Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Have the format wars finally come to an end?

If you’re a music fan in your twenties, thirties, forties or beyond, you’ve probably used a number of different physical formats over the course of your lifetime to listen to your tunes. These will include vinyl (still going strong), cassette …

Fri, Oct 26, 2012, 09:50

   

If you’re a music fan in your twenties, thirties, forties or beyond, you’ve probably used a number of different physical formats over the course of your lifetime to listen to your tunes.

These will include vinyl (still going strong), cassette (also still around) and CD (must definitely still around). Some of you may also have bought into the MiniDisc format as well – don’t worry, you weren’t alone.


Just some of the formats you may find around your gaff

The arrival of the MP3 changed all of this and would appear to have put an end to format innovation and cannibalisation. However, as Apple launch a smaller version of a very successful product, you wonder if we’re really seeing the end of the music format wars. Could another format come along and convince music fans to walk that way?

The problems for anyone hawking a new format are many. Most mainstream music fans have become accustomed to the convenience of having their MP3s with them on phones and mobile players, while the rise of streaming services means a growing number of fans are now just not interested in actually owning the music at all. Then, there’s the whole issue of cost: fans who paid out twice or three times for their music before are unlikely to fall for that one again.

There might be an argument that some fans would adopt a new format to take advantage of better sound quality. This is the logic behind Neil Young’s Pono music player and service due in 2013. You could also look at the success of the Beats By Dre headphone line as more proof of this.

Yet it’s hard to see a seismic move back to a physical format, especially as most music fans have gone so far in the other direction. Like turning off the analogue signal the other day, the future for the majority is digital.

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