Record companies are in trouble.
If they go bust, so they tell us, it will be the end of all music (not to mention civilisation as we know it). The reason is simple, they spent money on promoting pap, whilst forgetting about investing in product research. Think of any failing industry and that will probably be the reason. One of the product features they forgot about was security: too late now to pay those PhD’s to come up with secure DRM tools -way too late.
Today’s invention is an alternative approach to shore up the market position of big labels. Now that everyone can make multiple copies of all digital media, essentially for nothing, I suggest that a vital way to add real value is to offer personalisation.
People would be able to visit a website and mix their own, unique version of any recording in the catalogue (by ticking boxes for eg timed effects and adjusting processing sliders for each channel) . These would then be downloadable -on payment of a realistic price (perhaps a few dollars per track). Obviously the individual digital channel outputs and the tool itself would not be made publicly available.
Complete tracks would of course then be freely copiable, but real fans would still want their own personal version(s). The interface might also allow for a kind of karaoke, with the customer recording his/her own version in concert with the chosen artist(s).
Those record stores still in existence could provide advice services in connection with the use of the interface. Artists might even choose to meet, and perhaps duet, with fans who had made credible variants of their work.