Music Appreciation 2.0: To Store or to Stream? "Celestial Jukebox" or Infinite Storage May Let You Listen to Music Anywhere, Anytime

Article excerpt

The digital age has rocked the music industry to the core and enabled anyone anywhere with Internet access to download (legally or otherwise) practically any song ever recorded. Efficiency in storage and portability are key parts of digital music's appeal, but even digital files have to be stored somewhere and remain accessible. This gives producers and consumers two choices: personal ownership on a device or on-demand access from a database in the "cloud."

"Albums no longer need to take up physical space, and there are no boundaries for how they are experienced; clever, unscrupulous fans can own every song in [prolific indie rock band] Animal Collective's massive discography for free with an after-noon's work, and take it with them wherever they go," writes critic Leonard Pierce in an essay on The Onion A.V. Club Web site.

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A growing number of critics and industry insiders foresee a future where fans have access to every officially released sound recording available digitally, along with much that is unofficially released and out of print and a growing amount of associated marginalia, such as official videos, fan-made remixes, and more. All of this could be embedded in dynamic, interactive, and updatable audio file formats such as the new MXP4.

Welcome to "the paradise of infinite storage," as McGill University professor and former music executive Sandy Pearlman calls it. As computing power increases and cost and size decrease, it will become possible to store, in high-quality lossless format, "the entire history of recorded music ... on a device the size of a guitar pick."

But rather than owning their music collections on a device, no matter how tiny, some fans will prefer to borrow their selections on demand from a streaming, cloud-based model that has been referred to as a "celestial jukebox."

Speaking with THE FUTURIST, author and cultural critic Douglas Wolk emphasizes that the ultimate streaming service would be a universal resource that is able to provide via a clean, elegant interface "immediate access anywhere, at any time, to any music that has ever been released to the public. …