Monday, 26 January 2009

It's raining tunes:

Cloud-based computing is all the rage right now. Google's rumoured GDrive, cloud-based media content sites like Soundcloud, etc - everything is geared up to being available 'out there' on a cloud somewhere, rather than physically existing in your home or even on your hard drive.

How would you feel about a scenario where every single piece of music ever made, was made available for streaming from a cloud at MP3 quality with the option to download?

Streaming rights (your own personal radio station basically) would be subscription fee-based. All subscription income would go directly to the cloud provider (a very large company like Google or Apple - somebody who can handle that kind of traffic and data storage).

This income would then be used to cover the expenses of maintaining the cloud, plus a small handling fee as incentive for providing such a service. Any remaining income would then go to the owners of copyright (a label or an individual), the publishers and the artists.

Every stream would be logged and revenue shared upon a % of total stream traffic for that month. To qualify, a time point would have to be reached for a stream to be logged - perhaps two-thirds of the track. Tracks streamed for less would not count towards the stream traffic and no income generated. 

Subscribers would be limited to the number of plays per month for a particular track. This would prevent misuse by record label employees, artists or "street teams" who might try to boost the "stream count" artificially. The limited number of plays per month, the time point at which a track qualifies towards the stream traffic count and the monthly subscription fee must be carefully correlated to make any artificial attempts at boosting streams unprofitable.

The cloud-provider would then charge for downloads in addition to the subscription rate. The download option would be price structured for different formats. Three different prices for MP3, 16 bit or 24 bit quality. All of this revenue would then be divided between copyright holder, publisher and artist.

Weekly charts would be based upon downloads only.

The user would effectively have the world's largest record library to select from. Stream a track to see if you like it. If you don't like it and turn it off before two-thirds has elapsed, then no revenue is generated for that track. If you do like it and play more than two-thirds, but don't like it enough to download, then at least the rights holders and artist will see some revenue. If you like it enough to download for unlimited playback, then you pay extra - depending on what quality you prefer - and all of that revenue goes towards the respective owners.

Social networks of the kind already building up around streamed music content and "DJ's" (such as Blip.FM) can easily be built around such a service. Rather than playing tracks on radio and having to worry about playlists, demographics of listenership, station politics, pressure from pluggers, etc - you could have "followers" who would become your "audience" - turn up to your gigs, or listen in to your radio shows based upon your recommendations of streaming/download history. Conversely, subscribers can follow DJ's who they know have similar music tastes and can recommend tracks or point them in the right direction.

Will it be "raining songs" or is my roughly sketched vision of the ultimate music service just "pie in the sky"? How will file-sharing and piracy affect such a model? Is iTunes a better model?

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