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Legal Music Downloading the Training Ground for the Future of Home Entertainment

5 May, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

I've been talking to a lot of music DVD suppliers lately, and it's been making me think about the nature of the music consumer and what role these folks are going to play in the future of home entertainment.

For example, I think I'm a fairly good example of a music consumer with a healthier than average buying appetite.

Listening to CDs is a natural element of my daily routine, like reading, getting coffee in the morning or brushing my teeth.

I love it when you pop in a CD and you travel back in time to the first time you heard it or to a particular moment in your life.

I was blasting a compilation CD of songs from bands in my college town in my car yesterday. Many of the musicians on it are old friends or acquaintances of the time, and as I sing along, I like to picture them performing in any number of dank Tempe, Ariz., dive bars. Makes whatever particular patch of gnarled L.A. traffic I'm sitting in at the time feel a little bit like home.

I will never part with this particular album, not for a loan of any length of time. I don't know where or if I could ever get a replacement should someone inadvertently swipe it.But as I listened yesterday I thought of how one song on this album would be the perfect opener for a mix CD I making for a friend's birthday.

Now the fact that I even began thinking of making her a mix marks a significant step in my evolution as a music consumer. I don't make mix CDs willy-nilly, I never have. It's just more hassle than I care to endure, I'm a selfish, lazy music lover.

But not anymore, I discovered shortly after I signed up for iTunes, and it was like a bell doinging in my brain: “I can just go to iTunes, download any songs I want, upload any others I may not be able to find online and burn them all to a CD.” Brilliant. Cheap. Fast. You don't even have to wait for the length of a song for it to download. And for around $20, you have a neat little personalized disc. It's perfect.I have to admit. I've never been so excited about making a mixtape (oops, CD).

The music consumer has been getting a bad rap lately, but mediums like iTunes and handheld hardware like the iPod, well, they're getting us excited again. Excited to spend money on music.

And quite frankly, I think the movie industry needs to keep an eye on that excitement. It's inevitable that digital downloading and handheld technology is going to play a major role in the future of home entertainment. And I think what's happening with legal music downloading right now is going to be the training ground for that future market.

Music DVD suppliers are already planning for it, I know, thinking of all the ways they can deliver music videos or concert footage through VOD or downloads in the future.I think it's the music consumer of today who gets excited about purchasing music online or at a kiosk in a coffee shop or record store who will be the most comfortable taking that leap to purchasing downloads of visual content, even feature films, when that market evolves.

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