Saturday, January 13, 2007

Music Geeks of the World, Unite!

Michael Hirschorn’s article in the January/February 2007 issue of The Atlantic attempts to illustrate the coming direction and shape of the digital music evolution. In an analysis that will warm Christian’s heart, he notes that iPod’s best days, like Colonial Williamsburg, are behind them. The end of what Hirschorn calls the “end-to-end” system is nigh.

The meat of Hirschorn’s analysis:

There is order to the madness. If you accept as an article of faith (and I do) that the existence of digital media means everything will eventually become available everywhere for a price that will approach zero, you can start connecting the dots. I’m currently faced with an arbitrary choice: if I want to walk around with my music in my iPod, I have to interface with the closed iTunes system and purchase songs at 99 cents a pop (or, for non-major-label offerings, go to; if I want to enjoy new music, learn about music from people who’ve built cool user pages, and generally share in the communal joys of critical discrimination, I have to leave iTunes and sniff about online. It is surely only a matter of time before that problem is solved.

What I find odd about Hirschorn’s article is that he does mention any of the “all you can eat” systems found through Yahoo, Napster, or Rhapsody. I’ve been very happy with my Rhapsody system where I can download an unlimited number of songs to my device, a SanDisk Sansa e280, for one low price. Now, I can’t burn any of those songs to a CD, or continue to use them after I stop paying my subscription fee; I’m essentially renting my music, but the price is so low that I see it as a fair exchange. Rhapsody integrates some of the community aspects that Hirschorn lauds in his article. Subscribers can put together playlists for other to download and I can see what is being downloaded by people who share my musical tastes.

Some of the new web-tools that Hirschorn thinks are harbingers of the revolution include:

Hype Machine


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