photo My Point Of View
Paul Stark
co-founder of Twin/Tone Records

(January 2002 )

I was feeling bad about not writing a new one of these in a quite a long time. I was about to write a new diatribe and thought it best to re-read this one first. The following is over two and one-half years old and not that far off. It's funny how fast things are moving and at the same time, not much at all. Since this was written, I have served as a consultant and then as a Vice President to Liquid Audio (I left in May of last year). With the Napsters and the Majors (MusicNet and PressPlay) trying out subscription services momentarily (don't hold your breath)... I will stand with this diatribe for a few more months before launching into one that deals with the current state of affairs.

(12 June 1999)

One hundred years ago the world was in the middle of an industrial revolution. During the past century life in general made radical changes, the way we worked, traveled, communicated, lived.... With the new century about to start, we are now in the mist of a digital revolution, one which promises to change our lives even more radically (and faster) than that of the previous one.

The digital revolution is not just about communication and the way we get our phone calls, TV, movies or music. It also affects all levels of our life... how we are: taught, fed, clothed, housed, transported, governed, etc. This being said (for the sake of my own sanity), I will reserve my comments to the changes in the music industry.

In the not to distant future anyone with access to the Internet will be able to get any song at any time. Whether by a subscription, pay-per-listen, or listen for free with advertising basis all will be available through the Internet. Until we have devices which can play music via the Internet as easily as someone turning on a radio, retail stores will still be the major system of music delivery. We are currently in a transition period. (Computer power is almost there, bandwidth soon will be, content is just starting to take form.)

Over the next few years we will see the "harder to find" CDs disappearing almost totally from retail stores with people purchasing them on line (or directly from the bands) instead. At the same time more and more songs will be made available as digital downloads. The purchaser of these files will be able to cut their own CDs, load music into their "RIO" type player, or just listen to the music on their computer. For the near future most of the downloaded songs will be available as free (MP3's etc.) promotional samples, as people get use to getting music via the Internet, they will also warm to the idea of paying for the music.

The industry is still way ahead of the average consumer. Most people still don't realize that their computer is all set up to deal with CD quality sound and that they can hook the sound output of their computer to their stereo and enjoy the same quality sound they get from their CD player. In many homes, the computer is not near the stereo... the trend is for "home theaters," as time goes on, computers will be added as an additional component and eventually the computer itself will be built into the system.

Meanwhile...what does this all mean...

  • If you are a major record label, you can see the future and most likely are treading water to figure out what to do until the future is here. Companies who use the technology and adapt in a timely manner will be around for a long time, those who don't will be eaten up by the others.

  • If you are a indie record label, you will have access to a vast market unreachable up to now. Distribution will no longer be a problem. Promotion and marketing, however, is another story. With the ease of placing music on the Internet there will be 100 times more songs available marketing and promotion will become even more critical

  • If you are a music retail store, things are changing fast. During the transition to all digital delivery, the Internet will become your friend. Soon you will be able to lower your inventory and at the same time offer more records than you could ever stock, through custom cutting of CDs from files transmitted to you via the Internet. You also could act as a "loading" station for handheld devices. (RIO types, personal organizers, even cell phones.) Eventually, as we do move to an all digital delivery system (ten-fifteen years out?,) only the "used" music stores will survive, placing them more in the antique or collectable category rather than that of a music store.

  • If you are an artist looking for a way to get your music in peoples' ears, the Internet offers you a delivery system that you never imagined you would have.

  • If you are a consumer, you will win the most. You will have everything available easier, faster, and most likely, cheaper.

For those of you who kicked and yelled as the CD replaced the beloved vinyl album, you will kick and yell again as we move into this digital world. The changes ahead are so profound and so vast that it is hard to visualize what the music landscape will look like even ten years from now. The only given is that it will be digital and easier to navigate than what we have had for the past twenty years.

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