The Cloud: It’s Not an Evolution

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There’s a pervasive thought that cloud-based music access represents an evolution over locally-stored content.

That somehow, hard drive MP3s are the Cro-Magnon, and cloud-based access the Homo Sapien.  But this thinking ignores the surge of advancements in locally-stored access, and could lead to a lot of squandered capital.

In reality, the cloud is better positioned as a complement to existing collections and access methods, not a replacement.  In fact, most credible rumors suggest that both Apple and Google are thinking in these very terms.  And even Spotify has made product enhancements to integrate these worlds.

It’s just not a black-and-white replacement scenario.  Sure, some consumers will dive headfirst into the cloud, monthly payments and all (just take a look at countries like Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, or even recent subscriber improvements at Rhapsody).  But is that a reason to replace something that works so well?  Sure, the cloud wasn’t really an option ten years ago, but in that span, the technology surrounding locally-stored content has also improved by leaps-and-bounds.

Just think about your own life, and the incredible convenience and reliability that your locally-stored collection offers.  A die-hard music fan can now cheaply store hundreds of thousands of songs, back those songs up several times over (perhaps using the cloud!), and store tens of thousands of songs on a portable player like the iPod classic.  The storage is cheaper than ever, the reliability is better than ever, the portability is 100 percent global, and content access is easier than ever.  And let’s just face it – in most cases, acquisition is totally free.

In fact, there’s really no consumer pain to speak of!  Do most fans really need tens of millions of songs, on-demand?   Some love this idea, but most music fans I meet aren’t complaining at all.  They aren’t bitching about high-priced CDs anymore, they aren’t lamenting about the quality of music, they aren’t wondering where to find more obscure content.  Instead, they’re enjoying the excesses, and as a result, they’re doing what any happy consumer would do: they’re talking about the music they love, making recommendations to friends, and focusing on other gripes.

So why take that away from them?  Maybe the real win comes from complementary addition, not replacement.

– Paul Resnikoff, publisher.  Written while listening to the Jackson 5 and the Hues Corporation, on locally-stored MP3s.