While some music tech bloggers like this Yahoo! guy report “Music industry and tech observers (like me) were left scratching their heads after news over the weekend that Apple had bought Lala , a company that lets you buy streaming music on the Web for 10 cents a song,” I was not shocked. Excited, for sure. But history dictates this to be entirely futuristic and therefore not shocking. If this news surprises you, I say: embrace it, and you will find it is easier to see a bigger picture, without surprise, still paving the road-map for a new economy in the digital music industry on a global scale.
With the most concise strategy for innovation, Apple has been the catalyst of digital music design, adoption and usage the day it announced the iTunes Music Store in April 2003 and started selling iPods. Without indie deals in place, Apple had already sold 1 million downloads by May 5, 2003 and with very few big indies on board, they sold 25 million downloads by December 2003.
October 10, 2006 MSNBC Money Online announced the Tower Records closure, attributing it to the innovation of the iPod, calling Tower Records a “victim of the iPod era.”
By 2006 January went from being the bleakest month in music sales to a noticeably effective month to market downloads to a digital culture, new iPods in hand.
In 2008 we discovered that digital sales of singles are two-point-five times greater than album sales and the mainstream media falsely reported this as bleak, when. in fact, it is the most promising piece of news since Napster came along and Apple figured out how to solve our problem.
In just 5 years time, with major innovation, Apple utilized history and very quickly brought back a traditional concept: in the transition of analog to digital music we have re-entered a familiar era where albums are ancillary revenue, and a single pays for the production and marketing of the entire album.
In the music industry, the fourth quarter is our quietest time. There’s no point in releasing too much new music, holiday music gets a big push, and best-of lists are under way. The chatter stops. It’s easier to get collaborators, comrades and cohorts on the phone, and just about everyone catches up on lost emails, ideas, or strategies.
What better way to finish off the first decade of the 21st century by leaving us, in our quietest quarter of the year, wondering what will happen in the clouds, and how we will stream our entry into the second decade of the digital age.
You Didn’t Ask: My NONstradamus moment
I’ve learned better than to try and predict Apple’s next moves, but I do hope that this new historical moment in the digital music industry enables me to listen to my cloud based LaLa music around the world. Or at least in Europe, Australia and Japan.
After that, it’s going to be important to have the best recommendation algorithm on the planet. Neither Apple or LaLa have that algorithm. They are both close, but someone else has the patent. If Apple is considering purchases for their music dominance, I think I have an nonstradamus-ish idea of which Bay Area company that could be, don’t you? (hint: sources say they have been in occasional meetings together over the last 3 years, and the holder of the algorithm patent is apple alumni)