The Digital Music Forum in New York demonstrated how much uncertainty there is in the industry. A sense that big things are afoot underscored the conference, but some of the most powerful players--Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon--were conspicuously absent from the stage. Amid all the speculation, the business-card exchanges, and the cell phone ringtone interruptions, there were several ideas that kept coming up:
--Don't expect the digital rights management debate to be resolved any time soon
--99-cent downloads are not ideal--some call it price fixing--but any change is going to trigger a nasty fight
--The subscription set-up tends to work
--MySpace.com will go where the teens go and with roughly 60 million users in tow, it would be wise to keep an eye on that
--Independent music market to industry: embrace the anarchy and go open-source
--Capitalize on P2P with legit systems and do it now
--iTunes better watch out. No, really. For real this time.
--Go for interoperability, but good luck getting permission
--The people paying for digital music tend to be pasty, overweight, and balding; the young cool types keep figuring out how to get it for free
--There are ways to monetize "free"
So where do all these soundbites leave us? Until someone makes a real move, a lot of white noise. The good news is there's not only room for clever ideas in the industry, there's a thirst for them.