The Future Of Downloads Is Multi-Track

At least that's what I think      28/12/08

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During the holiday season one finds that more time than usual is spent putting the world to rights with fellow journalists at various watering holes in the name of festivity. Nursing my own delicate condition this morning, I reflect back on last night's ramblings and recall an interesting discussion on the future of digital downloads, talking as we were of the marvels of the impending release of Celemony Melodyne DNA and all that it will do to change the way people manipulate audio, we got on to remixes and multi-track downloads and things of that nature. It got me thinking, what would happen if multi-tracks were made available of all currently down-loadable songs and charged at a premium. I mean, how much would you pay to get the latest Britney bits, a Motown classic, or the latest floor filler? The additional revenue to an ailing industry would certainly be most welcome wouldn't it? And, if anyone actually created a new monster hit, the original artist and writers would get their royalties through publishing and mechanicals too. So far, several bands have made their own parts available, see Nine Inch Nails and the like as free downloads, but a few DJ mix sites have offered the full mix and the option to purchase the parts also. Prices range from 6.99 to 9.99 per multi-track, so its conceivable that we may see the the arrival of an an album priced at $100 – in multi-track form. Who amongst us might not enjoy, digging around in a multi-track of our favourite artist's album, or from a producer you admire? What are the advantages?
Well imagine, extra sales to DJs, who could create their own custom drops and breakdowns or mash-ups using Traktor, Ableton Live or whatever. This is in fact an area where it is already happening. Or, making consumer bundles available to GarageBand or FruityLoops users and or other mass music creation software - Christmas hits minus vocals for the family sing-a-long anyone? Perhaps, buying a friend the complete album of multi-tracks from Led Zeppelin, or in my case a Trevor Horn produced masterpiece as a boxed set with accompanying session track sheets or notes would be a product I'd be interested in. There's something quite exciting about opening up a multi-track from a classic tune, there's stuff in there that no ones heard possibly since the track was mixed. You get to see how the original producer put the parts together, and sometimes, just pushing up the faders gives you the record right there - it's like digging for treasure. And the downsides?
Some purists might argue that putting this kind of material out there cheapens the memory of our classic musical heritage, and I guess in some cases that might happen, although as a music buying public, we're often compelled to push the crassest sample based tunes to the top of the charts with little compunction – actually, I'm struggling to find a glaring international culprit, but in the UK Sugababes sample Ernie K. Doe's Here Come The Girls, while in the US T.I Featuring Rhianna, seems to have shortened the requisite sampling recycling principle using the Euro-tastic "Dragostea din tei" by the Moldovan pop group O-Zone , better known as Numa Numa Song made infamous by Gary Brolsma on Youtube. As an aside, just how long will it be before there are two tracks in the charts sampling each other? - Or maybe its already happened... Perhaps I overestimate the potential market for this kind of thing, but I dunno, anything that acts as an additional way of earning a crust for many musicians or labels struggling in these times must surely be worth looking at? Nick Batt

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