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If Cloud Music Booms, Do Musicians Lose?

Boom Last week, Hypebot reported on a study that suggests cloud music will boom in the next five years.

For consumers, this moment has be percolating for a decade and is only now being realized. 

Unlimited music is "reportedly" what consumers have always wanted. Thus, once they're freed file-sharing and paying for digital downloads, they'll be better off.

Artists, on the other hand, may find themselves worst off.

ABI, the company behind the study, willfully admits that a cloud music boom will make it more difficult to make a living by selling recorded music.

To them, this is a price worth paying. If consumers don't have convenient and affordable legal alternatives, "they will simply enjoy their music by other means," ABI cautions. Put differently, artists are damned if they do join the cloud shift because it will further erode their ability to sell music, but will be also damned if they don't, because consumers will download their music for free if they refuse.

So, while artists certaintly have ways to leverage new scarcities, the cloud shift will force everyone to rethink how they make a living from music.

A Niche Product

Over at Tunecore, George Howard tells artists that, for better or worse, the cloud is upon us; it will reduce digital downloads to a niche product.

Nothing will make physical product and downloads relevant to consumers again.

In time though, Howard believes that artists who own their masters will be able to negotiate more favorable terms and reap promotional benefits from the increased access to their music. Andrew Orlowski agrees with Howard, at least in part.

"Creative artists who really do value their own work naturally shop around for the best deal from an intermediary," he says. "If one label can't offer it, they'll go to one who can. If a collecting society strikes a bad deal, they'll reason that they're better off without the collecting society." But Orlowski's optimism stops there.

In his opinion, the looming music cloud is much darker. The Internet revolution promised to free artists from exploitative corporations. Now, it seeks to simply enslave them to Internet companies instead. "How ironic," Orlowski muses.

Getting Prepared

The music that fuels cloud-based services is less profitable, but artists are still expected to create it, and many will. "As artists, it's imperative to prepare and capitalize upon this disruptive technological innovation," Howard writes. "In order to immediately begin the preparation process, be sure to affiliate with both a PRO (like ASCAP or BMI) and with SoundExchange." After that, he says artists must then "look for opportunities where you can extract value out of these streams."

To Howard, if cloud music booms musicians won't lose... if they're prepared.

Are you?

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