The emergence of yet another audio delivery technology now has the music industry looking for ways to reinvent themselves again. First it was the availability of FM radio combined with hi-fidelity audio cassette tapes that threatened to destroy the music industry. This was followed soon after by the Compact Disc (CD) and now the proliferation of computer audio files (MP3/WMA).
Consumers don’t need yet another format, but the ability to copy music to a portable media device like an iPod is extremely convenient. The music industry should embrace this paradigm shift and begin offering access to music using a licensed ownership scheme.
Rather than purchase music in the store, give me the option to purchase a license to a song. When this purchase is executed, my Music License Card is credited with the license and I can then go online to any number of providers and download MP3 or WMA files for these songs. It is also possible to visit a music store and purchase a copy of the songs on the media of my choice (CD, DVD, SACD). Certainly, these transactions can be executed simultaniously for me when buying music at a popular vendor; however, in all cases the Music License Card is required to establish access to the entertainment content being purchased.
What does this mean? It means when my CD collection is outdated by another format it is possible to upgrade to this new format by purchasing the media and getting my music onto it. It also provides the level of flexibility needed in a digital world, where my Music License Card can be registered on my home PC and my PVR to provide digital music content in either location.
Licenses can be grandfathered based on current media ownership. If you own a CD and would like a license to the music on that disc, simply return the disc to the publisher and your account will be credited with a license based on the content of the media.
The iPod has taught consumers that music is not the media itself but the content. Songs sound as good on the iPod as they do on the computer, a USB thumb drive at work or from my CD player in the stereo at home. Providing a licensing strategy that will give consumers the flexibility to explore their favorite songs on a wide variety of media is paramount to the survival of the record company.