It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the music industry is moving more and more towards the streaming model. The music industry is basically posing 2 questions to the general music buying public:
Would you prefer to…
Purchase only those songs and albums that you want to hear at a price of $0.60 – $1.29 for a single song or $7 – $15 for an album
Pay a monthly fee of $7 – $10 and get access to all the music in that store’s catalog
It seems like the “powers that be” are betting on the streaming model. Now the problem becomes which service should customers choose. Companies currently offering this model are Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, Slacker, and (most recently) Google Play Music All Access. Apple is also planning on joining the crowd with a service being referred to as iRadio.
I’ve actually used all of these services, or at least the parts I could evaluate for free. Not counting Apple’s iTunes/iRadio since it hasn’t been released yet. I’ve determined that Spotify beats all the other for one main reason: They don’t limit you. Spotify allows you to listen to any song in their catalog for free at any time and even build playlists as long as you don’t mind hearing a commercial after every 2 or 3 songs. Rdio and Google only offer the trial model, letting you listen to any song in their catalog for 30 days before they block you out (requesting payment) and limit you to 30 second samples. Rdio allows you to make playlists but if you don’t pay they’ll put all that in a choke hold and limit every song to 30 seconds.
Slacker, in my opinion, is way better than Pandora because it has a nicer user interface and better stations. However, Slacker (like Pandora) doesn’t allow you to control what songs you want to hear or when you want to hear them without you paying first. Pandora is actually the worst of the bunch and they have a history of not paying artists royalties. Pandora has even gone far enough as to ask Congress to decrease the amount of royalties they have to pay artists.
So, Spotify’s ad-supported full length streaming plus the ability to make playlists is what makes them stand above the others. Spotify only limits those customers trying to listen via a smart device, which (again) is acceptable compared to how the other services limit you.
Something I’ve been personally doing is using Spotify to discover new music. Here’s how I do that:
First, I might hear a song on FM radio, whether I’m listening to an FM station in my car or if I’m using an app like TuneIn or MixCloud. While I’m listening to the song playing, if I like it, I’ll open the SoundHound or Shazam app I’ve intalled on my iPod and try to identify the song playing.
Sometime after I’ve “tagged” the song with Shazam or SoundHound, I’ll hop on Spotify and search for that artist/song/album and enjoy listening to all their work. I’ve discovered tons of new music doing this.
Another thing I’ll do: If I’m on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, or any other physical/digital store where music is sold. I’ll see something that I want to listen to in full, before I purchase it, and I’ll head over to Spotify to listen to it in full. I do this because (as most know) you can only hear a 30 second sample in the digital stores and you can’t hear it at all in a physical store. Spotify makes purchasing music less of a gamble.
Of course, I’m not even touching on the concept of music ownership. But that’s for another blog…
Industry sources are saying that Google’s willingness to acquiesce to music label demands and the structure of the hybrid service Apple is trying to build are the main reasons why the search giant’s music service is live now while the iPhone maker’s offering might miss WWDC.
Google rolled out All Access for Google Play Music users this week during the keynote for its I/O developer conference, beating Apple by at least weeks to what some industry players hope will be the future of music: subscription-based services. Meanwhile, Apple’s status as a hardware tech giant isn’t helping it as much as it would have hoped with the music labels, sources tell The Verge.
One obstacle to Apple rolling out its long-anticipated “iRadio” service is the Cupertino company’s longtime resistance to paying advances to the major copyright holders. That, along with an initial lowball royalty offer to the record labels, has kept Apple’s service in a holding pattern, even as the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference approaches.
Instead of an up front assurance payment, Apple is said to be offering a combination of royalties per track streamed, a share of iRadio’s advertising revenue, and a guaranteed minimum payment if the previous two options prove insufficient. Universal Music may have already agreed to Apple’s terms, but Sony Music is thought to be the main holdout.
Google, meanwhile, is said to have agreed to pay advances in order to get its service out the door. Google’s choice to hew to the path worn by services like Spotify and Rdio — that of the plain subscription service with some radio and discovery elements — is also said to be more to the music labels’ liking. The labels, burnt early in the last decade by rampant file sharing, are looking to secure a steady revenue stream in exchange for their product, assuring that songwriters, engineers, publishers, and other shareholders continue to be paid.
Apple’s offering, on the other hand, is reportedly more of a hybrid service, blending elements of Internet radio with other on-demand features. The licensing agreements for such a service, sources say, must be built from the ground up, and those negotiations are part of what’s holding the service up.
In addition to Google’s All Access, Apple’s offering would join Spotify, Rdio, Microsoft’s Xbox Music, and others in the new generation of music discovery and consumption sources. The record labels are encouraged by the number of options consumers have to access their product of late. iTunes may have contributed greatly to the industry’s first revenue growth in years, but the labels have historically been wary of Apple’s overwhelming influence on their industry.