COLUMN: There was a strange shift in the cosmos in 1999. “That’s when ‘mp3’ first overtook ‘sex’ as the top search term on Yahoo,” notes Tim Quirk of Rhapsody. And why was that change taking place? Because there was “a new piece of software written by a college kid in Boston that let people copy one another’s music collections without paying,” notes Rick Karr of National Public Radio.
He refers, of course, to Napster. Or “Nabster,” as many of my friends called it back then. Facilitating theft of other people’s property is still a big problem, one that might not go away until Internet service providers act like responsible businesses rather than like mob go-betweens.
Still, there has been some progress in the past decade. Many websites that used to make money from theft have gone out of business or become legitimate. But what got me thinking about the ten-year roller coaster ride for musicians and songwriters was picking up a copy of “Internet Audio,” published July, 2000, by Mix Magazine.
I am not by nature a hoarder, but when I straightened the Golosio studio bookshelves, there it was, mixed in with our recording gear manuals. And what a fascinating find. The blurbs on the cover promise irresistible insight and analysis: “Understanding the NEW Music Business,” “The Professional’s Guide to Getting Your Sounds Online,” and this enticing banner: “Movers and Shakers, Webcasting, Hot Products.”
Hindsight is 20/20, so I am not going to make fun of the contents of this decade-old mag. Well, okay, I am going to make a little fun, but later. First, let’s look at something pertinent:
Sarah Jones’ “From the Editor” piece introduces the publication by noting “never has the audio community been bombarded with such a range of technical advances — new formats, new applications — so fast.” It’s a statement that editors have been making ever since. Hell, I almost began this article with that same point. In a volatile field that has undergone a myriad of change, it’s amazing how often Jones got the right people to discuss the right topics.
The articles in the magazine are intriguing. For example, Paul Verna’s “Where Does the Song Go?” looks at the ways music distribution got scrambled by the ‘Net. Now covering digital media and entertainment at eMarketer.com, Verna then held positions at Billboard and Mix. In his 4-page essay, he noted that “the Web has leveled the technological playing field among labels, retailers, e-tailers, artists and bedroom entrepreneurs.”
Among his other observations is this gem: “The Internet has also accelerated the pace of business to such a point that companies appear and disappear like actors on a stage, and new business models can pop up overnight.”
DONE AND GONE
Speaking of companies that disappear. . . One of the short items in a section called iCandy is “Build Your Own E-Label With ByteAudio,” which sounds interesting, but if you go to the site today, you’ll find the domain is for sale. Under “Movers and Shakers” is a short blurb on Jimmy Iovine and Doug Morris and their then-new and phony-hip farmclub.com — which no longer exists.
There was also a nice interview with a co-owner of spinART records, which claimed to be the first label to offer its whole catalog for paid downloads. But it, too, is gone.
The article on Webcasting is interesting except for what happens when you try to check out the companies featured in the story: www.com (kaput); radioelectronica.com (‘bye-‘bye); HOB Digital (pffffft); and Digital Club Network (defunct).
There’s a nicely written (by Tom Kenny) piece about putting sounds online. Unfortunately, the people interviewed in the article were from Sonicopia, which no longer exists. So there is a real groan when you reach the end of the piece: “For more information, check out their ‘sonification tutorial’ at www.sonicopia.com.” No can do.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. . .
. . . the more they stay the same. Randy Wachtler, the head of 615 Music, is quoted in a story called “Production Music: License, Click, Download!” by David John Farinella. Wachtler, a member of the PMA (Production Music Association), is a strong supporter of technology to help songwriters and music publishers.
In the article, he makes an excellent point about digital watermarking allowing musicians’ work to be automatically tracked. “The problem is all the big libraries like us knew that our stuff was used all over the networks and in all kinds of productions for a lot of years, but it’s up to somebody in an edit bay to fill out a cue sheet and it rarely happens.” Wachtler went on to note that “digital watermarking with a computer that will do the detection will take the problem away.” Would that were so!
The industry has let us all down in this regard. I heard Wachtler and others speak at a PMA meeting a few months ago and virtually the same point was made. I don’t mean to play the blame game, but here’s a shout at ASCAP, BMI and SESAC to get moving because I don’t want to be writing about this stalled situation a few years from now.
ADS AND HYPE
The first ad in the issue is a 2-page spread with a now-humorous headline, “Mackie’s new standalone 24-track digital disk recorder works with any analog or digital mixer…and records over 90 minutes on each affordable M-90 pull-out cartridge!” Ah, that takes you back, doesn’t it?
A few pages later in the issue is a full-page ad for digibid.com, which called itself “The Equipment Liquidation Channel” and “The Leading Marketplace for Professional Audio Tools.” Nice idea, but it no longer exists.
You might also get a kick out of the full-page ad for Rocket Network, which boasts that it “takes audio production beyond the boundaries of studio walls, making connections that let you work with anyone, anywhere, anytime…like global multi-track.” Great idea, but the world moved on to other suppliers, apparently. A search engine inquiry reveals a story from 2001 that states “Rocket Network Receives $9.3 Million in Investment” and ties in Cisco Systems, Vulcan Ventures and Weston Presidio Fund Global Production Network. The ad itself boasts nifty logos from Digidesign, Euphonix, Gvox, Steinberg, and emagic (which is now some sort of mortgage company).
Three different full-page ads tout a lot of wonderful things at digitalmedianet.com but unfortunately what you find at that site bears no relation to what was being marketed in those ads.
Then there’s the ad for ConnectSound.com, where you can “buy audio equipment and get great service.” Well, now you can’t.
There are also full-page ads for: the PARIS digital audio workstation from E-MU / Ensoniq (E-MU is still around but not the others); MusicPortalPro.com (not there); and the Expression Center for New Media with its “Education for Digital Visual Media and Sound Arts” directing readers to www.xnewmedia.com (it’s now gone, although Ex’pressions is still around at www.expression.edu).
One of the stories in the magazine is entitled “The Internet in 2005,” a look ahead by Oliver Masciarotte, a consultant, writer and engineer with impressive technical credentials, having worked at Lexicon, Neotek, ADS, and Criteria Recording. He currently runs Seneschal Consulting (www.seneschal.net).
He made several upbeat observations in the 2000 article and was kind enough to assess them today. Here are his views, both Then and Now:
FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) “This maturation of all-optical network backbones with 10-Gigabet connections to the edge of the Internet will make real-time communication of high-fidelity, multichannel audio and production metadata affordable to small businesses.”
FTTH: “Available now. It will fundamentally change the way we all do business. Cable is inherently restricted in many ways (let’s not even talk about net neutrality) while pure IP WANs are not.”
“The holy grail of my early days in digital multimedia, full motion video (FMV), will migrate from local optical disc playback, first via Internet-delivered store-and-forward technologies to on-demand streaming.”
“FMV is available now. The future will see the decline of optical disc carriers for consumer distribution, along with widespread adoption of high resolution, file-based music distribution.”
“Storage, asset management and other application service providers will ease the burden of keeping your business running, cushioning that demand for storage while providing reliable off-site archiving and automatic creation of custom metadata.”
“ASP: Available now (again). After the dotbomb, most Application Service Providers (ASPs) and Storage Service Providers (SSPs) went belly up. However, a few managed to stay solvent and now, with heavyweights like Amazon moshing in the “Cloud Computing” pit, it seems like cloud services are here to stay…If only vendor lock-in and security concerns can be addressed!”
“VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) that provide secure LAN-like connections over the Internet will become commonplace.”
“VPNs: Available now. Both Win7 and Mac OS have excellent VPN services built in.”
“I hope to see self-configuring, self-healing software that draws replacement RNA from the manufacturer’s server.”
“Self-configuring: Not yet but, vendors everywhere have realized that UX (User eXperience) matters! Heck, even Microsoft is starting to ‘get’ it, though it seems that Blaise Aguera y Arcas and his team are the only Microsofties that have a creative bone in their bodies. As a result, all kinds of software is becoming increasingly easy to use. As to self-healing, that’s also slowly moving out of the lab. ZSF, Sun’s advanced file system, is a good example. Be patient, my son.”
If you are in contact with Oliver Masciarotte at Seneschal Consulting, be sure to let him know that his prognosticating was pretty damn good!
And where will we be ten years from now? “I will make a prediction,” states Rhapsody’s Tim Quirk. “Music as a service is what the average person will take for granted 10 years from now. The question, and this is where the hope comes in, is whether it will be unlicensed services that aren’t compensating anybody, or whether they will be licensed services that somehow people are paying money. You know, paying a monthly subscription fee to Rhapsody is one way. Paying a little bit extra to your ISP for the right to not get sued when you’re downloading music off of peer-to-peer services is another way.”
Not to be outdone, Masciarotte also weighs in on the future: “Where we will be in 2020? Look for nearly ‘ubiquitous computing.’ The appliances we all carry in our pocket will provide all of our casual data processing needs, for communication, entertainment, and business.”
What will this mean for each of us: “Self-configuring mesh networks, full color, high rate, low power reflective displays and kinetic energy harvesting will mean that you’ll be able to use these gadgets anytime, most anywhere, without recharging,” Masciarotte points out, adding, “Standards for augmented reality and an increased use of refined artificial intelligence will mean that your pocket comp will act as your (very) personal secretary, personal shopper, and gofer, taking on all the mundane tasks we now do ourselves.”
Quite a lot of forecasting, but Masciarotte isn’t through. He also predicts that “Much of the low expectation/low performance functions now served by standalone applications will migrate to The Cloud, leaving ‘desktop computing’ to the really heavy computational lifting, where realtime performance and exceptional results outweigh cost of entry.”
Thanks, Oliver. I’m looking forward to the future. Again.
Article is Copr. © 2010 by MuseWire and John Scott G, The G-Man. Unauthorized republication prohibited without permission. To subscribe via RSS to the G-Man’s column, CLICK HERE.