What the Hell is Interactive Music?

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In the early 1990s the music industry was on the verge of an existential crisis. And not everybody knew it. Analog recording had given way to digital and while consumers were busily replacing their vinyl collections with CDs – creating a temporary boom in sales for the major record labels – a new delivery system was out there and about to disrupt everything.

So, on CNN’s Showbiz Today, I did a piece about this. In it, the bold prediction was made: in the future, you will get your albums through “the wires,” by “plugging in a blank disc, punching up a number and pulling the disc out.”

In fairness, that crystal-balling by my friend Bill Flanagan of Musician magazine and now CBS Sunday Morning, was accurate . . .until Napster came along. A younger generation began peer-to-peer file-sharing (read: piracy), streaming audio made the CD obsolete and now we live in a Spotify/Pandora/Amazon/Google Play/Apple Music world.

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The oddest thing about this piece is the title. “Interactive Music.” I don’t know whether that was my idea or my producers’ but it was woefully inadequate, if not just . . .wrong. But “streaming music” wasn’t a phrase in common use at the time.

We were right about one thing: some people didn’t outgrow their need to “browse through the bins.” Although rifling through CD bins doesn’t happen much anymore.

The rifling in bins is now part of the appeal of the growing number of retro vinyl record stores. Another movement that went unpredicted in the nineties.


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