file-sharing kills creativity or that the Internet is dead, the digital music industry clearly has strong momentum right now, aided in no small part by cloud technologies that promise ubiquitous access to music. Both Apple and Google are poised to make an entry into cloud-based music services, joining the numerous other vendors already vying to provide us with music acquisition, sharing, and storage services.Despite claims from sectors of the record industry that
A new report from Forrester Research examines the ways in which the cloud will help enable what it describes as a "360 degree music experience" - not merely opening up the availability of our music across all of our various devices, but expanding the ways in which we experience our "record" collection.
The report's author Mark Mulligan contends that the music industry's business models and licensing rights issues have shaped the way in which digital music services have developed, creating a "highly splintered environment in which the consumer must navigate multiple technologies and applications throughout the four stages of the music experience journey": discovery, acquisition, consumption and management.
While 99-cent downloads might have helped move consumers away from the CD, the increasing availability of music online - not just for download, but for streaming - has changed our expectations of how and what we pay for music, but has also altered how we listen to it. The days of the living room Hi-Fi seem to be waning, replaced primarily by our PCs.
In fact, despite the variety of new devices available to listen to music - phones, computers, MP3 players, gaming console systems - many consumers still store and listen to their digital music collections primarily on their PCs. 36% of those responding to a survey cited in the Forrester report say they listen to CDs and MP3s on their PC as their primary source of music-listening. 31% list their MP3 player as their primary device. Only 5% list their phone. Although some devices' usage is really centered around small niche markets, these markets will be crucial, says Mulligan, as they are the consumers most likely to listen to music "on the go" and to want to stream music from their PCs.
The challenge for new cloud-based music services, according to Mulligan, will be to "help digital music break free of the chains of the PC and the MP3 player" and to bring music-listening back into the living room. But Mulligan notes that closed ecosystems, lack of interoperability, competing industry standards, and proprietary rights issues all limit the potential reach of music services.
And while the allure of the cloud is promising, Mulligan reminds digital music companies that they need to pay attention to how people want to experience their music, how they use (and don't use, but may want to use) their various music devices. Most importantly, Mulligan says that any new cloud-based offerings should aim to provide a 360-degree music experience, one not only enabling storage and access via the cloud, but enabling discovery as well.