Thursday, January 08, 2009


"We used to fool ourselves. We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong. How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find, and as a result of course, consumers won."

Edgar Bronfman, Warner Music
speaking at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress

Happy New Year! Here’s wishing you all the best and the happiest in the next twelve months. Many of you will have received or given holiday presents of portable music devices. A colleague who is a great jazz afficianado commented upon his return to the chalkface after the holidays that he only received one CD for Christmas this year - a record low. He was not sad, however, as in the stead of physical media he received over $100 in iTunes Gift Cards.

As mentioned previously, this is the age of the cloud. More and more services are available online and the push is on for a greater availability of the ubiquitous connection - 24/7 fast wireless access. The connection styles are multiplying as well: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are being joined by Wi-Max and other emerging standards. Operating systems are becoming redundant.

One of the hottest selling items in the UK this autumn has been the netbook - a small (7” - 18cm) screen, Linux or Windows XP with Ethernet, Wireless and a small by today’s standards hard drive. They appeared on the market and sales of standard laptops dropped like stones. A few broadband providers saw a market and offered the netbooks free to anyone who took out a contract on the 3G mobile broadband network. Mobile broadband and a netbook for as low as £15 a month, 24 month minimum contract. Fits easily in a briefcase, a complete basic computer for managing E-mail, contacts, the Internet, office applications, photos and more.

Another hot seller has been the Apple iPhone. More expensive than the netbook, but fills a different niche. Unlimited data in the home country, access to Wi-Fi Hotspots, links to iTunes and a new Exchange like system for mail, contacts and calendars. Easy syncing of contacts and mail between computers using the service. Plus it is an iPod - plays back music and video - and has digital camera.. Small enough to fit in a pocket, manages E-mail, contacts, music, video, photos and the Internet.

In these changing economic times, the consumer is still king. If someone sees a market, they move in to fulfil the need. If they judge correctly, they win. The music industry is adapting to the times as well. Amazon now has a download store in most of its markets. They looked at the competition and found that there is a need for a one-click easy ordering system providing non-DRM music at a relatively high quality. Being wise, they decided not to set up their own system of interface to the wide variety of music players available. Instead, they offer a free application that links your computer to the store, then gives you the choice of automatically adding the tracks to your iTunes or Windows Media Player library.

As the year moves forward, you may think more and more about the music industry's journey and think of the journey music education has taken. Have we moved on with the times and are we offering the skills needed in the twenty first century? Already the industry is looking at netbooks as portable twenty four track recording studios and the iPhone as a portable four track recording studio. Our students expect technology to become smaller, have more features and cost less. As they experiment and play with the technology they find ways to use it to make as well as listen to music.

Don’t be afraid to practise using the technology you have as an everyday part of your classroom. Record rehearsals, video your singers, encourage student composition and perhaps have a technology recital that includes a laptop orchestra.

The future’s not ours to see, que serĂ¡, serĂ¡...

Rick Hein