When Google started its famous e-mail service Gmail, its motto was “Search, don’t sort.” It helped the Internet giant to say this because every time someone searches for a mail or Web content, the intelligent software made by the company throws up relevant advertisements that help it make money.
I got thinking about this last week as I fiddled with my music collection – a lot of it is still in cassettes because some of them are rare and also because I didn’t know what to do with them when MP3 players happened big time. And then along came Philips with a machine that helps me rip cassettes to digital form. But then, who has the time to patiently rip hundreds of cassettes one by one?
Suddenly, I find the game has changed again — or may be heading for change soon. Storage is so cheap, be it in mobile handsets, computers or with the rise of cloud computing on the Web, that increasingly, we may be heading in music for a scenario resembling e-mail. This “Search, don’t sort” scenario means I can simply buy huge collections of music at cheaper-by-the dozen rates in MP3 formats, or I can save myself the bother of even keeping a music collection because most songs will be available on the Web through music hubs. Already, large MP3 collections are available on single CDs.
Partnered by back-end tech-savvy content management companies like Hungama.com, big labels such as Nokia and Samsung have also been pushing their own online hubs. Nokia already has its Ovi site mainly for downloads, while Samsung is due to launch its hub soon.
Google has also launched its own music site in a beta (trial) phase (try http://www.google.co.in/music).
With 3G connections and tablet PCs, it might make sense to have a good Internet data plan and catch music by searching on Web stores than sorting and ripping.
The catch is in pricing the music. Advertising support will go a long way, but what about rarer songs? I hope and expect reasonable pricing so that not only in numbers, but in variety, an online music revolution takes the world by storm.
The best part in this will be when people discover new sounds and voices of independent singers and groups, unfettered by paid for radio jockeys or DJs dominated by big labels. Powered by social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, this will break rules and hierarchies in the world of music.