One Big Database Could Save the Music Business with Billions of Tiny Rivulets

In 13-plus years of writing about digital music all day, one of my favorite pieces remains “4 Reasons Music Needs One Big Database,” which argues that all of these MP3 blogs, music subscriptions, tweets, videos, streaming radio services, and so on are talking about the same set of music: the one that exists on planet Earth.

As such, it would make things simpler for music fans and music services if all of those songs were listed in a huge, publicly accessible database, with unique numbers next to them. Simpler means more efficient, and more efficient means cheaper (for fans), more rewarding (for artists), and more effective from just about any other perspective.

With One Big Database, you could take all of your playlists, ratings, and music and leave Spotify in favor of Rhapsody in a matter of minutes, with everything intact. You might even be more likely to pay for that Spotify subscription in the first place, safe in the knowledge that doing so wouldn’t trap you in any way — other than into being a music fan for life, a fate to which many of us have already gladly consigned ourselves.

One Big Database would ease mergers (see Rhapsody/Napster and MySpace/imeem) at the center and help apps talk to each other at the edges. As an example of the, “Hey look, it just works now!” phenomenon that One Big Database would bring, consider the new apps embedded in the Spotify desktop client from tastemakers like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and Joe Q. Public.

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