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Digital Music Needs to Make Connections

Listeners can enjoy music at home or on the go, but they still face limitations in how they access it. Those limitations were at the heart of the panel discussion "Music Anywhere, Anytime, on any Device" at the Digital Music Forum in New York City. While the panel description said the panelists would discuss "The next wave of connected devices," they mostly looked at the inaccessibility of today's music services.

Right now, music exists in content cul-de-sacs, said Stephen Dupont, director of sales for Gracenote: pockets of files that can't talk to each other. There's no tool that can combine information from a listener's online music service and locally stored library to suggest new artists and songs that the listener would enjoy, he said.

"Innovation drives fragmentation," said Finbar O'Hanlon, CEO of Linius, explaining the current fractured state of the digital music industry. Adam Powers, the senior director of technology for Rovi, said that there were lots of opportunities for consolidation in the fragmented market, while Thomas Meyer, the marketing director of Sonos, said that consumers wanted easy playback of their music, and if the service vendors weren't going to do it, then it was up to the device-makers.

Educating consumers about what services are available is a challenge, said Brian McGarvey, the marketing director for Rhapsody. He's started using the term "on-demand," because the cable companies have done a good job of explaining to the public what it means.

When asked where he saw the digital music market going in ten years, McGarvey said that ease-of-use was crucial, and that he thought a combination of digital radio and on-demand music would win out. Meyer said that enjoying music would be as simple in ten years as turning on a light switch, and that consumers would have easy access to any music on the planet. Dupont said that he planned on being retired by then.

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