An English computer science student has set up a collaborative filtering site as part of his course work. The service essentially sifts through your music collection and recommends other similar artists based upon your tastes. This is exactly the sort of feature which should be at the very heart of legitimate music services, and which Jupiter has advocated for years.
To stand any chance of competing with the illegal sector, legal music services need to be able to offer more, not less. Realistically, major label licenses are not going give online music services blanket access to unlimited content, so services will have to rely on added value features such as collaborative filtering to provide competitive advantage. BT Dot Musicís play lists are a good step in the right direction – with a big debt of gratitude to Uplister (RIP).
But play lists alone are not enough. Digital music services should allow listeners to discover new music and new artists. In doing so it creates incremental revenue opportunities for the music industry at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach many consumers with music marketing. Mainstream radio is becoming increasingly fragmented, as is the music press (both on and offline). The same applies to music TV, with MTVís hegemony challenged by a slew of copycats. This should all mean more choice for the consumer, and in some ways it does, but for the average person on the high street, without niche music interest, it is incredibly daunting. So much so, that many simply do not bother trying. Digital music services are a perfect way to reach these consumers, with wide appeal offerings that can narrow or widen their focus according to a consumerís habits.
In short, digital music services need to be fluid. They cannot be based upon rigid pricing and delivery models. That is what will give paid digital music services real competitive advantage and will make illegal file sharing networks appear pathetic in comparison.