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The Future of Digital Music -

The Future of Digital Music

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  • hector, it’s called audio hijack (for mac) that records any stream, on a schedule.
    i have my ibook set to automatically wake up in the morning, record air america’s “morning sedition,” encode it to AAC bookmarkable, and load it up on my iPod.  it’s great.
    thanks for the article.

    posted by: marc · 12/8/04

  • Only alluded to here is the stumbling block of competing interests. There is what users *want* to do, what media companies are willing to allow, and the attempts of equipment manufacturers to juggle both of those. So Tivo for radio? Broadcasters don’t want that; they don’t even want Tivo for TV. Wireless file transfer to your car stereo? Ditto. Starting an internet radio station “to share music with lovers of the same music” - also bad, from the corporate POV.

    All of which means that for the forseeable future, the future of digital music is one of competing formats and balkanization.

    posted by: Andrew · 12/8/04

  • Nice article, but you completely ignored Ogg Vorbis.

    Also, no DRM is better than many DRM formats, and only one format is worse.  DVDs had one protection standard because of their limited hardware and because users weren’t yet aware of the DRM.  DVD’s protection has been cracked, but people still buy DVDs.  With audio, the hardware can do more and there are competing companies (thus competing standards). Even if there were only one standard, people are painfully aware of DRM, so it will never become very popular.  You have the power to realize that just like with DVDs, selling music with effectively no DRM will work - advocate that!  Don’t advocate removing market forces from the equation that chooses which DRM format honest users will use, when they would otherwise choose the lesser of several evils, or maybe even none of them.

    posted by: Tom Felker · 12/8/04

  • Hector: If you want better sound cancellation, then use Shure sound-isolating earphones.

    Andru: DVD is an appalling benchmark for audio file formats. It is explicitly balkanised into 8(?) Regions—meaning you often can’t play Japanese manga, European movies (or oddly enough the TV series Pretender, which is only available in a French edition) without hacking either the DVD or your player.

    posted by: Tim Makinson · 12/8/04

  • The sound-isolating in-ear-monitoring earphones from http://www.hearsafe.de are the choice of many pros. They work on the normal voltage levels and can just be plugged into an Ipod. http://www.sennheiser.com has a real sound compensation earphone system, but I’m not sure about its audiophile qualities.

    posted by: Martin Kretschmar · 12/9/04

  • I think the whole area of wireless streaming has been pretty well ignored in this article. People will want to have access to their music from a number of different devices (home stereo system, car radio, phone etc). They will not want to have multiple copies of their files on different devices.

    It makes sense to store all of your music in a central repository, with the ability to stream it to whatever device you happen to be currently using. This repository could be your own server or, more interestingly, hosted by a music distributor which would allow you to manage your collection and purchase new music. Of course there is no reason to have a boundary between music and video, you could manage your video collection too.

    The bitrate could be dynamically set, again depending on the circumstances. So if you are at home, listening on your state of the art home music centre, you get SACD quality bitrates. If you are on the train with your mobile you get a lower bitrate. Wireless technologies like 3G and its successors will facilitate this flexibility.

    Discussions about 60gb players vs 100gb vs 1000gb players would become irrelevant in the above scenario.


    posted by: davej · 12/9/04

  • Hmmm…
    I think the bigest problem with digital music is proliferation. There’s just too much music out there (already) that it becomes increasingly difficult to wade through everything, looking for something that aligns with your taste.

    The future is an automated genre-classification system, which allows you to rate songs. The salient features of these songs are then analysed, allowing for the construction of an “agent” that can bring you new songs that are similar to those you like, kind of like the “more like these” button on search engines.

    This does *not* require a centralised authority telling you what genre a song belongs to. Instead, every person can have his/her own agent that you train according to your taste.

    One of my students implemented a protoype of this system two years ago, with sufficient success to warrant further investigation.

    posted by: Frans van den Bergh · 12/9/04

  • Dear Andru,

    There will never be an standard DRM format because you cannot make an open standard DRM system. The “best” you can get is a winning propritarey de-facto standard.
    CSS on DVDs is excatly such a de-facto proprietary standard. ... and here’s an example of the problems consumers get from these:
    <a href=“http://news.com.com/Hollywood+allies+sue+DVD+jukebox+maker/2100-1025_3-5482206.html”>http://news.com.com/Hollywood+allies+sue+DVD+jukebox+maker/2100-1025_3-5482206.html</a>

    posted by: Peter Mogensen · 12/9/04

  • “The freedom of a garage band, to record their tracks on a laptop, mix the audio and produce their album. Upload the tracks to a download service and sell their music, send out demos, all without costly studio time.”

    I think this aspec is always completly over-hyped. My friends got a band, and I’ve heard recordings done on a laptop - the quality is bad and the mixing is wrong. So how are they going to record a high-quality, well-mixed album? Pay for studio time, of course.

    When Napster started god-knows-how many years ago we were told there was going to a new wave of bands who record in their home and find fame and massive audiences on the internet, and it didn’t happen. I see nothing in any new developments that is suddenly going to make this true.

    posted by: James · 12/9/04