Finally the music industry can sit back and stop moaning about file sharing. The days of downloading music are coming to an end. Not because of Lord Mandelson’s digital economy bill but thanks to excellent streaming services. Last.fm and Spotify are now first choice options for listeners and music lovers. Mandelson has already received a lot of negative comments from many digital experts. Most significantly from BT and Talk Talk, two of the biggest ISPs who are supposed to be on board. He really has turned up to the party a little late, how many people will still be downloading music files in 2011?
Who wants to download anymore? Ask yourself the question, when did you last download a music file? For me it was at the start of the year. Then I purchased my new machine which meant I was faced with managing the thousands of MP3s scattered across two computers, three external hard drives and a handful of memory sticks as well as the box of smashed up CDs. It’s the usual issues with iTunes, you can almost feel it coming but still do nothing about it. Then it happens, you re-install the program to find your library isn’t connecting and all the music has to be imported again. Then because of some additional update iTunes insists you install, 20% of your music is not allowed to be copied across. That causes the mass copy to fail so you have to manually copy each album one at a time. Now you are ready to throw your machine out the window and get your CD player out of the cupboard. Sound familiar?
So with this experience in mind I dropped iTunes for the new wave of online music innovators like Spotify, Grooveshark and Last.fm. I have been loyal to iTunes for years (since the Winamp days) but now it only gets opened for apps, podcasts and TV shows. Streaming is so much more flexible. The Zeta last.fm library is a mix of goth, electro, hip-hop, ska, rock and punk which represents the Zeta collective taste… it works perfectly.
I find out about new bands and trends through Last.fm. I use Spotify to stream all of my albums, setup playlists and use the iPhone app on the move. Recently I’ve become the number one fan of Grooveshark, which has access to most of the bands and albums Spotify doesn’t have, such as Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”.
Grooveshark is an online app rather than a desktop app like Spotify so I am not dependant on the program being installed, and what a beautiful app it is, very simple to use and it has a slick playlist builder tool similar to the Flickr photo stream editor.
Thanks to Last.fm and Spotify the future looks bright for music online, even Sky has launched Sky Songs for streaming although they offer 10 free downloads when you sign up which seems a strange offer for people signing up to a streaming service. There are more services popping up all the time. Mixcloud is an on-demand radio service where radio shows, podcasts and DJ sets can be streamed on demand. It refers to itself as the YouTube of radio and is a very very cool service. There is also the anticipated Guvera which has started offering pre-registration for the beta launch. The promises and obvious link to Che Guevara are an exciting prospect and I look forward to giving this a go.
So with all of these great services why is Mandelson’s digital economy bill so out of touch? Because there is no thought of the new generation of music innovators, or how to take the legal services forward to improve the relationship between consumer and label. It just doesn’t make sense, downloading music is a thing of the past and TV and film will follow shortly. Apple and Sony have been in talks since April over streaming full length films through YouTube. Hulu and Crackle already offer film and TV streaming services as well as the hugely successful BBC iPlayer which has changed the way we watch TV.
Steve Jobs revolutionised music in 2003 with the launch of iTunes, but it is the next generation of new music innovators which will map out the future of how we listen to music.