Let’s Get Serious About Digital Music. Please?

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, music fans were sold on the superiority of digital recordings.  “Perfect sound forever” and all that rot.  And yeah, digital does offer some pretty solid strengths.  But the truth is that we’re still using the same standards today as we were back then.  Any standard CD you buy right now is no more advanced than what could be purchased in 1984–and those discs were based on technologies from the 1970s.

Meanwhile, sales of digital music downloads–the format that was supplant physical media for music–has stalled.  So what’s the future for digital music?  Medium.com takes a look.

Admittedly, digital music has improved dramatically since Apple started the revolution with the introduction ofItunes and theIpod almost fifteen years ago. Since then, availability and selection have grown steadily, quality has improved and social tools empower people to discover and share new (and old for that matter) music in unprecedented ways.Still, the industry is struggling to reach a standard set some thirty years ago. A standard — the compact disc — in itself inferior to the previous standard. When it comes to quality, the music industry seems to operate quite the opposite to most other lines of business. It will therefore be interesting to hear what Tim Cook has to say about music, as widely anticipated, in his keynote at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

The turntable is waiting to be turned.

I admit, I am an audiophile. This is my case against the type of music we got used to; compressed, destroyed music. However, counting kilobits per second and measure catalogue size by number of songs will get us nowhere. Simply because it is a technical approach to the arts. A painting is not a better painting because it has more brushstrokes. A museum is not a better museum because it has more artifacts on display.

Instead, we should approach digital music from a different perspective. And on a different level. Asking questions about compression and mastering. Examining the degree of avant-garde and variety of a selection. Exploring the features and functionality of different services. So, let’s turn things up a notch.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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