I think of the evolution of music technology as having two distinct phases: The first phase took place in the 100 or so years before I was born, and the second over the last 40 years of my lifetime. And surely the latter has witnessed the more rapid and significant degree of change.
After all, the gramophone was invented in 1880s and radio in the 1890s, and they remained the staples of music consumption until the early 1970s. After I was born (and unrelated to that specific event!), the pace of innovation started picking up with the invention of magnetic tape recordings such as reel-to-reel, 8-tracks, and cassettes.
Since then, we've gone from Walkmans to ill-fated digital audio tapes to compact discs to MP3 players and finally to rights-managed digital music like iTunes. And now, with the emergence of the cloud, digital music can slowly sneak its way from the device into the ether, just as Pandora Media Inc. , Songza, and Sirius Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI) have already done.
But while everyone is focused on the transition of music from physical to digital and from device to cloud, another paradigm shift is afoot. This shift is in the sound systems themselves. Have you noticed that household stereos have moved across the living rooms and have merged into our TV systems? That's in stark contrast to my first real "hi-fi" system, a big investment in sound and fury that was tucked away in a wall unit that sat beside -- but had absolutely no connection to -- my television.
Today, most of us have integrated sound systems, with audio-video receivers that pump HD surround-sound from TV programming with more dimensions than an average room. The merging of audio systems into video systems brings the movie theater experience home, but it also it makes the screen a great navigation device for the audiophile.
One of our VPs, a frequent entertainer, plays music at his get-togethers from his Apple-TV, connected to the television in his living room. While his TV is far from home-theater-sized, he's wired an amazing sound system to it that permeates every corner of the house. And his TV gives everyone the right to "own the remote" and pick their songs.
For cable operators, this presents a massive opportunity that became evident to me last month. Michael Jackson’s This is It concert video was on, and my kids, aged 2 and 6, were mesmerized watching a larger-than-life King of Pop in Dolby Digital on our wall-projected screen. What if my cable operator found a way to pump an endless and engaging supply of songs and music videos to the best sound system in my house?
Apple may forever have a role in managing my existing music collection, but I would gladly replace Internet radio and music video DVDs with a compelling and personalized IPTV-based music service. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), and Roku Inc. offer Pandora today, but the opportunity for more variety and personalization of music on TV is nascent.
In 1980, MTV made its debut with its first video, Video Killed the Radio Star. While music videos don't have the same appeal they once did, and radio limps on, maybe IPTV will once again breathe new life into the TV industry's music ambitions.
— Gemini Waghmare, Founder & CEO, UXP Systems