This morning Nashville’s Tennessean assesses the impact that the new Google music service — revealed yesterday but not to be officially announced until next week — will have on the crumbling ruins of Music City’s most visible industry:
The news comes as music CD sales have tumbled dramatically over the past decade. Sales of digital downloads have not made up for the revenue loss.
But Nashville area record label executives, along with those in the creative side of the industry, said Google’s initiative could help them reach more listeners — and sell more music
It’s hard to explain to people who’ve built their livelihoods on the concept of “selling music” that their business model is going away completely. It’s hard to drill into their heads the idea that the shift from “ownership” to “access” virtually obsolesces the whole idea of “selling” music.
So Music Row types who are reading the Tennessean this morning are probably reaching for their pitchforks when they read a quote from a certain blogger re: the ultimate future of digital music delivery, in which the Google move is just more step in the inexorable direction:
“I’m worried that we are on the threshold of a time when the
remunerative value of music is zero,” said Nashville writer and
entrepreneur Paul Schatzkin, whose Celestial Jukebox blog focuses on digital music.
“Your browser is becoming your iPod,” Schatzkin said. “There is a behavioral
shift afoot where consumers are getting accustomed to the concept of
access to an infinite universe of music versus ownership of a limited
Elsewhere, the tech blog Ars Technica weighs in, confirming yesterday’s report that the service on Google is only going to offer “snippets,” not the full “first time for free” stream that Lala.com users get:
According to insiders speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the music will come in the form of free, embedded streams from either Lala.com or iLike.com.
Those who are interested in buying the music will be able to do so from
either of those two sites—iLike allows users to buy unprotected MP3s
directly but also provides a link to iTunes, while Lala only sells the
unprotected MP3 with no other direct links….
Some leaked screenshots allegedly of the new service are available at TechCrunch,
showing that users won’t be able to listen to an entire song from
Google’s search results, but rather just a snippet. Realistically, this
makes sense—most searchers want to confirm that they found what they
were searching for, and then click through to buy or browse through
Agreed, that is the only reason a 30-second snippet of music ever makes sense — when I’ve already heard something somewhere else, and want to confirm that that’s the track I’m looking for.
Ars Technica tries to make the case that Google Music (or Audio, or whatever its called) is not a “game changer” for music delivery, but I wonder if they’re missing the point. Maybe “incremental game changer” is an oxymoron, but that’s what this is — another step in the arrival of the Celestial Jukebox.
Granted, I’m not an objective observer on this subject, but I can’t help but think that the big winner in this is not Google — and certainly not the calcified Luddites on Music Row — but Lala.com, and, by extension, the music audience.
The link through Google search will bring more people to Lala.com, where many will discover for the first time the marvel of unrestricted access to an virtually infinite library of music (if it’s more than you can listen to in a lifetime, that might qualify as “infinite”). Then they’ll start shelling out that dime-a-track to listen to things they like again; once that happens, they’re hooked on the “access” model, and Music Row will never again be able to sell (at least those people) encoded plastic wafers for $15 a pop.