Ever heard of it? It stands for Software as a Service, and it's a little sector of the software/tech business that everyone is keeping an eye on right now. One of the leading vendors of this service right now is a company called SalesForce.com. My brother in law is actually their director of recruiting for the midwest region. What SaaS does is remove the need to buy software for your business. It moves the important stuff to the "cloud", which is another name for the internet, and charges a monthly fee for the service. It's the same concept as Gmail, except that enterprise software is big, big business. Software companies don't just make a bundle when they sell it, they make a bigger bundle from selling the support contracts that every business inevitably needs to keep their company moving along.
So, SaaS removes the expense of buying, and instead rents you the software, along with the support, for however long you want it. I'm not in the market right now, so I don't know how long the contracts last, but the point is that companies probably won't continue to buy enterprise software if this model works out like SalesForce.com hopes it will. So far it's working like gangbusters. They're projecting about $1.3B in revenue for 2010.
The correlating service in the music business would be something like Napster, I guess. You pay a monthly fee and you get access to their whole database of music. Services like these haven't taken off for crap, mostly because iTunes already owns the market and it's still just too easy to rip music off for free. iTunes has proven such a success because they really do make it super easy to get what you want, the prices are reasonable, and they don't even insist on that DRM crap anymore (which was only there in the first place because the majors insisted on it).
What if a band with a pre-established fanbase wanted to try this out on their own? What if there were very regularly updated music, video, whatever on a site dedicated to the band, and the only place you could get that stuff was from that website? What if it were super simple for anyone to use, and super affordable for anyone to join? In other words, what if it were worth it?
Would people try it?
Would bands try it?
If the other option is to put out another CD that you can only buy at the merch table, or maybe online somewhere and even then only if you're already looking for it, I think this could be a way forward for a really motivated band.