Is Cloud Computing the Future of Music?


I received an email over the weekend asking my thoughts on this blog post, in which the author predicts that along with your operating system and your software, your music collection will soon be housed entirely online – somewhere in ‘the cloud‘.

The idea is essentially that with increased download speeds, bandwidth capacity and online storage, there will be no need to ‘own’ music. Everything you want will just be available to listen to, presumably for a monthly fee.

According to the post:

You’ll no longer store your music files on a hard drive or flash drive but rather in a cloud of servers scattered around the world. Your net-devices will access your library collection wirelessly, streaming from remote servers. Exchange your Notebook for a Netbook because you’ll no longer think about downloading music files to your computer… you won’t need a massive storage system anymore.

I’m sorry – but why are we still having this nonsensical conversation?


Has music been devalued?

About eight months ago, possibly a bit longer, I heard the phrase “music has been devalued” for the first time. At the time, I thought “what an odd thing to say” – and gave it very little more thought. But then it popped up again, and this time with more certainty about it.

Before long, I was starting to get questions that started with the phrase “Now that music has been devalued…” and suddenly it was a fait accompli. Now, it’s a presupposition that seems to underpin every conversation I end up in these days.

Music has been devalued. It’s just what’s happened as a result of mp3s, free downloads, file sharing and ease of access to music. Right?

Is it just me – or does that sound like complete nonsense to you too?


What should I do with all these tapes?


If you’ve been doing music a while, you’ll find that you have somewhere about your house, boxes of cassette tapes and quarter-inch reels full of jam sessions, recorded gigs, experiments, “demo” recordings, band practices and other bits and pieces of your music-related outpourings.

Generally speaking, most people consider these too good to throw away, and not good enough to let anyone else hear them. Either the performances were off, the sound quality was awful, the singer was dire on that session, it was a slightly different line-up of the band, you were still learning your instrument, you were just mucking around… or whatever.

Digitise it. Digitise it all.


Like an e-book only shorter

Still true

A while back, I released an e-book called The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online. Some people seemed to like it, and I’ve started on a new book tentatively called 100 Questions I Keep Getting Asked About Music Online.

But completion seems a way off. At my current rate of progress, we’re talking end of August — maybe mid-September.

But the e-book seems a good idea, and people seem to like downloading them and sending them to each other. So, just as an experiment, I’ve compiled a short PDF e-book based on a series of blog posts I did last year about things that haven’t changed as a result of the internet.

This one features a much smaller number in the title.


100 Things

This conversation is responsible for my next book

Sometimes speculative public funding works. Friends of mine went to South By Southwest Interactive. They’re smart people, they’re from Birmingham, and the idea was that they would bring back new perspectives and new technologies that would help the creative and economic wellbeing of the city as a whole. As far as I’m concerned, this was a resounding success.

Yesterday, they met up to chat about what they’d learned from it – and they put it online, live, as they chatted. I saw it after the fact, as you can here. Sadly, three of the six participants spend most of the time off-camera – but even so, I actually found this inspiring.

And here’s the important bit: I’m actually going to do try and do something interesting because this happened.


What is this internet thing?

I’ve made the observation in the past that the internet can be thought of as being like electricity, and all of the different things that can plug into it are like appliances. Web browsers, email software, instant messengers, media players and so on.

I’ve also made the observation that quite a lot of the time, when we use the one of these things – say, the web – to do online music, the effect is a bit like trying to dry your hair with a toaster. It’ll do the job, but it feels like there’s probably a better way to approach this.

So now that we’ve got that idea lodged in your head, let’s talk about the actual characteristics of the internet. Which means that we also need to talk about the characteristics of digital media generally. And to do that, let me tell you about the next generation of my own family.