Anecdotally, it has all the makings of a major trend. First Radiohead decided to forgo a major recording contract for their new album In Rainbows, and distribute it directly via their website (see Fred Wilson's take on the album). Then, some other established Acts announced that they'll try something similar.
Echoes of Howard Stern and Sirius not so long ago.
Anecdotally, music discovery and consumption has been changing for me too.
So many of the artists and songs I've discovered, sampled, and then bought for my iPods and Sonos networks have been through watching TV shows and commercials. They've somehow become the new radio in recent times.
The rest have been through music blogs like the Hype Machine.
There are so many of them, and it's hard to keep on top of it all.
Revolutions can be good things when they're over, but they're hell when you're living through them.
Ironically, buying music has become so much more hard work, even though albums can be downloaded in the blink of an eye.
If more acts go the way of Radiohead, you'll have to remember which sites to go for which music. As it is, I'm still having difficulty buying the Radiohead album due to what seems to be high traffic loads on the site.
Once you get the tracks/albums you want, you then have to worry about which tracks will play on which devices, both in the home, on the road. Which MP3 player will play which tracks? Are the tracks compatiable with the player in your car?
Then it's the question of managing all the digital downloads.
Did you buy them through iTunes, Amazon, Yahoo!, eMusic, Rhapsody, or Microsoft? Each one stores stuff in different folders by default.
Are they MP-3 tracks with no DRM or if they have DRM, which tracks have which DRM system?
Which PCs hold the various libraries? Are they all constantly synced and backed up?
Oh, and did I remember to rip that new pile of CDs from Amazon into both Windows Media and iTunes formats (don't ask).
Of course, none of the music libraries can be managed easily from one network drive.
Even Apple expects their rabid users to jump through all kinds of hoops to make sure the music in the iTunes library on the Mac or PC is synced with the iTunes library that's the back up on the network server. "It can be done, but it's not an officially supported feature", intoned the Mac Genius at the local Apple store.
And don't forget about the iTunes library on the PC, since the wife uses a Windows laptop instead of a Mac.
And of course iTunes libraries on a network server won't talk easily to iTunes on BOTH Windows and Mac PCs, due to different hard drive storage formats (needed a two-hour trip to a Mac Genius at the local Apple store to figure that out).
And then even when you do discover new music on sites like the Hype Machine, you realize that many of them are "covers" by new bands (bands doing their versions of old, classic standbys), that you can't buy legally yet at any store online or off...of course, you spend 15 minutes just checking to see if you can find that track on half a dozen online stores. Talking about chasing needles in a bunch of haystacks.
Of course, you can always enjoy live performances of the tracks on YouTube, like this cover of Cupid by Amy Winehouse, or this version of Careless Whispers by The Gossip (top-ranked on the Hype Machine today after the Radiohead In Rainbow tracks).
So you have to make sure to write them down the tracks on a To-do list with a tickler to remind yourself to check if they're for sale in a month or so, when you're next in the mood to buy some music.
Of course you can always download SOME of the tracks from some web-site found through a music blog. But then you're worried about the music industry gun slingers slapping you with a law-suit and/or infecting your computer with a virus attached to that tempting little MP3 file.
If you do find a track you CAN buy and download legally, you then have to remember to make sure it's copied over to all the various online libraries that you have to maintain (see above).
And before you tell me that I'm making all of this way too complicated, as my wife has already suggested several times, do let me state that there is some well-thought out method to this madness.
The civilians in the household don't appreciate the complexity entailed in the simplest request, as when my wife requested I play Billy Joel's Piano Man via the Sonos in the upstairs living room. Of course it happened to be the ONE CD I must have missed ripping when I was methodically trying to rip several hundred CDs into the network server a few months ago.
So rather than say "No, honey, I can't find the track in our library", of course I buy it for a buck on iTunes, even though I know we have at least two copies of the CD somewhere in the house. It plays instantly making the wife happy, but of course it rankles having to pay yet again for the same song again, and again.
If any of you can relate with EVERYTHING I'm touching on in this post, AND still have a suggestion or two to ease the pain, then I'm all eyes and ears.
And forget it if you're just a mainstream, casual music fan.
And I haven't even mentioned keeping on top of favorite TV shows and movies yet in the midst of their respective revolutions.