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We all see the downward trend in compact disc usage. Major recording labels refused from CD manufacturing and the global production gently falls.

But what we have now is the valueless, weightless binary clouds called digital distribution - information in its purest form. I think we are loosing something what always was Additional information, things that help and point our attention along with the sound.

Now, speaking about the music - as digital form becomes predominate alternative, what will be the next physical form of sharing sound if it ever will, what do you think?

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As quality is sacrificed in favour of quantity (mp3's and tiny pplastic earphones) I hope we see a return to concerts and live sound events being the best option for experiencing pure audio. Social events opposed to elitist collections. It used to be that if you could hear music and you traced it to its source you would find a musician or a musical instrument. Now you nearly always find a speaker.

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I think there are two basic near to medium term answers:

1)

music alone will move mostly to cloud based streaming anywhere type storage - meaning basically you're not going to have anything physical at all. Pandora, last fm, and others already do this, and Google, Amazon, Apple et all are making major moves in that direction as well.

Artists and labels will utilize the new infrastructure to get the songs out, then monetize them after gaining popularity by touring and selling licensing rights. CD sales really won't work as revenue generators for much longer.

2)

Music that requires physical media will still not really have physical media, but will instead move more towards tying itself to visual media. The proliferation of DSLR video, the quicker easier tools to create animation, and the explosion of inexpensive and good looking video production will force artists to differentiate the songs they really want to push by adding video content. Video or otherwise visual content is also the only way listeners will sit and take in music as works of art anymore, because people just won't sit and put on a record to hear it play.


both of those elements are already the present, but in the near and medium term they will just further cement themselves as the absolute norm. Further out than that is completely unpredictable IMO.

I'd guess that interactive elements would come further into play, but I have no idea how.

  • Nice insights. And I totally agree. – EMV May 16 '11 at 18:32
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I'm going into philosophical mode here...

Are music and sound in their essence not intangible things?

You can't hold it, own it or touch it. It is the carrier of a recording of that music or sound that is the tangible part, and this has been defined by technological constraints.

Then, the recording industry added value and desirability to the tangible carrier by supplementing it with visual artwork and a nice casing. That worked very well, because that made the carrier a collectible, something that has a function even when the music is not played: some people put their favourite records on display, as decoration.

But if you think about it, now that the carrier becomes intangible, the music itself doesn't lose any value. The act of physically browsing through your tangible music collection might disappear over time, but new forms like the gesture controlled browsing on an ipod/ipad will become the new equivalents I think.

  • simple truth you have said is undeniable - sound is intangible. But it was always accompanied by supplementary object that carry music, share, illustrate and depict. For instance notes were a part of music and music experience... – Pretaeperon May 16 '11 at 14:24
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There will be more file formats developed for streaming or downloading, but can't see any new dedicated sound carriers being developed. There will likely just be advances in general-purpose physical memory.

Vinyl will probably outlive CDs as a niche market, and people will experiment with objects which promote and enable linking to music data, like something with a QR code printed on it that can be handed out.

I miss the excitement of LPs and 7" singles and the culture of the record shop. They were a great platform for artwork and there's something about the way they age and acquire their patina of creases and scratches which is very appealing.

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what will be the next physical form of sharing sound if it ever will, what do you think?

It will be the same as for other data, just as CD and analog formats (to a certain extent) were. There's already Digipak, which although is almost the same as "a CD". But apart from that, USB sticks or flash memory cards or just distribution over a network, just like any other data and media. Or it could be vinyl for some, because it has seen growing sales.

But what we have now is the valueless, weightless binary clouds called digital distribution - information in its purest form. I think we are loosing something what always was Additional information, things that help and point our attention along with the sound.

Well, you could view it that way, but I think that's just being nostalgic (i.e. having an opinion that the previous formats were "better for the art"). Although, as mentioned, vinyl sales have been increasing. But as for digital distribution being valueless, nope, think for example about social platforms like last.fm or Spotify. The main distribution is very closely linked to those, because those kinds of social networks do generate value for many music listeners. As for other "more individual" channels and/or more personal, artistic takes on distribution, one can go pretty wild with web technology or even stand-alone software, if one wishes to, like creating an interactive album of some sort that adds some kind of visual and interactive elements to the music. Although sadly multimedia may not and isn't meant to fit all types of music. I don't see why music albums couldn't be distributed for example as websites and links though.

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Try and support the FLAC format where possible. Physical media probably isn't going to make a big comeback. Also, buying used CD's is both cheaper and sounds better than iTunes compressed downloads.

  • 1
    +1 supporting FLAC as a music consumer, because that format isn't really being favored by businessmen, because it's license-free and not tied to some proprietary music players. – Internet Human Dec 26 '12 at 13:17
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I own two of the first FM3 Buddha Machines and they are an interesting means of distributing music - by default the listener is engaged in a form on interaction with them: choosing the loops that play, positioning the devices in acoustic space etc... As a viable & interesting medium how could they be improved? Better fidelity and the ability to transfer new soundsets to them would be a start. And if it was an open platform, other artists could publish music sets for them...

http://www.fm3buddhamachine.com/

  • thats the way im thinking about this now - some flash device with unique design but simple structure – Pretaeperon May 16 '11 at 14:12
  • Oh, you mean like a Playbutton? playbutton.com/pages/faq The only difference is they don't come with a speaker, but nowadays you can just buy one of those Moshi BassBurgers or whatever. Probably comparable quality to the FM3. – pointy stumps Dec 27 '12 at 21:48
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Any material packaging or delivery method will need to add value to the audio content. Many reissued albums add value from their liner notes: Why this artist is historically important, their biography, who they played with, and so on. Some liner notes are now actually small books. Some artists have fun with it: Kid Koala's "12 Bit Blues" CD comes with a DIY cardboard turntable! Sometimes the material object is important in the aesthetic of the act, band, or artist. The advantage of a physical artifact is that it can encapsulate a lot into one focused experience, unlike a bunch of MP3's and a PDF booklet and a vanity website...but, to Rene's point, the younger generation might not have the patience for that.

But is that a fallacy? Will the simple fact that MP3's (or their future replacements) are so easy to hear, trade, and swap create demand for richer experiences? Will people start to realize that rich Web experiences are possibly more expensive than printing a gorgeous booklet, and isn't portable to all devices at all times (given URLs' dependence on internet connectivity)? Will albums come in decoder rings or some other weird artifact? Portability of the music experience will probably trump everything, which is why cassettes gained popularity, as did MP3 files a generation later. But that doesn't preclude a "mothership" container of some sort, whether it has higher-fidelity audio material or a bunch of extra content, or both. (Which the vinyl LP is still great at today.)

There will always be a hardcore group of listeners who crave something more, whether it's reinterpretations (visuals, videos, live shows) or context (liner notes, stories, etc.). Whether these things come in boxes we buy or virtual collections of media is a question I don't think anyone can answer. I suspect these things are cyclical, like many trends, but each cycle mutates a bit, so I'm excited to see where artists and performers go to further engage with their fans.

Who hopefully value their work enough to BUY SOMETHING...

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