The fifth part of our end-of-year roundup, originally published in the Music Ally report. New to the series? Start from part one.In 2009, talk of ‘access-based models’ was all the rage in the music industry. In 2010, that mutated into talk about ‘music in the cloud’. The meaning was almost the same, but some of the arguments around it were new.It’s worth making the distinction between music services that make their own catalogues of music available to stream from the cloud (more of which later), and locker services that allow people to upload their own collections and then stream them to multiple devices. The key difference being that a relatively clear licensing structure exists for the former, but not for the latter.So, 2010 saw plenty of talk about the importance of the cloud, but a lack of action. Apple’s long-trailed cloudy iTunes failed to materialise, while Google announced its plans for a service combining traditional a la carte downloads with cloud-locker aspects, only to find that rightsholders weren’t leaping to sign on the dotted line to make the latter aspect possible.UK retailer Carphone Warehouse did manage to launch a cloud service: Music Anywhere, using technology from Catch Media. However, it illustrated some of the technical challenges for cloud music services, including metadata-matching and the sheer grind of uploading someone’s entire music collection – despite a feature to ‘match’ songs to its catalogue, it was a grind.It should come as no surprise that cloud services were relatively thin on the ground, given the legal uncertainty around what kind of licence these services require – or indeed whether they require one at all. Looming over everything was the legal battle between EMI and MP3tunes over this very point.If EMI wins, MP3tunes founder Michael Robertson will be taken to the cleaners, and no cloud service will dare launch without licences. If MP3tunes wins, though, the way will be clear for Apple, Google and whoever else to launch their services without paying rightsholders. It’s easy to get carried away with rhetoric, but the outcome of this case will define the path cloud services take in the coming years – whichever side you support.With the precedent of YouTube v Viacom and Veoh v UMG (both cases that are being appealed), Robertson is confident that he will win.If EMI wins and licensing is required, there is still plenty of debate around what nature that licence should take. Google has reportedly been enticing labels with shares of ad revenues around its service – a strategy that might carry more weight if rightsholders hadn’t spent so much time grousing about the revenues they get from YouTube’s similar model.Meanwhile, startups like Beyond Oblivion caused a stir this year by talking about monetising music on a per-play basis – something also adopted by Music Anywhere. The advantage of this was of addressing a key concern of rightsholders: that a big proportion of the music people are storing in the cloud may have been downloaded illegally, and thus never paid for.The challenge of the per-play model is in the economics: how much will people pay a month for these services – if anything – and how heavily will they use them?At Music Ally’s Cloud Models debate in July, Omnifone’s Rob Lewis claimed cloud services could convince upwards of 100 million people to pay for a music subscription service by 2015. “The cloud is the future. The only issue, as it always is with the music industry, is it’s so bloody fragmented, it takes ages to get the business models right.”The key, of course, is to be in there. As PRS for Music’s Will Page noted at the Music Ally debate: “The challenge for rights bodies is to develop legal lockers, as opposed to letting illegal lockers take over. A traceable locker where there’s data there is preferable to an untraceable locker where there’s no data there. Lockers with data, good. Lockers without data, bad.”That’s the key point, and one which may in the end prove to be the real value of cloud services: the data. Any service that tracks what songs a user plays on which devices has a powerful basis for recommendations and advertising, to name but two revenue streams. Cloud models are fluid, but full of potential.Music Ally Trends of 20101. Growth and Decline2. Pressure on ISPs3. Pirates Under Attack4. Mobile Apps Mania5. Clouds and Silver Linings6. The Economics of Streaming Music7. Music Gets Socialised8. Google versus the Music Industry9. Music Investment10. Music TV Makes a Comeback

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