I am ready for the cloud. Soon, I hope, will be ready for me.The latest news on the arts, coverage of live events, critical reviews, multimedia extravaganzas and much more. Join the discussion. -Evolving World of music: Bjork, above left, is working on an album, "Biophilia," which will have smartphone apps.
Recent weeks have been filled with ads on music to take residence in the cloud, the poetic name for online storage and software that promises to make lives worthwhile songs available to anyone, anywhere, in those places and persons in possession of Internet connections. (Which of course is a long way to everyone, everywhere, but tech utopian dreams tend to ignore the mere hardware).
I can't wait. Since the music had begun to emigrate in 1990 online I have wait to make my record collection evaporate — simply to have a song I need at any time, without having to store the rest.
But I have, as they say, special needs. In three decades as a critic I've accumulated more than vinyl, CD and digital files that I know what to do with. Periodic weeding cannot keep pace with the disks of 20-30 that arrive daily in the mailbag; shelves too filled floor to ceiling are already straining under thousands of CD and LP. That I had any affection for physical conditioning, no matter how elegant or unique, has long disappeared; is a library of reference, not an art collection.
And grows and grows, because I don't know why what I need: the limited edition 45, the debut CD burned at home. But I'd much rather have in the cloud that in my apartment.
In recent weeks, Amazon, Google and Apple have announced the services to store individual music collections in the cloud, ready for online access and for synchronizing multiple devices. Pandora Internet Radio, which extrapolates individual playlist by likes and dislikes, user generated hundreds of millions of dollars, with a huge initial public offering (However, followed by a sharp fall of stock price with operating costs and royalties to copyright owners, the company has never made a profit).
Dar.FM recently arrived as a free service that records radio stations — as TiVo for radio — and, as a bonus, conveniently indexes any music from those stations that has been placed electronically. (Choose a radio station congenial and assemble a collection of well chosen). Other companies — Rdio, MOG, Napster, Rhapsody — offer huge catalogs of music on demand (and transferable to portable devices) for some time as subscription services at a monthly fee and Spotify already online in Europe, is in the United States will join soon.
That is, not to mention many unauthorized sources for music; virtually any albums are available for download with a simple search. Free or paid, the cloud is already active.
Dematerializing recorded music has consequences. On the plus side it multiplies the potential audience, letting the music fast and far to listeners who would not have known that never has existed. Enhances the portability of the music, how to add a function formerly the province more — such as watches, cameras, calendars, journals, video players and games — the smartphone omnivore. It's instant gratification, but with a catch: Smartphones are not exactly renowned for the quality of sound. And the MP3 compression that made the music so laptop already has robbed some fidelity even before it reaches my earphones.
Disappeared the ritual of placing an LP on a turntable and raise a Hi-Fi home stereo — when? Perhaps with the cassette and Walkman, the ancestor of the portable MP3 player. Now even the thought of having a separate music player is a bit quaint. The smartphone will do — just adequately, but quality trumps convenience. Baby boomers who remember the transistor radio, formerly marvel in miniature that now looks and feels like a brick over existing MP3 players, can occur again the sound of a squeezing out a speaker inappropriate song sweetheart.
As in the past decade has amply demonstrated, releasing music disks also drives down the price of recorded music, often zero, dematerialisation what was an income for musicians and recording companies. Royalties generated from the sale of MP3 files and online subscription services is unlikely to ever make recorded music as profitable as it was in the form of disco.
There was also another, much less quantifiable effect of separating music from its physical package. Songs have become, for lack of a better word, trivial: not through any less effort from the best musicians, but through the unexpected combination of an almost infinite supply, constant availability, sound quality and the intangibility suboptimum, I always thought that I would be happy.
Correction: June 23, 2011
An earlier version of this essay misstated the name of the service Apple that scan and recognise music and add copies of Apple without load. Is iTunesMatch, not iMatch.