Eliot Van Buskirk on the future of digital music

The Editor-in-Chief of weighs in on the major players and who to watch out for

Entrepreneur interview by Faith Merino
November 30, 2011
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So we have Spotify, we have, we have Shazam, Rhapsody, iTunes, and everything in between, but what lies ahead for the digital music industry?  Eliot Van Buskirk’s forecast: cross-compatibility.  All of those digital music platforms need to hook up.

“Let’s say you subscribe to rhapsody, I subscribe to spotify, our friend doesn’t subscribe to any of that stuff…the next phase is going to be connecting all that stuff together,” Van Burskirk said.  “If you had to buy a new CD player to play stuff from each record label, the CD never would’ve taken off, and that’s kind of where we are with these services.  There’s no cross-talk.”

Equally important is portability: you need to be able to take your music with you from one service to another.  Think of the anxiety you might feel committing yourself to one service, building a relationship with that service—building a comprehensive playlist—and then realizing you don’t like it anymore and want to try something new.  Just like a messy divorce, you lose all your stuff and have to start from scratch somewhere else.

Van Buskirk muses on the possibility that some time down the line, music services might make some sort of pact to honor one another’s platforms to make playlists portable.  Obviously, this is pretty tricky, since it would essentially be making it easier for customers to leave and try out the competition. 

“But it’s like that saying—if you love something, let it go,” said Van Buskirk.

So who will be the big players in the digital music scene?

First and foremost: Apple.  “Never count Apple out,” said Van Buskirk. 

Google is another one to keep an eye on, since it has all the money in the world.  YouTube is something of an unsung hero in the digital music world, since you can generally find just about any song you want on there and listen to it free of charge. 

But the real movers and shakers are the independent app developers—the ones who are developing apps that can sync your music with your running speed, or apps that use facial recognition technology to pick someone out of a crowd, find their playlists, and make them the unofficial “DJ” of the party. 

“The sky’s the limit, I could talk about this forever,” said Van Buskirk.


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