Andrew Orlowski, the San Francisco bureau chief for The Register (a wonderfully sarcastic British IT publication that usually gets it right but sometimes gets it spectacularly wrong), recently delivered a speech to record company executives in which he sketched out a very interesting view of the future.
Think iPods with 802.11 (or WiMax) wireless built in. Suddenly, you’ve got tens of millions of individualized radio stations–you’re sitting on a bus with a bunch of other iPod users and you can actually tune into what they’re playing and, if you like it, swap songs with them. Then move ahead a couple of years and imagine phones with this capability built in. Imagine widespread, legal, wireless music distribution–you go into Starbucks and can choose what you want to listen to. His argument: instead of relying on the technologists’ promises of DRM, which can’t possibly work, the record companies should embrace the new world by shifting their business model, embracing things like flat-fee pricing: all-you-can-consume, anywhere in the world, over the wireless band, for a monthly fee. In other words, go back to selling music again instead of suing twelve-year-old girls.
Read the full speech here.