Belfast Telegraph

Jam and the joys of music distribution in today’s world

By Jase Bell

When I was eight years old I watched Kieran Prendiville on Tomorrow's World spread strawberry jam on to a Bee Gee's CD (depending on your taste it may be the best use of jam seen on national TV).

The compact disc was going to change the way we listen to music. Thirty years on and the record industry is currently in a state about how to manage and, ultimately, control the music that we listen too.

The industry as a whole has had a hammer hard approach, in the first instance by trying to shut down Napster instead of embracing Shawn Fanning's creation and looking at the whole concept of digital distribution, Kazaa and a string of others followed. There's always been that power struggle about defending artists, business, profit and copyright from the downloading public.

Asking people to pay for a non physical product is hard, iTunes, Amazon and the new Napster do a very good job of selling music downloads to devices.

Very few record companies have transferred to digital well, the only one I'm aware of making inroads is Robert Fripp's label, Discipline Global Mobile (or DGM for short) who turned the whole bootleg thing on its head as well.

Other artists such as my favourite band, Tackhead, let fans invest in their next album and called the project “Sharehead”.

The latest darling on the scene now is Spotify who have given a more usable approach to listening to music online (not downloading it though). So it's now perfectly acceptable and cool (even for my advancing years) to listen to stuff for free on Spotify full well knowing that it's justified by advertising and that the royalties are getting paid. I may sip my Fairtrade coffee with a clear head.

It's the start of a very long road for how music is consumed.

Spotify needs a core base of premium customers to cover the costs. Techcrunch estimates that Spotify may be paying in the region of £60,000 a day in record company royality payments alone.

The key to Spotify's real success is in looking forward to mobile devices, so you and I can carry Spotify with us 24 hours a day and not have to be tied to the desk. There is a pre-production application available for Android phones but nothing mentioned about the iPhone or Java-based devices.

The other great exclusion is the micro record labels, music created in the bedroom and distributed through the internet. Spotify could do itself a big favour and make it easy for these people to get a slice of the action too. Could this model work for artists to get paid direct for their music — it's already happening in Apple iTunes.

The record industry needs to take a step back and look at what the digital industry is doing, music, TV and film will all go this way, eventually.

Jase Bell is a software developer and organiser of Open Coffee Coleraine. You can reach him via Twitter http://www.twitter.com/jasebell

Belfast Telegraph

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