Music becomes a gadgeteer

For a long time the music industry saw digital technology as something be stamped on with steel-capped boots. The smell of cash, though, has brought t

For a long time the music industry saw digital technology as something be stamped on with steel-capped boots. The smell of cash, though, has brought them round, and the world's biggest acts are going tech.

The mobile phone, in particular, is the marketing machines' favourite new toy. Madonna's debut single 'Hung Up' from her new album 'Confessions on a Dancefloor' was recently released first as a ringtone via MTV.com and VH1.com. The same sites will also be previewing the whole album a week for its official release on 14th November.

Robbie Williams' launch of his new album 'Intensive Care' at Berlin concert on 11th October was watched by over 100,000 people on their mobiles, and we recently revealed his involvement in Nokia's Coolzone technology for streaming songs via Bluetooth in cafes.

Meanwhile, latino bellydancer Shakira has hooked up with MTV to produce 'mobisode' interviews and online pre-release tracks from her upcoming release 'Oral Fixation Vol 2'.

But while heavily backed artists like Shakira and Williams, who has shifted 35m albums, are using their clout to take advantage of new digital technology avenues, forward-thinking little guys have been using music fans' technical nous to reduce the need for label muscle.

The Arctic Monkeys' (above) seizing of the number one spot two weeks ago was the direct result of their home-made hype machine, which involved encouraging fans to swap MP3s through file-sharing sites like Kazaa.

As we reported back in our August issue, electro-pop band The Modern were became the first band to sign a major label digital-only deal with Universal, which lets Universal market tracks online in return for a share of the profits, while Goldie Lookin' Chain have prolonged their limited shelf-life by offering video downloads of gigs on their website.

So, with music's distribution and publicity becoming increasingly digital, is there still a place for CD? Certainly while the infuriating digital rights management (DRM) and interoperability between services issues continue. Plus, it's fair to say that only early adopters (that's us) can be bothered to download to a music video onto a 3G phone.

So, the transitional multi-format availability of CDs alongside digital files and video downloads looks set to continue for some time yet. What it does mean is that there have never been more ways to consume music. And that can only be a good thing for us consumers.