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November 19, 2003
The End of the Beginning: The Death of MP3.com
Instapundit, aka mild-mannered law professor Glenn Reynolds, laments the death of MP3.com on Tech Central Station (Death of a Friend). I too, lament the death of MP3.com and the threat it posed to the distribution oligopolies of the extant recording companies. However, I'm not nearly as pessimistic as Prof. Reynolds about the possibilities for online music.
Reynolds notes that MP3.com might simply have been a "false dawn." I agree. We have not yet seen the full range of possibilities for the distribution of music, just as the first wave of internet home pages did not obviously indicate the path to the current blog renaissance. When people can share playlists and collaborative filtering creates automated radio channels (automatically downloading songs to your device), and the technology is transparent and ubiquitous, then we will have a better idea of where music distribution will wind up. I don't want to go to a website to find alternative and independent artists. I want to listen to cool radio stations (run by people or algorithms I trust) that will introduce me to great music that I can immediately save for later listening. Until then, we are stuck in a world in which proprietary systems clash with each other in a (hopefully) futile attempt to control citizens, consumers and producers.
See also, Derek Slater's questions about control over distribution technologies (Sony, Napster, and the Subtler Problems with a Redesign Rule for Copyright Liability).
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