iPhone & The Digital Future

By Stephen Meyer, Inside Music Media™ Contributor

There's no doubt the entertainment industry is undergoing a massive transformation as it attempts to evolve and succeed in the digital revolution that's changing almost everything around us.

The segment of the entertainment industry most impacted thus far by digital doings, is the music industry. Music industry leaders ignored the oncoming warnings of an online tsunami for too long, and when it hit, it washed away the shores of protected intellectual property as millions around the world started downloading music for free from a myriad of websites that offered them libraries of music.

While the music industry saw the Internet as a threat, others like Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, saw it as an opportunity.

(From an Associated Press Interview w/Tweedy)
AP: You've said that you don't see music file sharing as a threat, mainly because of quality issues?

Tweedy: That's just part of it. I don't think that the quality is the same. But I don't see it as a threat because I don't feel that it's a threat to have people more interested in music. I think what's happening with file sharing is that you have a lot more people hearing a lot more music, and I think more than anything else it has engendered an enthusiasm for music. It's a no-brainer that it should be embraced, that's kind of the whole point of making music, to be heard. The only thing that stands in the way of making sense to most people is greed. ... File sharing sites don't just have new material, they have archival material, they have spoken word, they tons of material that I never had access to growing up. At their fingertips, people have all this amazing stuff, and I'd like to see what's going to come out of that in the future. If you shut that down, it's like closing a library.

AP: So the record industry's approach is driven by fear?

Tweedy: Do you remember home taping as killing music? It's the same thing. The sky is falling. Ultimately, I think it's an excuse for incompetence.
Whether or not any industry executives agree with Mr. Tweedy, is irrelevant. His point of view is as valid as those of the opposition.

Another individual who saw the Internet as an opportunity, was Apple's CEO Steve Jobs. He launched iTunes, had Apple develop the iPod and now it's an iPod world we live in (most recent sales figures estimating near 90 million iPods sold). Every iPod sold means another consumer who is less likely to purchase CDs in the future.

The iPod success story is evidence that people don't care how they listen to their music or how they store it. iPods have become the consumers' music libraries replacing those bulky plastic CD boxes and discs which are no longer needed.

At MacWorld recently, Steve Jobs introduced Apple's iPhone. If you haven't yet heard or read the news about the iPhone -- Apple's latest new toy -- and it's a "game-changing" touch- screen-controlled cell phone device that among other things, plays music, surfs the Web (with a great screen) and delivers voice mail and e-mail.

About the ONLY thing the iPhone won't do is "beam you up" like those hand-help communicators we saw on 'Star Trek', but at this point, I'd be inclined to believe that Steve Jobs and his Apple team are working on that technology as I write this.

The iPhone will no doubt further expand the mobile market as the demand for distribution and delivery of entertainment content increases in the consumer market, and it will also raise the bar for all handheld devices from this point on. One thing is certain: more iPhone type devices will follow to compete with Apple, and each one will provide consumers with more and more entertainment option abilities.

Steve Jobs said during his MacWorld keynote: " We are selling over 5 million songs a day now. (On iTunes) That's 58 songs every second... the last time we talked we were the fifth largest music retailer in the US. We have now passed Amazon; we sell more music than Amazon and we are now #4."

I would expect that because of the iPhone, iTunes and other online stores to continue to increase their sales as more and more people choose to listen to music away from the home and/or use these devices as their storage devices to play back music at home when they want as well.

Steve Meyer is one of the music industry's top professionals and publisher of the new media newsletter DISC & DAT.