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After Napster

Andy Vandervell


Spotify: The Future of Music?

After Napster

Ever since Napster came along and introduced people to the idea of sharing music easily and freely, the music industry has been fighting against the tide of technology innovation and rapidly changing attitudes among consumers. Even when it tried to adapt, users reeled against restrictive DRM measures that effectively locked them into specific hardware players and limited their ability to enjoy their music the way they wanted to: freely.

Eventually, belatedly, towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, it appears as though the music industry is starting to accept the inevitable: that it will have to fundamentally change the way it operates. This was first seen by the first music stores to go fully DRM-free, lead in the UK by 7digital, with the likes of Amazon and Apple's iTunes service following in a similar vain. This was clearly a massive step in the right direction, even if there are still plenty of issues to deal with, such as pricing and flexibility of codecs and bit rates available.

Still, if the music industry has been slow to change the way it sold its music, it has been quite ruthless in the way it has exploited online communities to promote its wares. MySpace and Last.fm are the most obvious examples of this and though they developed their influence largely through the activity of its users, the industry has been quick to exploit this to their own benefit.

So, paradoxically, while the industry has been quick to take advantage of new technology and communities to promote music, it's been slow to deliver that music in a form those communities would like. So slow, in fact, that while it has finally got a grasp on selling its music online and without restriction, something else has come along to change things all over again. That service is Spotify and it could well do now what Napster did almost 10 years ago, but this time it's both free and legal. Fancy that!

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