What is Music 2.0?

The music industry today is no where near the same as it was 10 years ago. Indeed, today's music industry is nowhere near the same as it was even one year ago. And, if the industry wants to endure, whether it's Country Music, Rock, Pop, or any other genre, it must continue to adapt and react to the ever changing landscape of today's music ecosystem.

Media futurist Gerd Leonhard has just recently put out a very informative video entitled "What is Music 2.0?" in which he describes how the music industry should change to embrace "web 2.0" principles. The video is a companion piece for his book, called Music 2.0.

The very first thing that perked up my ears when watching the video was when he said that you can download his book in hi-res PDF format at his website, "in a Radiohead-type model" (Radiohead recently garnered much attention when they offered their newest album for download online using a pay-what-you-want model). This idea, of offering consumers products in the way they really want to buy it rather than the way that the seller wants to sell it, is huge. It is one of the very first points Gerd makes in his video. The music industry is still clinging to its old ways: that of a unit-based industry (CDs), rather than a click-based industry (digital downloads).

Some other themes that Leonhard touches on are that everywhere else outside of the music industry, the transition from closed to open is in full swing, meaning that other industries have embraced the idea of allowing consumers to have unfettered access to content that previously required payment. Companies like Google, Linux, Apple, and Facebook have led this disruptive movement in new media. This disruption is both good and inevitable, Leonhard argues, and is where we should be putting our money. Already, players such as The NY Times, Wikipedia, and NBC have begun to allow its creators and users to take back control.

Another topic the video touches on is how attempts by the music industry to exert control have failed. Technical protection measures such as digital rights management (DRM) and trying to monitor and control the networks on which music is shared have not proven to be successful. Even seemingly profitable endeavors like iTunes aren't completely perfect - Apple has created a locked community, in which users are tied down to limited rights with the songs they purchase from the online music store.

Leonhard goes on to say that the "my way or the highway" attitude is killing the record industry, and that it is time for a change to an "open is king" model, rather than content being king. The music industry must be prepared to stop its old system of control, and say goodbye to the dominance of hits; it must embrace the long tail, the niche markets out there, and move to an open ecosystem of music, instead of trying to extort it.

I wholeheartedly agree with Leonhard's ideas and philosophies here. While the answers may not all be contained within the 17 minutes of the video or the 228 pages of his book, those that are in the music industry would do well to start taking to heart the sorts of conclusions discussed by Leonhard.

Click on the link to watch the full video of "What is Music 2.0".