Column from March 15th, 1999 issue

Yet another study’s been published predicting rapid growth for the digital music market over the next five years. Music Business International says internet sales of music should double in value this year to $346 million and then carry on growing to some $3.9 million in 2004! The US market would be accounted for two-thirds of that figure apparently. Seems quite a rash prediction, given that the internet music market it still very much in its infancy.

Digging further into the figures, there was actually another point that I found more interesting. MBI expects the global music market to be worth $47.5 billion in the 12 months of 2004. So even in five years time internet music will only be accounting for less than 10% of the market. Also from the figures some $143 million-worth of music was sold over the internet in 1998 with the huge bulk of it being orders of conventional CDs or cassettes. Where’s this theory of people downloading endless audio files that so many pundits have been highlighting for the last two years? That might change when Universal, Sony, Warner, EMI, and BMG launch their direct delivery system due this autumn, but I seem to be alone in not being convinced that its going to takeoff at breakneck speed. Were not talking about the perceived/invented benefits of switching from vinyl to CD, we’re talking about something else entirely that does not entirely seem to appreciate the experience of listening to music and wants to package it just as cheap entertainment.

Maybe we’ve got a more sinister modus operandi at work here. Growth in the music market in general has been sluggish and modest for a number of years now. We’ve had instability in the market while labels try to take each other over, and some of the current players still remain financially weak (and a little out of touch). They need a savior that they can promote to the financial markets as a godsend and digital delivery could be just it…. Am I being cynical or have I had too much experience at sniffing out conspiracies? Are any of our readers that desperate to replace their collections with MP3 files?

Over at the AOR Basement web site (http://www.aorbasement.com/) there’s been some odds and sods of new stuff uploaded, new reviews should follow in seven to 10 days…