I think that one of the most fascinating things about the ongoing change from old, analogue/physical business models to their new digital/virtual replacements, is the way we’re moving through a sort of middle, mash-up period, in which legecy businesses are desperately trying to hammer their old models into a shape that might perhaps work in the new.
Take music, for example. I’ve recently got quite into listening to music on my iPhone, and have been buying quite a few downloaded tracks for it from iTunes. Like, I suspect, most people, I don’t buy albums when I buy digitially; instead, I simply buy the individual tracks I want.
But iTunes doesn’t yet quite work that way. Sure, it allows you to buy individual tracks, but it insists on pretending that those tracks are part of albums. So when I search for a track, it shows me a list of probably identical versions that differ only on which album (original, compilation, greatest hits) they might have been released on. And having selected one of those at random, the iPod app on my phone then insists on showing me – and anyone who might be looking over my shoulder – the artwork of that album (an album I’ve never bought) as it plays the tune.
I wouldn’t mind, except that some of those random album choices make me look pretty stupid when it comes to my taste in music.
I think Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” is a good song, for instance, obviously, or I wouldn’t have bought it. But the iPod app insists of telling everyone that I got it from the Forest Gump soundtrack album, which isn’t the sort of album I can imagine myself buying.
And when I listen to “I’m Gonna Be” by The Proclaimers, which is a bit dodgy to start with, the iPod app is adamant that I got this track from “Totally Celtic Rock: The Essential Celtic Rock Alb-
Hang on a minute. Crap. That is actually an album I bought.