• Merging digital and physical music

    One of the greatest challenges facing all modern media is that buzzword “convergence”; it’s usually used to describe a product that is a bit of everything, a TV, radio, phone, computer, video and audio recorder etc. It would suggest that a concept has been merged with another to deliver the perks of both in one handy package. The reason why this type of challenge faces the modern media is simple, how does traditional media link with its digital counterpart (or rival?) to deliver a supreme product to the consumer?

    As I’ve suggested before, radio stations should consider offering un-broadcast extra’s in podcast form rather than just the same show as is available on FM. This could be good content that was dropped due to time constraints (or even censorship fears). Newspapers should consider offering downloadable content or web-only information too. This could be, again, content that was dropped due to space constraints. It could be a piece of music or film which is linked to a review or it could be online sources. But what about the music industry?

    The idea of digital downloads totally replacing physical music (CD’s, for example) is absurd. There’s something shallow in dropping good money on something you’ll never feel or hold, and many album covers (Tool’s Lateralus for example) demand exploration; without the actual CD case and booklet you’ve missed a chunk of the experience.
    Pearl Jam are putting something on the table with their latest release that offers a unique convergence of ideals. Pre-order their latest album online and you’ll also recieve a bonus CD featuring a classic live gig. So what’s new? Well there’s one good reason not to buy a must-have CD online; you have to wait for it to arrive. And there’s one good reason not to download it on release; you don’t get to hold it, put it in your rack and generally admire it. So what are Pearl Jam offering? An instant digital download of the album on the day of its release, which should tide you over while you wait for the physical version to hit your doormat.

    Can’t you just hear a thousand music professionals slap their foreheads and say “why didn’t I think of that?”. It makes perfect business sense too; most people who deal in digital downloads have an mp3 player so they’d be transfering the music to their computers anyway; it’s not like it’s really cost you an extra sale. People who want the CD will get it, and get the music on time too. People who just want the music will too, but they’ll be able to enjoy a bonus CD and the real thing (as a back-up you see) at no extra cost… It’s almost like you’re buying the mp3 and getting the CD thrown in for nothing.

    And what cost? Minus shipping around €12. That’s me sold.