From Salon: The music revolution will not be digitized. “The power, then, is consolidated squarely back in the hands of the same record industry executives that held the reins before.” There are still some groups that have the power to change things, though…
So far, the music publishing organizations haven’t completely signed off on many of the models that the major labels are trying to build. The music publishers represent most of the songwriters, and without their permission none of the major label services can take off.
The group that can possibly most influence the direction of digital music in the future are the musicians themselves. The cost of producing a high-quality recording is lower than ever. If major artists revolt and retake ownership of their recordings, they will be in a position to truly change how music is distributed and paid for.
Though Metallica has been among the most vocal opponents of Napster, they are among the few bands that pay for the production of their albums and own their recordings. This gives them far more options than groups that are locked into multi-album major label deals. My hope is that other established artists who can afford to do so will take a cue from Metallica and gain better control over their recordings.
Prince has been exploring a few different avenues of online distribution, including Napster and subscriptions on his own site. Perhaps as more artists take control of their recordings, they will also listen to what their fans want and start experimenting with new forms of distribution.