Spotify, the social-based online music streaming service, is rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Since its arrival in the United States, it has rapidly passed up other streaming services like MOG —and does anyone even remember Pandora?—and the inclusion of numerous specialty apps with the program is only adding to Spotify’s versatility.
And Spotify has even bigger plans. They recently went on record saying they want to be known as the “OS of music.” With its growing surge of popularity, it’s not difficult to imagine Spotify becoming to streaming music what Facebook has become to social networking.
There’s definitely something to be said about Spotify, and other music streaming services. It’s a great boon for music fans; after all, you can access almost any recorded song, at any time, for FREE. All you have to do is be willing to listen to a few commercials and see a few ads—just like radio, only you pick the play list. (Of course, for a subscription fee, you can also do away with the commercials if you’d rather.) Spotify in particular makes things incredibly simple; rather than just make songs available for streaming, they give you a free app/interface to download, where you can see what Facebook friends are listening to, share playlists, sample new music, create your own radio station—and the music starts playing the instant you click on something.
Of course, there are the dissenters. Coldplay, for example, refused to put their latest record Mylo Xyloto up for streaming, at least at first. And The Black Keys are still holding out with their album El Camino. And you can pretty much forget streaming The Beatles. (Dang, it took years just to get that music available on iTunes.)
But I think it’s a tactical error for music industry bigwigs and artists to ignore streaming services like Spotify. For one thing, when you let people stream music freely in a cloud-based format—they are less likely to steal it. Artists and publishers get paid when music gets streamed on the Internet, where they don’t get paid from illegal downloads. It might not be as much money as actually selling a download or a CD, but money is money. Regardless of where you fall on the music piracy issue, cloud streaming is a viable way to make it easy for fans to access the music they want to hear. (Why steal it when you can listen to it on your phone for free, anyway?)
For another thing, especially for indie artists, Spotify and its kind are a great way to gain exposure and listeners, especially with the social networking/sharing aspect of it. When someone likes your music on Spotify, it is incredibly easy for that person to spread the word.
The fact is, like it or lump it, streaming music is here to stay, at least until we find some other way to deliver the product. There are many in the business who are now speculating that cloud-based music will eventually become the primary way people listen to music, possibly even replacing music downloads. It’s even possible that one day music won’t be available for “sale;” it will just stream from the Internet to subscribers.
Now, with all the advantages and possibilities of cloud-based streaming, there is a sense of loss involved, too. I’m thinking of the way e-readers like Kindle have revolutionized publishing; it makes it incredibly simple for people to purchase and read books, but there are lots of people who already miss holding a book in their hands. By the same token, as music fans, we often draw some sense of personal identity from our music collections. We are proud of the records we have collected, the records we own—and the resurgence of vinyl proves that point somewhat. What happens to that sense of ownership if all music is in the cloud, and we all have equal access to the same music library? It just isn’t the same as having a CD or a vinyl collection of our own. If that does happen, that’s something we’ll all have to deal with.
But it is what it is. Like many people, I have mixed feelings about Spotify and other streaming services. There are many things about it I like, but I also like having a music collection (even if it is mainly on my iPod).
Whatever your feelings about it—my opinion is that this streaming music thing is just too big to ignore.
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Posted in: Music Industry