NEW ORBITAL ALBUMS

Your next album purchases may come from space - a future vision and the latest developments...

It’s this time in 2009 and Blur have just released that difficult 14th album ‘Old’, an emotionally wrenching study of early middle age wherein a bald and overweight Damon Albarn sings about marriage, mortgages and worrying about his pension plan.

You check out a few tracks on Murdochcorps plc TV’s music on demand channel by selecting them on your wall-hung 3D quality plasma TV screen. You like what you hear, So you say to the TV ‘Buy it’ and in the space of a few seconds the voice recognition software in your computer activates a laser which reads an implanted microchip in your neck that checks your credit – in this case a bit shaky but you have the necessary 80 Euros for the album – and pulls down all the tracks from a central database in geostationary orbit around your house.

The album is loaded onto the vast 200 Mega Gigabyte hard drive on your stereo ready for you to play. The artwork, a splodgy painting of a man wetting himself by Graham Coxon, appears on your massive TV screen every time you play it or, if you prefer, on your hand-held CD sized screen, giving you that sense of having a possession.

That’s fantasy and like all Tomorrow’s World-style predictions is unlikely to bear any resemblance to how things will actually turn out, but we are already well on the way to satellite digital downloads.

At a press conference in Tokyo on Friday, Sony, the Japanese entertainment and consumer electronics giant, announced plans to distribute CD quality music by satellite to set-top receivers of Japanese SkyperfecTV subscribers in April.

The new service, according to Sony, will sell music at a lower cost than CDs from shops. Subscribers to the multi-channel digital satellite service – part of the globe-spanning Rupert Murdoch empire in which Sony is a major shareholder – can download music to MiniDisc, CD-R or rewritable DVD (when it arrives on the market). The new format is in competition to other rivals to the MP3 standard; it also arrives just as other companies try to grab a slice of the downloaded music market. Other Japanese companies such as the telecommunications giant Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation are planning trials later this year of music distribution.

Last week mp3.com, the site dedicated to the open format MP3 revolution, reported that EchoStar Communications, a US company, are launching EchoStar Web TV using a set-top box with a hard drive capable of downloading MP3 files from satellites.

But at the moment most commentators agree that the race for a download standard that all other companies are forced to adopt is an open one. While Sony has a major advantage because of its hardware manufacturing muscle, other companies are developing their own independent technologies.

Sony will start the new standard off with new artists rather than established megastars on their labels.

Does the future belong to dowloaded albums, MP3s or some format as yet unimagined? Will this kill off record shops? Is killing off record shops necessarily a bad thing? Tell us what you think. Post a message on Angst