Cloud music and double dipping

The appointed time has come, so why isn’t everyone stomping their feet and screaming out at the top of their lungs about the evils of the recording industry and how we’re handing them the end game without batting an eyelash?

Ever since the first MP3s were distributed the Internet in the late 90s on IRC and eventually into the mainstream with Napster, the main cry against DRM and the music industry’s continual lobbying for more power over the Internet was, “the RIAA won’t be happy until we have to pay every time we listen to a song!” Now, we’re practically there. While we aren’t paying per listen, and I doubt we ever will as long as there is such a thing as personal property (and we can still buy CDs through Amazon and Best Buy), “enhanced cloud services” are probably the closest thing we’ll get to paying the recording industry each time we hear music. We’re paying the music industry a recurring fee to listen to our already purchased music through the cloud.

It would be one thing if we were just paying Apple for the service of storing and streaming (as the regular cloud-based music lockers with Google and Amazon), but Apple has made a deal with the labels that pays them money to allow the service to exist. Apple has negotiated concessions like exchanging lower quality files with higher, and likely will substitute various quality AAC to facilitate streaming to 3G devices – playing a 256kbps or a 128kbps AAC makes a big difference if you’re AT&T’s network.

Why the industry isn’t trying to jump on board faster, I don’t know. Its a huge no-risk, all-reward opportunity. People who already have pirated music are still listening to those tracks now, at home and on their iDevices, while people who legitimately pay for music are going to pay again to store that same music in the cloud. As far as cloud music services go, fighting piracy is really an orthogonal issue – cloud services wont make pirated material any more or less attractive.

But for the rest of us, it amounts to paying a tithe to the record industry for the privilege to listen to music we already own. At least its not forced on us.. yet. Another 10 years and ubiquitous high speed Internet could leave us with no downloads of any kind – everything always in the cloud.

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