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.