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10 Million iPods, Previewing the CD's End

By Sean Daly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 13, 2005; Page A01

Classic-rock fan George Petersen doesn't need another copy of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" or Cream's "Disraeli Gears." He has spent the past four decades buying and re-buying his favorite music in a succession of new formats: vinyl, 8-track, cassette, compact disc, Super Audio CD, DVD-Audio.

Enough is enough. The basement is full.


Fernando Rock checks out an iPod Mini in Palo Alto, Calif. Apple sold 8.2 million iPod digital players last year. (Paul Sakuma -- AP)

_____E-Music_____
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"We as consumers have been trained by the music industry to go out and buy a new piece of plastic every few years," said the 51-year-old Petersen, editorial director of Mix, a San Francisco-based magazine that covers professional sound recording. "Why do we keep buying the same things?"

It's a good question. Now get ready for the day when you open your wallet and buy "Abbey Road" all over again.

With tonight's 47th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles drawing attention to the ever-shifting world of the recording arts, Petersen and many other music-biz insiders agree that, in the next decade or so, the CD will very likely be surpassed as the album format of choice.

"The new format is no format," predicted Petersen, a 24-year industry veteran who also owns a record label, a recording studio and a music-publishing company. "What the consumer would buy is a data file, and you could create whatever you need. If you want to make an MP3, you make an MP3. If you want a DVD-Audio surround disc, you make that."

"We're moving beyond the media stage to the delivery stage," agreed Mitch Gallagher, 41-year-old editor of EQ, a San Mateo, Calif.-based magazine for music producers. At some point, he said, "you won't have something to hold in your hand" until you transfer a data file to a blank disc or tape.

"We can make our own plastic," Petersen said. "I've been thinking this is what should happen for years, but it's actually the way we're going anyway."

Think "Dark Side of the Moon" as an invisible cyberswirl of 1's and 0's. No CD case. No liner notes to flip through. No . . . nothing.

Your preferred music star could provide a myriad of songs, bonus cuts, commentary, videos, album art, you name it. You, however, would have ultimate power: which songs stay, which songs are deleted, which songs go where. Surely, if Paul McCartney offered a new, computer-based "Abbey Road" with alternate takes, making-of-the-disc footage and other historical arcana, Beatles fans would want it. Or some of it, anyway.


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