“ The media environment is now being shaped into two seemingly contradictory trends: on the one hand, new media technologies have lowered production and distribution costs, expanded the range of available delivery channels and enabled consumers to archive, appropriate, annotate and recirculate media content in powerful new ways.
At the same time, there has been an alarming concentration of the ownership of mainstream commercial media, with a small handful of multinational media conglomerates dominating all sectors of the entertainment industry.
Some fear that the media is out of control, others that it is too controlled.”
Conglomerates like Universal struggle to persuade audiences to buy their music legally.
Audiences argue that the labels should realise that they have brought this on themselves by failing to keep up with the consumer demand created by new technologies and the new ‘instant gratification’ culture of on demand services.
If music is playing on the radio, consumers want to buy it, but legal downloads/CDs won’t be released for months. Consumers argue that labels should see that people want to use the technology the entertainment industry has provided (Mp3 players, mobiles, laptops) to take the music they want.
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Videogames too are an important part of music and will continue to grow. The staggering success of Rock Band, Guitar Hero, SingStar and Wii Music has managed to present music in a whole new environment.
While most music sales today are à la carte (i.e. download a track to own), we are seeing very clear signs that services are moving towards ‘access’ as well as 'ownership'. Subscription services like Napster were the first wave here - allowing you unlimited streaming access/tethered downloads to their entire catalogue for a set fee each month. But as ways of accessing music are developing, so too are the ways that you will ‘pay’ for that access.
The iPhone has helped take the idea of music on your mobile way beyond ringtones and the arrival at the end of 2008 of Nokia’s ‘Comes With Music’ (unlimited downloads for a year bundled into the cost of the handset) is a very clear sign of the ways things are moving.
As more mobile users upgrade to 3G connections, we will see even more developments here, with mobile audio and video streaming set to become commonplace.
The likes of We7 and Qtrax, where you ‘pay’ for the download in exchange for listening to ads, are showing how ad-funding and à la carte can coexist .
Then there are the sites that allow you to invest in new bands (such as SellaBand, Slicethepie, PledgeMusic, Tunited and Bandstock), placing the fan at the very centre of things, supporting grassroots acts and benefiting financially from their success.
The future of music is diverse and exciting. There won’t be one way of accessing and consuming music, instead, lots of different services will sit side-by-side, giving music fans unparalleled access and choice. The possibilities are endless.
“ 19 out of every 20 tracks downloaded are done so illegally. In an evolving digital landscape, there can be confusion over which sites are legal. We think music fans would like to know that when the site that they are using is legitimate they are supporting the artists, musicians, songwriters and everyone involved in creating the music. “
The Music Matters Certification Scheme is working with legal digital music services to ensure they carry the Music Matters trustmark. This will help audiences differentiate legal music sites from illegal sites. There are currently dozens of legitimate digital music services in the UK.