The way we listen to and access our music has changed over the years, but nothing in the music industry has steam-rolled quite as fast as what has transpired in the first decade of the 21st Century.
As the Beatles’ rock anthem of the late 60s reminded a nation:
You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution…
And as we all know, the one constant in life is change. Just when we were all starting to feel real comfortable gravitating from tapes and CDs to online music downloads, a new revolution of options is beginning to unfold.
Strangely enough, Apple has approved an iPhone application that actually might replace its iTunes music download model. Even odder is the fact the new app was created by David Dederer who’s in the process of reinventing himself. Previously the lead singer for The Presidents of the United States of America, a 90s alternative rock band, David is transitioning from his old job into his new role as VP business development for Melodeo,a music technology firm. Here, he has developed the PUSA app that will let users stream his band’s entire catalog of music over a cellular connection for less than the cost of a Big Mac.
Fans who buy the app will also get access to the band’s original 10-song demo tape Froggystyle, four albums, “lost” recordings, demos, and whatever else they can throw into the mix including live recordings updated regularly and links to the PUSA blog.
The sticky point for other bands and musical artists to follow suit is the copyright issues. One has to own all of the copyrights to a piece of music in order to distribute it this manner. Otherwise agreements and sign-offs would make it prohibitive. However if all the rights are owned outright, artists can sell their music in this new distribution channel.
Based on this innovative format, one could imagine the source of new-found wealth for artists that are sitting on publishing rights for bands that no longer perform. While there is still conjecture whether or not Michael Jackson owns the Beatles library of music outright, let’s assume for arguments’ sake he does. In this case, Michael, whose appeal has waned over the last decade, might be sitting on a small gold mine! If he could produce a Beatles app that contained over 150 songs, his financial and health worries might be over!
So while Dederer and the PUSA app are gaining traction off the fact they were the first to rock ‘n roll with this new technology, the popularity of The Presidents of the United States of America pales in comparison to the Beatles. Where the PUSA app will sell nicely at $2.99 each, one can only imagine how much Mr. Jackson might be able to hit us up for a Beatles app. Can you say Cha-Ching? Sorry Paul, but don’t think you were planning an Ebony & Ivory reunion any time soon, anyways!
In tandem with the PUSA model, iPhone is in the process of rolling out an “unlimited access” option where customers would have the opportunity to either pay a one-time lifetime access price to the iTunes’ music library, or a monthly subscription fee. What Apple will charge users for this service is still being ironed out, but recent sources have speculated a $100 fee for unlimited access to the complete iTunes library for the lifetime of their device, whether it be an iPhone or iPod. How that fee will shake down between owners, artists and Apple is still undecided and will probably take an army of lawyers to figure out.
In the meantime, be on the look out for the PUSA app. While it might not be the type of band that floats your boat, it’s currently the only one out there selling their entire body of past, present and future work for less than three bucks!
According to Ian Paul, a journalist for PC World: “Artists will always need labels to promote their music effectively….The music retailer, however, is not so important–a lesson that Tower Records discovered,” when they incurred the recent online download evolution of the industry.
So while currently the iTunes model enjoys success by basically replacing the physical record shop for the digital world, in the end, iTunes is still selling copies of music just like Tower Records did back in the day. However, the real revolution will occur if and when major artists feel they no longer need the middleman and can sell direct to the consumer. At that juncture, Apple may have to take a major step back to rethink the way it does business. And in a completely wireless world, this could become a reality sooner then we think.
So while we inch up to the end of the first decade of this new century, and music continues to soothe the savage beast, keep your ears open to the ever-changin’ music revolution that will continue to rock on, even beyond what we discussed here!