading and storing music when I could just pay someone $10 or $20 a month and be done with it?
Reason #2 - Mission Impossible. The files can be engineered to self destruct after a certain period of time. Withough being too technical, a system can be set up that would essentially boil down to "when you stop paying the subscription, the music stops playing".
Before I go, let me help you get over your fears about reason #2. You're thinking "but what if I stop paying? will I loose all my music? That means I'll be indentured to the man!". Well, you won't. You'll still have your playlists and your collection will still be intact, you just won't be able to access it unless you find and pay for a service provider.. much like cable, you know the shows you want to watch, but if you don't pay for it, you can't watch them.
This can be done. And it should be done. But, it won't be.. not for a looooong while.. especially if the supreme court fucks up the Grokster case.. We'll see...