The music industry was built on selling products by the million. But streaming forced it to move reluctantly to a playcount business. It’s fair to say that everyone is still trying to figure out this model.

But NFTs could be a welcomed return to the selling business for music, albeit of a new kind. The kind that’s refreshingly compatible with our digital economy, where bits can be copied endlessly at no cost.

A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a kind of crypto certificate that grants you ownership of a digital work of art. …

Uber envisioned people zipping around the Bay Area in electric air taxis. However, the road from concept to FAA certification is proving to be long. This reality sunk in and Uber sold its Elevate venture to Joby, a leader in electric aircrafts based in California.

Missing from the futuristic designs proposed are plausible ways to land safely in case of major malfunctions. Most have very small wings, some none at all. The drone-inspired designs rely on fancy electronics to save the day. All are shown taking off vertically to altitude, something even helicopters don’t dare do.

One-hour delivery is the holy grail of ecommerce. An arms race is taking place among retailers to secure it. Customers love it and fast delivery can often be cheaper too. Speed means the customer will likely be home to receive the package. This reduces expensive redelivery and porch theft. Moreover, your order will come directly from a mini-warehouse located close-by, eliminating routing hops and handling.

But therein lies the challenge: mini-warehouses in big cities only have space for the most popular products. What about the millions of other products you might buy infrequently?

Those will come from huge, sprawling fulfillment…

Digital For The Masses

1979 — First Digital Music Player

A young British inventor named Kane Kramer conceptualizes a small portable device that stores and play digital songs (pictured above). The first prototype can only store 3 minutes worth of music. But a more advanced prototype features a hard disk capable of holding one hour.

Kramer envisions stores where people can fill their players with the latest songs. Stores download new music daily over phone lines from record companies. Sir Paul McCartney invests in the idea. However, disputes follow and the company never fulfills its vision.

1982 — Compact Disc

Philips invents the laser audio disc. The Compact Disc…

The Magnetic Revolution!

1943 — Magnetic Tape And Stereo

Fritz Pfleumer, a german audio engineer, invents recording onto magnetic tape. A small electromagnet is fed electricity from a microphone and leaves a magnetic trail onto cellophane tape coated with iron particles. Glue two electromagnets side-by-side, feed them from different microphones, and you now have music in beautiful stereo.

Basic audio content editing becomes possible. Radio shows no longer need to be performed live. Bing Crosby is the first performer to pre-record his shows, complete with interstitial advertising.

Some artists use tape cutouts from unrelated performances and string them together creatively: the birth…

Soot, Wax And Vinyl Grooves

1857 — The First Recording

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville makes the first sound recording. A membrane vibrating from a voice nearby moves a stylus which scribbles the sound wave onto a scrolling sooty surface. He calls it phonautography.

But the device can’t play back. Scott will never be able to listen to his recording. Recently researchers were able to scan the original sooty graphical recording and had a computer play it back. Turns out, it was Scott singing.

Interestingly, music recording will never quite free itself from having to borrow something from the visual realm…

I remember vividly. Oh, the tears, the emotional distress… How can people be so heartless? When it was over we couldn’t look at each other. We were ashamed.

Believe it or not, I’m actually describing the ordeal of editing our single for release! This is the painful but necessary process of culling away material you’ve grown fond of during studio production, but won’t make it on the record. This is called “killing your puppies” by seasoned music production insiders where I’m from. It can get emotional, yes.

The studio time was a blessed moment of artistic creativity for us. Much…

It’s funny to think that music royalties were once made essentially through the sale of polycarbonate plastic. Gobs were flatten as discs with a long audio laser groove. If you sold about 50 metric tons of the stuff you’d receive a gold plated one from the music industry.

Fair enough, but more importantly for artists, royalties were made upfront on those plastic sales. Sometimes those sales were well-considered purchases by fans, other times impulse buys. Some albums packaged lesser songs along with the hits. Royalties were made upfront on those too, even though they were rarely listened to.

But once…

Over the years music streaming services have found themselves in the unenviable category of background activity where users do not dwell. Typically users engage with their music app to start playlists or curated channels. Then they move away to do something else. Is music no longer worthy of the full attention of modern users?

From my past tenure at a music streaming startup I can tell you that users asked mainly for a good search engine and simple navigation. That seems sensible enough but there’s something ominous in this. In other words, the perfect streaming service should quickly route you…

Last Christmas we wanted to entertain family kids with an electric train set under the tree. We drove to a large toy store nearby. “Where are the train sets?” we asked a young store associate. “We don’t stock them anymore, but you can order one online” he replied. “Train sets are boring, kids today want flying drones” he continued. We ordered a set anyway. But sure enough, that train never left its snowy station throughout the holidays. It simply couldn’t compete with modern entertainment like videos games, tablets and the internet.

Is the music industry like the electric train sets…

Pierre Stephane Dumas

Pierre ponders about AI/ML, cloud technology, next-generation music streaming, 5G and aviation.

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