Column from 15th February, 1999

Something I’ve been trying to consider over the last few weeks, is whether internet distribution of music is going to be particularly realistic for the majority of music fans.

Only a year ago major label executives were dismissing internet delivery of music as technie sensationalism, but IBM have already been experimenting with the "Madison Project" where full albums could be delivered to prospective listeners’ computers within six minutes. All the big five major labels participated in the Madison Project, though only after they signed a secret agreement in November…. Meantime they’re also trying to agree on anti-pirating methods (no surprise there!).

MP3 seems an OK system, but we’re hardly talking about an audiophile system, which would seem strange while audio-DVD is being so heavily touted as the future of high sound quality. If more of the labels bothered to adopt Pacific Microsonics HDCD (High Definition Compatible Audio) format which sounds better on ordinary CD players and improves by leaps and bounds when you’re got a HDCD processor equipped player (such as I have myself) then they’d probably not give up on CD improvement so readily. If you’re based in Europe, like me, you’ll already be disgusted by the DVD zoning system which totally restricts what media you can buy anyway….

But that’s not the record company way – initial skepticism usually turns to finding ways they can make a quick buck out of. Just as they allowed the music market to stagnate while promoting replacement of vinyl collections with CDs, I’ve no doubt that they will next propose replacing your favourite CDs with nice and shiny, "improved" DVD versions. And, then they’ll expect you to pay for a internet delivered version as well so you can have portability and a version to listen to on your computer.

MP3 is surely a good way for unsigned bands to get more exposure, but it relies on the listener having enough time, and the inclination, to dig it out from the information overload the internet provides. But will it be something more? I really don’t know, and remain to be convinced…. IUMA (who has a vested interest in the whole thing) recently completed a study which estimated that by 2007 that a fifth of the US music market (in financial terms) would be covered by digital delivery, but that’s hardly spectacular growth. However, if you got a major artist abandoning a label altogether and delivering its music that way instead, then that could change rapidly.

Speaking of MPG, German band Winterland now have such files available they web site at http://www.citylink.ch/rockline/winterland/index2.htm . Check it out if you like the heavier side of melodic rock with progressive metal overtones like Dream Theatre.

Over at the AOR Basement web site – http://www.aorbasement.com/ a few new reviews were uploaded last weekend and more are being worked on. New ones include the Bruce Gaitsch/Tommy Denander collaboration, the first solo album from drummer Billy Ward, and the AOR comeback from John Keane.

Also look out for Cool Sound in Japan later this year releasing the original first King of Hearts album which Bruce Gaitsch and Tommy Funderburk recorded in 1989 (I think for Chrysalis). It was never released at the time, though some of the tracks did appear on the European version of their second album called "Midnight Crossing". Should be worth the lengthy wait!