Thursday, 5 July 2012

Well, er, this is embarassing!

"Whatever happened to your blog"? People do ask me. Or if they really were hardened fans, "Whatever happened to The Brew"?

As the final post simply stated - I ran out of juice. Juice being time, not ideas or a desire to communicate via the written word and the wonders of the modern publishing platform that is ones blog.

And yes I know, I never did launch 'Culture, Content' - but you never know. And watch out for 'What's For Breakfast' because I might launch that one day too - a mix of cod philosophy, popular culture, business gems and breakfast recipes. Ah, interested aren't ya?

Anyhow for the time being - if you do want to read me, catch me occasionally on Music Tank's blog, or Mark Mulligan's Music Industry Blog - or in the pages of other accomplished Music Industry thought-leader publications.

If you want to reach me or know what I'm up to well, you can catch me at The BPI where I am running ever more adventurous projects (wish me luck and come get involved!), or via Henley Management School where the Music Business MBA will soon launch, featuring my Innovation Pathway! Or via Par Equity re music investment ideas and ventures.

If it's Insights and Strategy your after and you are wondering how or why you haven't seen any thought provoking or ground-breaking insights from your team for a while, then also, get in touch as I might have an idea or two on that.

I will, in all honesty, be back on a blog somewhere very soon.

Best

Keith

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Signing Off

Well, that's all folks!

As previously indicated, this blog is now kaput, ya!

I have written about 3 clever posts for the grand finale - something about Sky Atlantic and why TV content can be traded so much more valuably than music - a post about my 30 years of record buying (like Ian Rogers did on his blog) - and a really nice essay on Death Cab For Cutie. I also did a really good 'tag cloud' graphic about who was my favourite artist and when (I've always had a current running favourite). It all started with Queen and for the last 10+ years has been about me finding any number of substitutes for Radiohead. I might even post that one as an epilogue.

However - I couldn't get the damn things finished. It's all down to pressure of time. Time closing in like day changing to evening to night. Don't worry I'm not about to disappear completely - I'll be back with my new blog 'Culture Content' (about popular culture and how it seamlessy blends with our lives and teaches us how to live, maybe) soon. I'll notify you where to find this unique gem of a publication in due course.

You'll still come across me working in music too, via the continued excellence of the BPI Innovation Panel, or my other digital strategy projects and my pet project - the UK's first ever Music Film Festival - which I'm launching next year with some very cool partners. It will be great.

You won't see me at conferences though, I don't do those.

But as to the JB, it's done. I'm sorry I didn't get around to the post about ECM, Nonesuch, Coffee and music and Merz (who didn't release his album in time). But I can always do a special one-off - like a culled TV series.

The blog posts here - all 70 of them - will stay of course, for posterity. The stats weird me out anyhow. Yesterday for some reason there was 103 page views, so you never know how & when the blog or any particular post gets around. Besides I know it has won accolades in academic circles, which is both puzzling and flattering. So it will stay as an archive - even though that seems anathema for a weblog.

Stats wise this blog did okay. If you subscribed by e-mail - at its peak - you were one among circa 600 or so, and the page views would occasionally rocket if it got covered in any one of the (excellent) music publications - Record of the Day, MusicAlly - or the bigger ones like Wired, Billboard, Music Week etc. The profile views stand at 2292 - is that good? I dunno. But special thanks to other blogs that linked through - like Coolfer before it wound up, Mark Mulligan's still good Music Industry Blog and TMV.

Most of all thanks for reading - and to all those artists, managers, execs and others just interested - who e-mailed or got in touch as a result of something I wrote - big love - appreciate you 'reaching out' so to speak.

Music is the best thing apart from my wife & daughters and I'll continue to do everything in my power to get the message out about who I'm listening to, why and why you should too.

If all else fails, give Songs From The Big Chair another listen...bonjour!

Monday, 21 March 2011

P-P-P Penultimate Post about Penguins!

This is the penultimate post on the JB blog and was published as the op-ed in last week's UK Record of the Day...on music industry and leadership...enjoy and I will be back with the last ever post soonish...thanks for reading!
Music’s future might not be black & white but we need to be more adaptable Penguins...
In John Kotter’s management ‘fable’, “Our Iceberg is Melting”, a small but visionary team of penguins club together to figure out a future for their colony.

In the fable, the central problem is the threat to the colony’s future (that their environment is slowly melting around them) is hard to spot, harder to define and measure, and even harder to describe in a way the rest of the colony understands. The leader penguins have to put together a compelling story and plan such that the whole colony is spurred into collective action.

Effectively what the penguin leaders did was take a melting iceberg, and turn it into a burning platform. If ever we – the collective ‘music industry' – needed such a trick it would be now.

Ten years into our digital revolution we have been both the misfortunate lab rats of the content world but also to some extent, the lucky ones. Despite the doom mongers, music has actually done better than expected over the past decade. Yes, all the traditional commercial markers have steadily been reduced, but the industry is still intact. There’s a melting iceberg for certain, but no one has set the platform on fire, yet.

In the policy-making arena, music is such a central plank in our creative industries that its collective voice – better filtered and louder now than I can remember – is still listened to and hopefully, being heard. But the competition is bigger, slicker and richer. Tech is even giving music a run for its money in the celebrity superstar stakes these days. Has technology actually become ‘sexier’ than music and entertainment? How did we let that happen?

Commercially the mainstream industry – both the creators and it’s ‘majors’ rights-holders - have been lucky to have been surrounded by so many smart and willing small innovators. But, at the same time, there’s a sense of the ants eating away at the picnic as these small scale, ‘DIY’ operators and maverick start-ups build businesses (sometimes on the central assumption of music value-meter set to zero) that can function on skinny cost bases and ludicrously challenging business models – like free.

Just what future does a commercial music sector have in this kind of environment? While the problem definition for the commercial music business is more visible and widely recognised than than Kotter’s penguin colony – there’s still a sense of entrenchment – a lack of adaptation or ability to transform.

Just how can leaders make the difference to music’s future?

The Music Leader’s Development Network (MLDN) was put together by UK Music in July 2010 and was funded by the Cultural Leadership Programme. We have met regularly to discuss leadership, networking and skills issues in the industry, under topic headings including ‘collaboration’, ‘leading in dramatically changing markets’ and ‘Leadership learning and sustainability’. These sessions (which have been professionally facilitated by leadership coaches) have been supported by individual leadership coaching which all the participants have found highly valuable.

During the course of our discussions we identified a number of specific areas in which our industry has a clear need for more structured leadership, learning and skills development including:

• Commercial partnerships - greater links between large and small commerce – between licensors and innovators/entrepreneurs – and between the publicly funded and commercial sectors - to help bring on the next generation of music services

• Regional and national links - greater collaboration between regional music networks and initiatives and the music industry hub of London

• Mentoring – establishing more formal and informal opportunities for young and middle-manager high potential leaders to meet and receive mentoring from senior industry leaders

• Collaboration - more collaborative working and communication between the various music business sectors such as live, recording, publishing and media - so that artist projects can be maximised across the piece

We identified and acknowledged both existing and new initiatives being run in these areas – the BPI’s Innovation Panel in commercial partnerships, the range of projects being run by regional music development agencies Bristol Music Foundation, Generator and others. Also, the grass roots genre driven initiatives being run by Urban Development and PRS Foundation and new initiatives more specifically focused on education and skills such as the Creative Industries Council.

There’s more leadership and skills development in this industry than meets the eye – but much of it needs to be better networked and maximised – something UK Music wants to lend its support to in the future.

It’s not so easy to answer how directly influential leaders can be in an industry that is shifting so fast. The music industry’s leaders are perhaps more capable than they are sometimes given credit. They have been staunch protectors of the core of the business – artists, copyright and distribution (defensive yes, but vital also), savvy commercial operators and ultimately more successful than any new entrants at sourcing and marketing talent – with the current creative crop as good as I can remember at any time in my ten years working in the music industry.

But, can these and the next generation of industry leaders get better at collaboration, partnership, openness, transparency and clarity of vision? How will music’s leaders share a stage with the current crop of superstar executives running tech? What should our ground-breaking innovative story be on TED this week?

It might be that we can focus our leadership beyond protection and crisis management to a more confident and visionary position where the music industry tears up the ground. For example, can we build business inspiration on our understanding of risk-taking and hit-making (skills most digital industries especially consumer technology, now desperately need)? Can we take advantage of the changing environment better like current music innovators Radiohead have done?

In the end Kotter’s penguin colony didn’t just find another iceberg but realised they had to cope with an ever-changing environment and so they became nomadic – always prepared to up sticks and move on. Some of the industries more innovative artists are beginning to behave this way – shifting between formats and projects, even between different bands and creative disciplines – in order to express themselves and keep their audiences engaged. It’s a habit industry leaders must somehow learn to develop and also scale on an industry level.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

MIDEM, Music Ubiquity and Neil Young

As announced, the JB blog is winding down, but I could hardly come back from four days in Cannes without comment now could I?

The sun was out and a cool (too cool?) breeze blew in and the talk was all about The Cloud, this app and that app. The old hands were telling me how much it’s all changed and I can imagine it has, though I’ve nothing to compare it to, having never been.

The Palais des Festivals was certainly crawling with ‘kids’ – young app developers, programmers and more than a few shiny toothed or oily-skinned entrepreneurs. In fact, 155 start-ups attended, with almost everyone I spoke to under the age of 30 on ‘AUTOPITCH’, even in a social setting when it was probably better to switch off and just chill.

It felt to me like being stuck in a bubble techno world a la ‘Logan’s Run’ – and I had the feeling that somewhere out there was a real world – a sanctuary – probably with a lovely independent record shop with friendly, informed staff selling beautifully packaged CDs and LPs. Ha! All I could find was a rather depressing FNAC store on the Rue Antibes – oh well. The contrast was telling.

I have to admit doing nothing more than breezing in and out of MidemNet, the theme of which was ‘Music Ubiquity’ (they pitched it like it was a good thing). Of the various visionary’s I only caught Terry McBride giving his five minutes – in which he chose to impart a gloomy warning about a black cloud coming – some kid in Russia coding the next music killer – and so we’d all better get our act together.

It was hard to argue with when placed in a historical context, but that was part of the problem with MIDEM. It was all so focused on the future and The Cloud that I was left with an empty feeling we weren’t making the most of ‘now’.

All We Need Is Now – even Duran Duran have realised that!

With The Cloud so ominous, Sony’s Music Unlimited grabbed the moment to be the ‘talk of MIDEM’ – though apart from the optimism of Sony’s own Press Conference, the general vibe on Music Unlimited’s chances of success were muted at best. Those in the know about such things and those who’ve watched the market for a long time were sceptical.

The Cloud is somewhat intoxicating, seductive – like a lot of what the technologists tell us about the way we’ll consume music. Mark Mulligan’s brief talk at MidemNet underlined the message from the consumer perspective at least – highlighting the fact that 12-15 year olds only really know of a connected, ephemeral relationship with music – nothing tactile, permanent, collected.

Mobile was big news and generally positive at last, with apps for this and that – for everything almost. These ranged from the ingenious to the irrelevant. I liked the look of City Sounds and the Discovr service by Jammbox (though I've previously doubted whether consumers will pay for pure discovery, without a track allowance thrown in). I was pleased too, to see Shuffler.fm win some award – what a great innovation that is. If only its links could be to high quality audio and video. 

I know it’s a trade show, but MIDEM gave me the feeling that music is going all ‘B2B’ – being traded as a commodity – bait to reel in more consumers, flog more bandwidth, more devices and soak up more attention.

I heard not once the term ‘willingness to pay’ – that seemed an irrelevance in the trading world, despite the consumer being the most essential end of the value chain (aside from the creators at the other).

It’s a convenient panacea, the cloud. It’s something I contemplated as I jogged along the marinas and promenades – passing the yellow parasols that made me pine for Neil Young’s ‘On The Beach’ – an album I frustratingly didn’t have on my iPod.

So, in future situations maybe I don’t need to worry about that happening again. I can just call up Neil’s masterpiece from the cloud and pray it works, for the money I’ll pay for the pleasure. It seems like a tricky formula to me.

After I’d given my talk at the MidemNet Academy on Tuesday (Make These Innovations Work – Now!) I wandered out for one last look out along the bay and I bumped into Evan Stein from Decibel, which was fortunate serendipity as we’d meant to hook up.

One last beer in good company it was then (apart from the airport where it was more serendipity, more beer). We talked about what we’d seen & heard and of the future, but mostly of music. Evan is a thinking man’s thinker, so I asked him what he thought about the cloud and my theory that it almost looks too good to be true. “If we don't consider why we are using it, our problems could end up in the cloud too” was his answer. Great insight.

The person I’d really like to ask is Neil Young. “So, Neil is the Sky really about to Rain”? I wonder if he’d tell us were all just pissing in the wind.

Monday, 10 January 2011

2011 Placeholder

Hello and Happy New Year to all the Juggernaut Brew 'reader community'.

Well - the news is I've decided to take a 'hiatus' from the blog for the time being - hope you don't mind.

It's been a real pleasure running the blog - for some 2.5 years now - and I'm really proud of what it has achieved. A special thanks to all who have re-published, linked, syndicated and tweeted etc. as well as all those who have e-mailed me directly to share thoughts, music and discuss your ventures in music. The google stats still indicate there are some 600 or so of you subscribing by e-mail so thanks for sticking with me even as the posts became somewhat infrequent last year!

I've got plenty of thoughts to share and I really want to continue writing so I'll never say never, but pressure of time has scuppered JB for the present...

I'll be dedicating some of my time and resource to the music industry as ever though in 2011, starting this coming weekend with a panel appearance at the 25th Eurosonic Noorderslag in Gronland, Netherlands. I'll be doing the session entitled 'A Digital Music Journey' which takes place Saturday 15th at 12.30, hosted by the NVPI. Don't miss that if you happen to be there.

I'm looking forward to the re-convening of the BPI's Innovation Panel again this year - do look out for our progress there.

I'll be at MIDEM too, for the very first time. I'll be running a session for the MIDEM Academy on Tuesday 25th January at 4.30 - entitled Process, Dialogue, Understanding and Progress - an innovation process for digital music. Come along to take part and say hello if you are attending. Or do the same at my mentoring session for the Academy on Monday 24th at 4pm in which I'll be discussing how music can maintain its commercial value in the digital age. Again, please attend if you are lucky enough to be in Cannes.

Meantime, I am involved with a couple of digital business initiatives in other sectors too and looking to transfer learnings and experiences to and from music wherever possible.

Don't worry I'll be back...don't know when, how or where, but I'll be back!

Finally, I noticed today that according to a programme of research at McGill University in Montreal Canada, music evokes the same feelings as food or drugs - a notable change in dopamine levels. Now I know what drives my addiction to music - as fuel - an energy source - affirmation. It's all worth it in the end. http://www.mni.mcgill.ca/media/news/item/?item_id=170538

Best to all and thanks for reading.

K

Saturday, 18 December 2010

2010 Closes Out – Mojo Working Again

I recently wrote about a spell of boredom with music. What was I thinking? Whatever it was that cursed my ears is long gone now, thankfully. The salve as such, was multi-faceted.

I did try the usual digital digging. As an indie fan – especially of a US tinge – these are heady days for music obsessives. I flit around Daytrotter, the Amoeba records site, Pitchfork, The Sixty One et al. I even recently signed up for the track-a-day services (great idea) from RCRD Label and Track-in-a-box.

But it wasn’t these that really cracked it (even though the Foal’s session on Daytrotter finally inspired me to possess a copy of the excellent ‘Total Life Forever’). In the end a combo of live experience and lateral thinking is what did it really. I recommend these solutions if you ever find yourself uninspired by your no doubt huge music library:

Find a New Favourite Band: it’s The Walkmen for me, taking the mantle from oh I dunno, Spoon probably. Their ‘Lisbon’ album is superb. A rich listening experience that grows and grows.

Find a new favourite instrument: for me it’s a horn section. Have you noticed how horn arrangements have crept into rock and pop this year? The National’s ‘High Violet’ and the above ‘Lisbon’ are great examples. Also, hear The Tindersticks ‘Falling Down A Mountain’.

Try something different: Working my way the Believer’s 2010 Music Issue sampler (curated by Chuck Lightning) was a delight. I never knew I liked R&B so much. Then again I enjoyed Janelle Monae’s ‘Arch Android’ and Erika Badu’s ‘New Amerika Part II’ as much as most things I heard through this year. Don’t forget the alternatives to your anchor genres: seeing Curios perform at the Take Five Jazz Festival (supported by none other than the PRS Foundation!) reminded me of the fact that I’ve neglected my once beloved Piano Trio jazz – have I got time to look back at what I’ve missed on ECM this year? Probably not!

Go see live music: Ah – the highlight of the year – Spoon! At last – here in the UK at the o2 Empire in Shepherds Bush. Punchiest, most muscular gig opening of the year. How to make a statement. Actually, gig openings fascinate me, but that’s another subject for another blog. Wilco’s ‘cartoon style’ opening at the RFH took the biscuit – best ever. But The National walking out to a track from Neil Young’s ‘On The Beach’ was just laid-back, ultra-cool class.

Old favourites: I don’t mind admitting going back to the catalogue when I need to. And I didn’t regret for a minute buying expensive tickets to take my wife to see Aha at Wembley. It made me realise a) how good they really are and b) great pop connects with you more deeply during ‘your decade’ than it ever will again – and I’m a child of the eighties and proud of it. Also, Aha just sounded fantastic. It’s all over now finally, but considering their two biggest hits were their first two singles, 25 years of hanging on in there, if barely sometimes – isn’t too shabby.

Re-discover your inner muso-nerd: Spoon’s bassist. The National’s drummer (or Porcupine Tree’s drummer!). The Walkmen’s guitar sound. Or David Hidalgo’s (of Los Lobos) virtuoso playing on their recent record. I love picking out instrumental performances – it’s nerdy but part of what being a music fan is all about.

So there you go. Six ways to re-discover your mojo should you lose it – and not a Facebook Like, iTunes Ping or even a Google search among ‘em! Maybe I’m a traditional music fan at heart.

As for 2010 I couldn’t possibly rank a list, it’s been a richer vintage than I can remember for a long time. I loved the Gorillaz ‘Plastic Beach’ and the musical moment of the year might have been my 3-year old daughter singing along to ‘Broken’. She’s graduated from nursery rhymes in style. Mind you, as a Yo Gabba Gabba fan – my toddler has introduced me to more music than vice versa this year. It’s alternative music television at its best.

I was thrilled ‘Dark Night of The Soul’ got a proper release and I loved I Am Kloot’s ‘The Sky At Night’ and have introduced that album to more than a few friends. It goes without saying I loved Spoon’s Transference - another high water mark for the world’s most critically revered rock band (it’s a fact – right there on Metacritic.com). The Local Native’s ‘Gorilla Manor’ gets better as it beds in and my year got off to a great start thanks to Vampire Weekend’s ‘Contra’ - which it was in name and nature – summery music that warmed up my ears in the cold snap of winter.

But bands wise, the year’s best for me has to be ‘High Violet’. It grows and grows with each and every listen. Superb songs, poetic lyrics, fantastic playing and brilliant arrangements. It’s the best indie rock album I’ve heard in years and the one I’ve played the most in 2010.

Individual performers made some great song-centred records. I really liked Ed Harcourt’s ‘Lustre’, Laura Marling’s ‘I Speak Because I Can’ and although I came late to it, Sufjan Steven’s ‘The Age of Adz’ – though the latter made me pine somewhat for the return of Merz. And why didn’t any ‘best of’ lists feature Laura Viers? Was it because ‘July Flame’ came out so early in the year? It would certainly make my top ten if I had one.

I hope Merz will find a way to release his new stuff in 2011 – and with new records by Elbow, The Strokes, PJ Harvey and Bjork – I will have a lot to look forward to next year along with whatever serendipity brings.

Right now it’s all Christmas music in our house and car – I’m something of a specialist in seasonal music entertainment. But it looks like you’ll have to wait until next year to get my analysis of the best Christmas music you might hope to find. For the meantime may I recommend Pink Martini’s Joy To The World’ which just came out and contains truly brilliant arrangements of traditional ‘holiday’ tunes from around the world. The kids and oldies will love it and will be very impressed if you put it on during the Christmas dinner.

I haven’t worked my way through half the stuff on the various critical ‘best of lists’ though. I’m dying to try These New Puritans and I want to hear Steve Mason’s album. There’s still time, but the clock is ticking faster. Indeed, I’m of age where it’s dawned on me I can’t listen to all I want to, it comes down to having a system of quality over quantity.

But I’m thankful for the abundance and quality of what’s being created in an otherwise turbulent time in the ‘music business’.

Have a great Christmas and start to 2011.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Innovation Papers #2: When will we learn to enjoy our music again?

When I recently pitched up to a publishing meeting in London – hosted by the MPA - to talk about ‘the future of music formats’, I had made a few notes about what music is and what it means to us. I was looking for those deeper insights if you will – an inspiration.

There was much discussion at the meeting about new models – with analysis and comment nicely covering the spectrum we’ve become familiar with – from ad-funded unlimited models to various cloud subscriptions – and talk of apps being the new album, etc.
As ever with these things my view is to look at it from the consumer’s point of view. In recent work on industry innovation (the previously mentioned Innovation Panel) we established the idea of a ‘digital music journey’ – which each and every digital music fan experiences. The journey begins with Discovery – how you find out about a band. It continues with Access – how you first get to hear the track or album. Further – it becomes about Acquisition needs – how you chose to keep or not to keep, pay or not to pay – etc.
So far, so simple. Then it gets much more interesting though. The next part of the journey is Management – how you manage your digital music library. For most consumers this is now the pressing issue – it’s not easy is it? Is all your music digitised? Where? In what file format and to what level of quality? Do you even know? In recent survey work, the industry is finding library management issues are increasingly important to consumers – including storing, arranging, moving, sharing, finding etc. It’s easy to think this is all solved by ‘the cloud’ – to some extent it is. But music fans still like ownership, still like permanence and still like to buy one at a time rather than subscribe.
The Management segment of the journey is really quite critical to all experienced digital music fans, but for me, the final segment of the journey is the most interesting. Enjoyment.
When I added this to the journey diagrams and graphics – everyone – without exception asked “what do you mean by Enjoyment”. I can quip here – that these days by the time we – the digital music fans – have spent endless hours Googling music, browsing on Last.fm, reading tweets about this or that new artist – snacking on tracks on Spotify and We7 – downloading free music from a million and one sources legal, illegal or ambiguous (there is such a thing – blogs for example) – how much are we really, honestly enjoying listening to our music?
I really mean it. For me this is bound up in the perception of music’s actual monetary value.
Music is in many ways the ideal content for digital – but it has one really big problem. For music to be at its most enjoyable it makes its own journey in each of us – from the new to the familiar. In some ways digital has enabled the journey, but in others it is getting in the way.
By way of example, think about your favourite records – your absolute Desert Island Discs – be they albums or songs. You’ve undoubtedly listened to these records countless times. You may actually have disliked some of them when you first heard them. In my own view, in what’s been a vintage year for music this year – the records I’ve enjoyed the most are the ones I’ve become the most familiar with. That, for me, takes at least three plays. If a record gets beyond three it can become endless from there – hence The National’s ‘High Violet’ has easily become my most played album this year – and my favourite.
I have found that digital discovery can make this process – of growing into a record – quite tricky. I’ll use Spotify to ‘preview’ a record (or I might stream it on a blog or download it from a legal free source, which seem to be abundant now). If I’m in ‘hunting’ mode this is less a preview and more a ‘gutting’ session in the way I often do with business books – just rip into it and hope to get a thin slice insight into whether I will eventually like it. This works, up to a point. But it could well be denying me the surprises, the revelations and the growers. I’ll sometimes choose to buy based on this initial instinct – an investment of sorts. But I find I pass on so much of what I sample.
I originally passed on Animal Collective's 'Merriweather' on this basis until I belatedly bought the album just recently. Really, the previewing of records doesn’t work in favour of any of those records that are in any way challenging or require some effort on the part of me, the listener.
I don’t think I would have gotten into The National's ‘High Violet’ through streaming. So ironically, despite the incredible value streaming represents as a music fan – in Access terms – it may have denied me the Enjoyment of a record I can now hardly put a monetary value on – ‘High Violet’ is virtually priceless to me – it’s the gift that keeps giving.
If this is too abstract a concept, let me put a bit more hard flesh on it. There’s a more direct way to improving the Enjoyment part of the journey for digital music fans and we are only just at the beginning in market development terms. If we put aside payment models and formats and think instead about the various ‘layers’ by which music is delivered to fans – there is obvious room for improvement in each and every layer. If we think about digital music in layers – then I suggest for music those layers are as follows:
Layer 1: The Music
Layer 2: The Data (as in metadata)
Layer 3: The User Interface (the presentation of the music to the user, including the recommendation engine)
Layer 4: The Social Layer (user-to-user)
On each and every layer, there is huge room for improvement in the current ways we get music to fans. Just a few suggestions for example:
Layer 1: More complete libraries, higher quality audio files, more live recordings etc.
Layer 2: Amazing metadata: song composer, the ‘story of the song’, track commentaries & liner notes, more simply: song visual data
Layer 3: Personalised home pages, shareable or switchable ‘music channels’, alternative ways to navigate music menus and libraries
Layer 4: Let’s leave this to Facebook, Twitter et al. But shareable playlists and social programming have plenty of room to develop beyond the current open API frameworks
There are new developments in every layer that are worth watching. In Layer 1 – high-end audio equipment makers like Linn now offer lossless 24-bit, FLAC or WAV downloads. I personally was never too convinced of the argument that song quality no longer matters in the age of MP3 files. I think more & more fans are realising it does matter, especially as we want to shift the music to household devices and in-car, where quality matters more than on headphones.
In Layer 2, new players like Decibel are working towards the ‘amazing metadata’ goal, where the marrying of content with context will make a notable difference the user experience – in terms of both library management and arrangement and they way we access information as & when we listen.
In Layer 3, we have brilliant new examples of music presentation, like Awedetorium – the iPad app developed by the team at the Sixty One – an indie brand yes – but with universal functionality in presenting quality over quantity, helping us to manage serendipity and avoid the blinding of choice that comes with searching from a menu of 11m+ songs. In music discovery terms, German research project GlobalMusic2One looks fascinating too and I hope it will bear fruit commercially at some point.
In Layer 4 you can bet that the social network geeks are working on the next mind-blowingly compelling way we can connect to music, through each other, using music. I’ll leave that in their capable hands and remain here to be convinced – I’ll use it if it works for me and helps me with Enjoyment more than with discovery or access.
So for me – in thinking about the future possibilities for music services, we need to begin to think beyond ‘models’ and ‘formats’ and get to the real drivers of why people love their music and what they want from it. Thinking in layers aids this process.

Juggernaut will be back for an essential end of 2010 music review and then for anyone travelling to MIDEM in the New Year I’ll see you there – especially anyone attending my Academy sessions on Tuesday 25th January 2011.