Not What You Think

I bet you people think I’m going to be posting about Sarah Palin today. I’ve decided to hold off on my comments until I study up on her a little bit. My first impressions leave me pretty excited, but more on that later.

What I want to talk about is the music industry. Note: if you want to get to the “meat” of this post quickly, scroll down to the last few paragraphs.

If you’re an iPhone user, chances are that you’ve already heard about (and downloaded) Pandora Radio. You long-time Last.fm users like myself probably weren’t quite as amazed by it, but it was a nifty little app, and I kept it on my iPhone alongside Last.fm’s app, just because I like a little variety in my geeky little life.

Here’s what Pandora did: suppose you like Willie Nelson and wanted to listen to his music, but you also wanted to listen to other artists that have either a similar sound or at least something in common with Willie (I’m resisting the urge to call him Willie the Doobie Fiend). So you type in “Willie Nelson” into Pandora Radio, and a Willie Nelson song comes up. The next song might be George Jones. The next might be Merle Haggard, and so on.

But say you liked all three guys, but for some RIDICULOUS reason you didn’t like the song “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” If the song ever started, you could either click a thumbs-up button that meant you liked it, so please play it again, or you could click a thumbs-down button that removed it from your playlist forever. Last.fm works on a similar system.

Pandora and Last.fm have become such runaway hits that it has become clear that regular radio, and even satellite radio, is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Talk Radio < Podcasts

Music Radio < Internet Radio + Digital Music

The reason these new mediums are so popular is not just because it’s “cool” to have an iPod, iPhone, or other digital music player. It’s because these devices give us a level of control over what we’re listening to. Music is becoming personalized, as well as talk radio shows.

Rush Limbaugh (die-hard Apple user) was one of the first major radio shows that I know of to offer downloadable podcasts of his shows. Unfortunately you have to be a subscriber to Rush 24/7 to download them while the vast majority of podcasts are free.

So instead of carrying around dozens of CDs in a massive case, I carry thousands of songs in a device that fits in my pocket, makes calls, organizes my calendar and contacts, surfs the web, accesses web radio, syncs with my Evernote data, and generally makes my life a lot more manageable.

So what’s the problem? The RIAA (AKA “Satan”) is doubling the price of streaming media royalty fees (while traditional radio’s remain static), rendering Pandora Radio unprofitable. This is not so that recording artists can make more money; this is so Pandora is forced to shut down. They’re going to have to close their doors soon, and it’s the fault of an army of suits who DON’T understand the digital music revolution, DON’T care about music fans, and DON’T have a clue that the world is changing rapidly and moving past them without looking back.

Napster, the iPod, iTunes Store, and Internet radio were only the first steps in this process. The entire media industry is changing. With faster Internet speeds looming in the not-so-distant-future and people demanding an even greater level of accessibility, convenience, and personalization over their media, the RIAA seems destined to shoot itself in the face.

Also, Kid Rock is a moron. If the record industry begins to demand that people buy entire albums online instead of selecting songs à la carte if they so please, then people are going to be even more up in arms.

That is my rant for the day. I’ve got to get back to work.

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2 thoughts on “Not What You Think

  1. Matthew D. says:

    Without a doubt, Pandora is one of the greatest and most ingenious websites to ever be created.

    My little sister told me I’d get addicted if I’d just try it – didn’t believe her. It happened anyway.

    If and when it shuts down it will be a tragedy.

  2. ryanaustindean says:

    Unless something changes VERY quickly, “if” isn’t even a possibility. It’s a tragedy.

    Last.fm is great for me, but I hate losing competition. Plus, Pandora seems to buffer a bit faster from the little tests I’ve conducted.

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