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Who knows what the future of professional photography will be like? Not me, certainly. Every day I come to work and look around at the struggling photo agencies, the struggling magazines, the online photo-sharing sites that turn everyone into a pro…and I wonder where it is all leading. So I was intrigued by the article in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine about another industry struggling through even greater evolutionary pains…that is, the music business. The article was about legendary producer Rick Rubin and his ideas about how to fix industry. Like photo agencies in the digital age, the big music labels have been afflicted with all sorts of rights-management and content-delivery issues. So it’s worth looking at his ideas.

Rubin envisions a future in which music is not delivered a la carte to your iPod. Instead, he thinks all the big record labels should get together and create mega-libraries of songs—every song on the planet—and this content would be available everywhere. To get the songs, you would subscribe to the library service.

He says that if the record companies don’t get together to create such a business model, they will disappear. “Either all the record companies will get together or the industry will fall apart and someone like Microsoft will come in a buy one of the companies at wholesale and do what needs to be done.”

If Microsoft or Google can own all the world’s music, why couldn’t they just as easily do the same to photography? Am I crazy–a distinct possiblity–or could Rubin’s ideas be applied in some way to the photo business?
–David Schonauer