Subscription Model Should Dominate All Media Consumption

That means iTunes’ current model will be due for some drastic changes, no more downloading things “to keep”. Someone asked me the other day whether I really thought all our media consumption (music, video, insert-other-media-here) would be entirely subsc…

That means iTunes’ current model will be due for some drastic changes, no more downloading things “to keep”. Someone asked me the other day whether I really thought all our media consumption (music, video, insert-other-media-here) would be entirely subscription based in the near future. I gave a definite YES in response.

This is something I’ve had on my mind a few years, and personally I’m of the opinion the only viable solution to the increasingly complex problem of content management and ownership -whilst maintaining the rights of artists and authors- is to consume all of our content as the result of a subscription to a media conglomerate or third party broker.

The stepping stones to this are coming, one at a time. Nokia today announced the “Comes With Music” service, which allows customers purchasing a new device, unlimited free downloads of a million songs from (initially) Universal’s music library. On top of that the downloads will remain accessible and playable after that year is up.

That’s a good first step, and it’s not as if Nokia is the only one providing subscription based music services. But what I’m talking about here is entirely subscription based models, where you don’t ever have a file to “keep”, you just obtain the media when you wish to listen/watch/interact with it. This means that to the company facilitating the transfer, you cease to be a user that has paid for X, Y and Z. Instead you gain a “role”, your role specifying what sort of access to the content library you have, and in what circumstances you can consume that media.

Added to this I very much think that we will completely give up ownership of our content. Not only will we not be able to say “yeah, I own a copy of XYZ”, to me it seems sensible that we will also not be storing our content anywhere near our physical locality.

When speaking about this topic there are always throes of despair from people that are used to owning physical copies of original content, and that’s understandable, many people have grown up collecting music or films on physical media. I imagine you’d get a very different opinion from the current generation of children with regards to the importance of owning content. The BitTorrent/YouTube generation has very little interest in collecting media when its all there, all the time anyway.

The subscription/no-ownership model is a big shift in how you see media. It also requires a great deal of trust in the stability of the companies offering the content, as well as the speed and reliability of your internet connection with regards to whichever device you are using to consume the content. But all in all I think it’s a sensible proposition, and nothing new, but thankfully companies like Nokia are not afraid to dip their toe in the water and examine new ways to deal with media to make the necessary baby-steps toward this goal.

But will the subscription model be successful? I think so, and in other markets it already is. It certainly checks all of the right boxes… To me one of the keys to the success of a new technology or any mechanism that uses technology is that it must make things easier than before (or at the very least bring with it new abilities that far outweigh any new inconveniences.) Related to this the subscription model deals with the problem of piracy in the only way possible, by making it *easier* to consume your content by paying for a subscription, than going through alternative channels.

Experimenting? Try an Interactive Brainwave Device

We were lucky enough to have Luciana Haill from IVBA (Interactive Brainwave Visual Analyser) come in to work the other day and demonstrate the bluetooth enabled brainwave monitoring hardware and software on offer. To summarise what it is, this device mon…

We were lucky enough to have Luciana Haill from IVBA (Interactive Brainwave Visual Analyser) come in to work the other day and demonstrate the bluetooth enabled brainwave monitoring hardware and software on offer. To summarise what it is, this device monitors in realtime the frequency and range of brainwaves in the pre-frontal cortex and pumps that data wirelessly to a computer for many uses.

Here’s a video that shows the data it captures being rendered in 3D:

I must admit I was pleasantly suprised. I had no idea of the level of detail this device can get out of three electrodes placed on the forehead. What’s even better is that the device comes in a kit that includes software for Mac that supports general MIDI as well as AppleScripts. The first thing we were shown was a 3D realtime “EEG” showing peaks and troughs in the various bandwidths produced by left and right hemispheres of the brain, alpha, beta, gamma etc. We also saw some demonstrations that used Quartz Composer.

As a side-note, Quartz Composer comes with OS X and enables you to visually construct visualisations, applications and screensavers and forms the basis of several “VJ” apps. It has building blocks for inputs such as the built in mic, light and tilt sensors, RSS, and of course the brainwave kit over bluetooth. Then there are processes to manipulate the data and visuals you chain up, incorporating text, shapes, animation, 3d and special effects, and you can even customise your flow using JavaScript.

We were also informed there is a Macromedia Director Xtra to grab those inputs and I would say it wouldn’t take very long at all to write something to have Flash 9 communicating with it over sockets.

The kit itself is not too expensive at all, £1000 GBP, which puts it in the reach of the home experimenter or artist. It includes the sensors, the bluetooth enabled box that does some of the hard work and the software to make sense of it all.

You could use this for a variety of things, including music, art, therapy and understanding other psychological processes such as what happens to the brain during hypnosis. One such example is Brainball, a game played by two people trying to “clear their minds” in order to force a ball toward the other to score a goal.

Check out the website here.

The Popularity of Music Videos on Mobile Devices

No one can really doubt the success of MTV up until now. People like music videos. But I’m left confused when I look at music videos being sold for download on mobile devices such as phones and iPods, and sold at a premium.

Watching music videos on TV…

No one can really doubt the success of MTV up until now. People like music videos. But I’m left confused when I look at music videos being sold for download on mobile devices such as phones and iPods, and sold at a premium.

Watching music videos on TV is something I only do if I’m doing something else at the same time and just want some background (I don’t say background “noise” because I think it’s safe enough to say many people now look for background sound and video at the same time, strange as it may sound). As for actually spending money and downloading a music video to my phone or iPod, with those tiny little screens and in the case of mobile phones, horrible sound quality- is surely the worst possible way you could watch a music video?

iPod Video

It makes sense for content providers to pick music videos to test the waters of mobile download services because even though what you are getting might be considered pretty cheap and nasty, you get around that because the band itself adds value to the proposition through association. The content itself is not really all that much better (and often not as practical) as an mp3, after all, pretty much all of these music videos have had the visuals made for the music, not the other way around. This is all subjective of course.

How popular are the sales of these things? Are they just a stop-gap until some (dare I say) “real” content is available. Many products are showing that there is a market for a variety of quality commercial/free content when the downloads are both paid and free (iTunes in the U.S. has movies and TV shows and Joost has free content everywhere, to name two such entities). In particular I’m enjoying the “iTunes U” offerings, which include free university lectures in video format. I’m of the opinion that music videos will see a serious plummet in popularity as these other types of content become more accessible, but as always, I could be proven wrong; but the way things are heading, having to pay to see them will certainly disappear as with almost all downloaded content, with movies being the last to topple. iTunes claimed back in Q3 of 2006 that it had seen 35 million music video downloads… are you one of these people?… did you feel a little bit ripped off or satisfied?

I haven’t even touched on the cross-over areas of content here, namely trailers and user generated content. I think both of these have more merit and monetary value when it comes to paid downloads. Trailers serve the dual purpose of entertaining and also letting you know if you want to spend more money (and more importantly, time) on going to see a movie, and user generated content is often perfectly designed to entertain for those few seconds. They are also pretty well suited to share with others in social situations.

So what’s the deal with download content for mobile devices? Have we just been testing the water and the purse-strings of those early adopters, or is there a future in music video downloads?

Please feel free to leave votes for or against music videos on mobile devices, and any comments you have on the topic.