What is interesting in the current scramble for the killer online music business model is that there is an implicit assumption that the only place people would want to go from the CD is online or mobile.  The iPod heralded a new paradigm in music consumption, but it has done little to counter the impact of the CD's terminal decline and may even have helped accelerate it.


As things currently stand, the mass market music consumer isn’t being catered to with any form of new product and the fight for these consumers’ living room is being lost.  It wasn't too long ago that the home hi-fi system was the flagship piece of living-room technology but over the past decade, living-room tech spending has shifted firmly to the TV while the aging home hi-fi system is either gathering dust or has been replaced by a docking station. (The latter of which is an awkward attempt to make a personal device a household device, and besides, the majority of households don’t even have one).


The time has come for new music products and experiences that cater for the mass market and that – for the non-tech savvy majority – bring the home music experience into the 21st century.  In our latest report ‘Taking Digital Music To The Mainstream: The Music Product Features For The Living Room’ Forrester puts forward a vision of what we think is needed. 


We propose that the new mass market music experience must be explicitly part of a new hardware experience that is contemporary but highly competitively priced.  Our conceptual technology is a hard drive, midi-sized music hi-fi that with a detachable touch screen display / remote control. We argue that the new hardware must:


  • Deliver a compelling experience even if not connected: it’s just too risky to assume that mainstream consumers will have the inclination or know-how to connect a music product to a home network, even if they have one.
  • Include extensive music at point of purchase: this is, we think, the crucial element.  Mainstream consumers don’t have the appetite for another format replacement cycle, so we suggest the device should effectively replace their entire CD collection and add more, all for the cost of the device.  (And yes, we know this is light years away from where current licensing values are). And in case you didn’t notice – we just invented a new music consumption paradigm here, and a new role for retail.
  • Provide the tools for baby steps into the digital world: for those consumers that do connect we propose a convenient range of digital discovery and acquisition applications to encourage consumers towards the digital arena.
  • Leverage telcos: we want these devices to be affordable, but to really go mass market they probably need subsidizing by a telco e.g. a Sky Songs broadband package would include the device bundled with the router.


Of course there are many other ways this challenge can be met, but met it must be. Unless the music industry enters the battle for the living room, it will soon lose it — and with it the mainstream music consumer.


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