I can‘t say I am a big fan of Frank Zappa, but I have respect for what he did and especially for how he did it. And, being a real loony, he apparently was a real visionary as well.
In 1983 – that‘s more than twenty years ago (!) – he wrote a text about the music industry named A Proposal For A System To Replace Ordinary Record Merchandising.
Ordinary phonograph record merchandising as it exists today is a stupid process which concerns itself essentially with pieces of plastic, wrapped in pieces of cardboard.
And he continues analyzing the state of the industry and the uselessness of simply selling music on hardware without taking the effect of hometaping into account.
It is our proposal to take advantage of the POSITIVE ASPECTS of a NEGATIVE TREND afflicting the record industry today: HOME TAPING via cassette of material released on vinyl.
Finally he proposes a system called Quality Catalog Items, making the good music available in digital form
We propose to acquire the rights to digitally duplicate and store THE BEST of every record company‘s difficult-to-move Quality Catalog Items [Q.C.I.], store them in a central processing location, and have them accessible by phone or cable TV, directly patchable into the user‘s home taping appliances […] All accounting for royalty payments, billing to the customer, etc. would be automatic, built into the initial software for the system.
So what he describes is basically something like Apple‘s iTunes Music Store – in 1983. However, he opts for a subscription service (instead of paying per song) and of course the proposed technical solutions do not reflect the current state of the art. But we have to admin that talking about accessibility by phone or cable TV is pretty close to the reality of the Internet today.
Chapeau, Frank[via IT&W]