On The Media: Who’s gonna pay for this stuff

On The Media on media business models in the _digital age_1.

This week, a special hour on the incredible volume of media available to consumers, and the incredible difficulty of making money for creators.

We are living in the entertainment golden age for consumers.

While they cover things like Spotify and Netflix, what was new to me is how many people latch onto things like Ad Blockers. I don’t use them. I think having an ad in a sidebar is a small price to pay for free content. But some of the ad-block defenders sound like jerks.

Then again, I don’t usually go to sites that deluge their readers with advertisements.

  1. Yeah, I know. I shouldn’t use that term. 


Spotify exec Ken Parks with Forbes about windowing, when recording artists hold their releases from Spotify.

My initial take is that it’s a very bad idea.

Because it puts my service at a disadvantage.

From a user standpoint, it’s a pretty hostile proposition.

Coldplay can choose to not make their record available on Spotify and it’s considered hostile. Man, we’re fucking spoiled.

The notion that you would want to withhold records from people who are paying 120 pounds or euros or dollars a year is just really mind-boggling.

120 pounds or euros to who?

There’s certainly no data whatsoever to suggest that this increases unit sales.

Maybe that data doesn’t exist because a formal study hasn’t been done.

…our indicators point out that if you want to increase sales, you ought to be increasing access to your music.

What indicators are those? Also, define “sales.” Are we talking streams? iTunes downloads? CD purchases?

The very same bands who are withholding from streaming services are often available for free to users on YouTube, which doesn’t monetize nearly as well as Spotify.

Why settle for thousandths of a penny per stream when you can get hundredths of a penny per stream?

If you think that promoting your record via streaming is a good thing for sales on YouTube, there is no reason as all to withhold it on Spotify.

I can think of one, and it’s pretty similar to what lots of authors do by releasing Creative Commons-licensed works as a free-to-download PDF. They claimed that doing so increased sales of the book version. How? My guess, because nobody wants to read an entire fucking book on their laptop.

It’s ridiculous to think that an 18-year-old kid who is denied access to listening on Spotify is going to run to iTunes and buy it. That’s not the way it works. They’re going to go to the torrent sites.

Depends. Again, not to sound like a dick, but a lot of 18-year olds don’t know how torrents work, and a lot of those people are Adele and Taylor Swift fans.

We think it’s very possible she would’ve sold more. Again, there’s no data to support the proposition that windowing on Spotify resulted in increased sales.

There’s no data to support increased sales from windowing nor is their data to support that Adele would have sold more if she had her album on Spotify. That’s why it’s “very possible”, but nobody knows.

Spotify has great integration with the biggest social network in the world.

We’re aware. Unfortunately it’s now mandatory. Is that what you meant when you were talking about user hostile propositions?

If you are not plugged into that, you are really missing out on what artists have always known, which is that word-of-mouth and buzz really sells records and concert tickets.

All my high school friends listen to is Dave Matthews Band and Phish and those bands need all the help they can get.

On Spotify, someone will see a track a friend shared on Facebook, they’ll click on it, and then instantly be listening to that record on Spotify.

Does anybody actually click that stuff? Serious question.

Another serious question, how many of these people actively share something? I don’t mean they listened to something and it showed up in their Timeline. I mean they took time to write a paragraph or two about what they liked about it and make a case for why I should take 40 minutes to listen to it.

Because I never see that shit. If I did I might click those buttons.

I like Spotify, but I don’t have a paid account. I’d rather spend $120 a year on things that I’ll be able to keep. Access trumps ownership, but access AND ownership is much better.

Rdio Making Moves

Todd Berman, VP of Engineering at Rdio, answers a question on Quora about why Rdio uses Flash storage.

We store some data client side (like what songs are in your collection, etc), and for some people with large collections, that goes over the default 100KB local flash storage limit.

However, we are making some changes on our end that should make this issue moot.

Also this tweet from Berman:

Brand new Rdio experience? I’d love to see what they’ve come up with.

“Streaming Services (again).”

The new recorded music model and bands that are holding back from streaming services.

It would be interesting to know how those Coldplay fans with streaming subscriptions dealt with this missing content. While some headed to Itunes, I’m quite sure there were many who reached straight for Bit Torrent and Rapidshare. Some will now be considering whether their monthly subscription actually represents value for money.

I wonder if the kinds of people who buy Coldplay albums know what Bittorrent is and how to use it. I don’t mean that as a slight against them or their fans, but as a genuine suspicion.

Rdio Playlist Promotion

I’ve seen two examples of Rdio being used to help promote albums. Both Gui Boratto and Plaid curated Rdio playlists in the past month to coincide with their new albums, III and Scintilli. XLR8R has excellent music podcasts, so applying that idea to the streaming music services seems like a natural move.

The odd thing is that neither of those albums are currently available on Rdio.

“Spotiwhy? : Are Subscription Music Services a Sustainable Business Model?” by Frank Woodworth

When there is a song that pervades pop culture, the potential numbers start lining up with the current revenue, and as subscription music attains larger percentages of the U.S. population, the numbers for a potential hit become significantly more than a hit song currently. Of course, the flip side of this is that there are no album sales on top of these numbers like there is currently. As subscription music becomes dominant this becomes the only recorded revenue stream.

The folks at Spotify like to say that they want access to music to open the doors to other revenue sources. With this in mind, Woodworth asks something that seems so obvious I’m surprised this is the first time I read it.

In regards to merchandise, tickets or any of the other ancillary revenue streams, it is true that streaming will promote them, but the current and former methods of music consumption also did that. I’d be interested to see any proof that streaming music is somehow a more efficient promoter of these other revenue streams.

iTunes Match Isn’t A Locker

There’s some confusion about the iTunes Match video making the rounds. The video demonstrates that you could download or stream music from iTunes, but All Things D is reporting that it’s really a download in the background, at least in this beta.

This is similar to how Spotify operates. When you stream music in Spotify it downloads music to your computer and stores it in an encrypted cache (on the Mac it’s in ~/Library/Caches/com.spotify.client). Spotify will use your local cache before reaching out to Spotify servers and other peers.

That there’s confusion about whether this is a download or stream is good news. The term music locker isn’t really what we want, is it?. Remember having a locker in high school? You had to remember a combination to get to your stuff. In the gym locker room other kids made fun of you and how bad you are at basketball. Bullies would wait for you by your own locker. Lockers weren’t safe havens. I don’t want to use a locker if I don’t have to.

I digress.

With iTunes Match, music will be in the cloud, but it feels like it’s right on your hard drive, not in some locker. Streaming services so far, with the exception of Spotify, have been pretty terrible at making it feel that way.

The Spotify Collection Problem

Scott Williams writing about using your Spotify library:

Spotify’s concept of a Library is: “Music you’ve starred, imported, bought, or added to a playlist”. This is a problem for me. If I like an album, I want to add it to my library. The only way to do this is to add it to a playlist or star it. I ended up creating an Everything playlist and dropping stuff in there, which doesn’t feel quite right. Rdio’s library (called Collection) is just a big bucket. You can click on a song or album and add it to your Collection. This makes more sense to me, and seems more analogous to a traditional CD collection.

I feel the same way. I created a static playlist of every 4-star and higher track in iTunes and imported it into Spotify to try to get my iTunes in the cloud experience.

I hadn’t thought of the everything playlist. Think I’ll try it.

“On Spotify” by Ethan Kaplan

The issue for me is how I consume music. I don’t consume music like I consume information. I curate, digest, browse and meander the stacks as it were…What it comes down to is that Spotify democratizes music to such an extent that it becomes just files and audio rather than atomic entities known as albums, artists and genres.

I’m excited for Spotify’s launch in the US, but if you’re at all like this it sounds like you’re still going to be more comfortable in iTunes than any of the streaming services.

$10 a month is great for all you can eat listening, but the problem is that the stacks are easier to browse in iTunes than in streaming services. Genres, smart playlists, ratings…take those things away and you have the current shortcomings of the streaming services. I think that’s enough for music nerds to keep on downloading from torrents than to use something like Spotify.

Yeah, it’s illegal, but it’s competition.

Bob Lefsetz on iCloud, Streaming Services, and Labels

Who in the hell is going to buy a music subscription for even $3 a month when for $25 a year you can have everything you own, even stole, at your fingertips via iCloud. That’s if you scan and match, if you bought the stuff on iTunes, it’s FREE!

…How cheaply they were bought off! $150 million is nothing to Apple, look at its cash hoard! Apple gets an opportunity to dominate with its iPads and iPhones for this paltry payment.

It boggles the mind.