This month in digital music libraries - October 2023
This month’s round-up concentrates on music acquisition, as Bandcamp gets sold (again) and Spotify consider a new hi-res tier (maybe).
Meanwhile, Google and Sonos continue to slug it out, and a video documentary is made of the efforts to revive Murfie, post collapse.
Developments in music acquisition
How we acquire music has changed a lot in the past two or three decades, and in multiple ways.
Who remembers actually physically going to a record store?
(I exaggerate of course, plenty of people still buy music in person, but it’s undeniable that consumed music is overwhelmingly sourced on the Internet now).
The next major change was from the one-time purchase of music, that you owned thereafter, to renting access to music via the streaming services.
As a result, by far the most popular means of accessing music now is to rent it. But not everyone wants it this way - there are disadvantages (as well as advantages) to both consumer and seller. To the consumer there is less control about the releases they acquire and less flexibility to organise their collection in the way they want. They also lose access to the music whenever they stop renting. To the sellers or producers of music they lose control of how their product is sold, which may even mandate a change in their revenue streams, from recorded music to performance or merchandise.
Bandcamp was one company fighting back for the old way of acquiring music as an asset, rather than renting it, but now it has been sold for the second time in two years. This time it’s a music licencing company, Songtradr, that have acquired it. There are worrying signs.
… and not only are layoffs occurring, but development has stalled during the takeover period:
It’s important for music collectors, I feel, to have access to different options for acquiring music. While renting music on the streaming services model is convenient for most, not everyone wants it that way. Let’s hope Bandcamp survives.
Talking about downloads, how’s about money off hi-res Deutsche Grammophon releases?
Back on streaming, rumours about Spotify Lossless continue to forment. Could Spotify introduce a new “superpremium” tier?
Google and Sonos patent war
The spat between Google and Sonos over technology for grouping individual speakers has been going on multiple years now. The latest is that a judge has ruled in Google’s favour and questioned the validity of the original patent that Sonos claimed.
This is despite a previous ruling supporting Sonos’s claim that Google infringed on the above patent.
This has lead to Google re-introducing the code that allows Google Nest speakers to be grouped.
Feels like this is going to rumble on…
The revival of Murfie - a documentary!
This was an interesting one to see pop up in my feed. Murfie was another, different approach to music acquisition - it offered both the purchase and storage of physical music media such as CDs, but also allowed streaming of that music. You could acquire CDs from them, often second-hand, and request the CD be delivered to you or allow them to store it and stream it from them.
Back in 2014 I wrote up a teardown of the music metadata that Murfie provides in their downloads and (this being the sign of a good company) they responded.
Sadly, in 2019 Murfie ceased operations and were acquired by Crossies LLC. Crossies is run by John Fenley, who used social media and YouTube to document the process of attempting to both recreate the business and return CDs to Murfie customers.
Now, an independent film maker has created a documentary and posted it on YouTube about his story:
Someone made a documentary about the efforts of @pontifier after he acquired @murfie - this is interesting partly because of the story and partly because it shows how niched YouTube and modern recording technology allows us to become. https://t.co/8AwUolyFvd— bliss (@bliss_music) October 26, 2023
It’s an interesting insight into the different ways we can acquire and manage our music, and the effect social media has had on pursuing our hobbies. Would a documentary about such a niche hobby ever be made without cheap, high quality recording equipment and YouTube?