After reading what Chris wrote yesterday about the impending revelation/massive-copyright-debacle that is Google Books, I was reminded of a piece I recently read on Wired.com about Google’s forays into digital music.
Wired’s Eliot Van Buskirk (great name, by the way) uses Apple’s recent purchase of Lala as a jumping-off point to discuss the future of Google’s relationship with the music industry. Lala, in addition to offering a broad catalogue of purchasable licensed music, allows users to store their digital record collections on the ubiquitous cloud. Uploaded music can then be streamed by other registered users, fostering a sort of global, mp3-swapping community.
But the key aspect, as Buskirk asserts, is the use of the cloud. Google already owns YouTube, which – now coupled with Sony and Universal Music’s Vevo – has long since surpassed television as the primary channel for music videos. Plus, any Internet-ready smartphone can easily stream songs via YouTube. Are you reading this on your iPhone? Go listen to “Ali in the Jungle” or this crazy Russian song. Why? Because you can. And because Google has the power to give its properties search priority. So when you Google a song, it can put whatever music service it may purchase (or invent) at the top.
Plus, it looks like Google is eyeing Catch Media, whose selling point (like Lala’s) is “the ability to suck a user’s music collection up into the cloud and serve it to them on a multitude of devices.” Couple this with Google’s not-so-secret plan to give us all super-fast Internet access and you’ve got digital music coming out every possible wazoo in nanoseconds.
This all sounds exciting, but I’m not sure if I’m as ready for the cloud as I like to think I am. Call me old-fashioned, but I quite enjoy knowing the physical location of the hard drive on which my music sits. It’s splitting hairs, I know, but at least then I can claim ownership of actual bytes of data as opposed to simply owning thousands of listening licenses, which is exactly what a shift to the cloud would mean. It’s hard to say you own a book on your Kindle. What you actually own is the right to bring up specific lines of text (or recorded sound waves, in the case of music) whenever you want.
Sure, the cloud looks appealing. But until we’re certain what we’re losing by taking flight, I’m happy with my feet firmly planted on digital soil.