>Mike Langberg


>The Future of Online Music




>Mike Langberg is the Personal Technology Editor at the San Jose

>Mercury News. Mike will discuss the new generation of legal

>online music services, including the reborn Napster, Apple's

>iTunes Music Store, and the service being offered by Wal-Mart,

>and speculate on the impact these distribution choices will

>have on conventional (store front) music distribution, and on

>the practice of illegal file sharing.



As it turned out, Mike Langberg had a family emergency that made it impossible for him to be there. In his place Dan Gillmor spoke to us. He began by explaining that the music industry would like to kill peer to peer file sharing as a way of spreading music, because there seems to be no good way for them to make money off it.

Then he briefly discussed a service that charged by the month for all the downloads you can absorb. Gillmor explained that business model had failed because people were signing up and downloading everything that they had and quitting. The company had recently addressed this by setting limits on what people could download, but Gillmor felt the limit was too low.

Gillmor thinks that Apple's iTunes Store is the first commercial project to get the role of the marketplace right. The idea of downloading a song you want for 99 cents fits into what people want. The way it works now, Apple gets very little from selling songs, but it makes enough from selling iPods to make the venture profitable. There is some digital rights management included in the business model, but it is not obtrusive enough to really bother people.

Gillmor thinks the worst thing about the ebusiness models for selling music right now is that the music companies are harvesting way too much information on their customers that way. What they will learn from data mining this is yet too be determined, but it is clear that people who go to record stores and pay cash have much more privacy. He thinks a way to anonomize your purchasing would improve this part of the system.

Looking forward, Gillmor expects other companies like WallMart to do things similar to what Apple has done with iTunes. He is hoping that Apple is making plans to add an option to their Garage Band product to allow people to output their stuff to the iTunes store so they can sell stuff without pandering to major record labels.

During Q&A many interesting things came up. What follows are some of the more memorable.

Intellectual property rights are something that sounds good, but the reality on the ground is that the rules are written in such a way that big donors to political campaigns like Disney always come out ahead. It is no accident that they extend the life of a copyright every time Mickey Mouse gets near the age where he would become public domain.

One problem with online music distribution is that nobody wants to hassle with micropayments. If there was an easy way to pay a dime or a quarter for something, the whole internet would probably change in significant ways.

One difference between Microsoft and the tobacco companies is that software doesn't usually kill the consumer when used as designed. Trial Lawyers are circling looking for ways to sue companies for selling software with bugs in it. At the moment they still haven't found an angle that they can use to pry loose anything significant.

Tian Harter