“Why Google Music’s New ‘Scan And Match’ Is Not Enough”

More discussion on walled gardens, but this time for music services:

Why can’t we have nice things — by which I mean why can’t we just, like, pay for music somehow and have it forever, rather than forever fretting about what we put in each walled garden? Really, what we need is “one big database,” or some other solution for tying music to people regardless of service or device.

This sounds like “why can’t we have one walled-garden, not a bunch of walled-gardens?” Who would control and own that music garden? Who would maintain it? Who would control the standards? Who would improve on it, or would we not, and let it become something that never iterates?

Each of these companies, Apple, Google, Rdio, Spotify, wants to be the garden. I’ve thrown in with Apple, who already sees itself as the internet’s world’s music source. iTunes has been the #1 music retailer since 2008.

At least Apple thinks they have a cultural responsibility. Remember what they said in their Mastering for iTunes documents?

…though it may not be apparent because there may not always be a physical, tangible master created in LP or CD format, the iTunes catalog forms an important part of the world’s historical and cultural record. These masters matter—especially given the move into the cloud on post-PC devices.

“Clearing Up Spotify Payment Confusion”

The music business is complicated.

I think this idea of recurring revenue is flawed. There’s potential that one could earn more from streams than a purchase, but that assumes the listener is going to stick around and not be swayed by the MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF OTHER TRACKS that are on the services.

Also, has anybody done the math on how many times one person would need to listen to a 10-track album to make up a $10 sale (or a single track to make up a 99¢ download)? Must be something like hundreds of times. How many albums have you listened to HUNDREDS of times?

Zoe Keating Says Streaming Data Is Valuable

Artist Zoe Keating said artists should be given user data from Rhapsody and Spotify to identify fans and market to them. Keating made waves by uploading all of her revenue stream data to the Internet this summer, throwing back the curtain on artist revenue streams and kicking off a lively discussion. The majority of her revenue came from iTunes and Bandcamp, she said.

But just because I listen to your stuff on Spotify doesn’t mean I want you to market to me.

Ownership is great. Access is great. I want both.

Read Damon Krukowski’s “Making Sense” for some perspective on Pandora and Spotify:

Consider Pandora and Spotify, the streaming music services that are becoming ever more integrated into our daily listening habits. My BMI royalty check arrived recently, reporting songwriting earnings from the first quarter of 2012, and I was glad to see that our music is being listened to via these services. Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat”, for example, was played 7,800 times on Pandora that quarter, for which its three songwriters were paid a collective total of 21 cents, or seven cents each. Spotify pays better: For the 5,960 times “Tugboat” was played there, Galaxie 500’s songwriters went collectively into triple digits: $1.05 (35 cents each).

This is why I still buy albums on iTunes. If I like an album I want to own it and give compensation to the artist. And the best, easiest way to do that is still by buying the album. Ad-supported music services don’t do this so well. My belief is that these other services are unsustainable.

I always find it odd when I hear ads on Spotify telling me to listen to more music on Spotify. We can make an educated guess that the company is already losing money – that’s why it just took $100 million from Goldman Sachs and $10 million from Coke. So how do ads saying “hey, use Spotify more!” make any sense? It must be they’re trying to annoy you enough with ads to get you to switch to a paid subscription.

What’s even weirder is when I hear ads for things like Bonobos. I’ve always wondered how effective those ads are. If you’re listening to a good song over Spotify you’ll probably be receptive to paying 99¢ to buy it. But no – let’s see if they want pants.

Apple is supposedly going to come out with a Pandora-like music service in which you get radio-type music playback powered right from the iTunes Music store. My guess is that it won’t have advertising. I think it’ll have a button that you click to add the currently playing track right into your music collection for 99¢.

Isn’t that a way better model than hoping someone clicks an ad for something completely unrelated to music?

“Spotify and the Problem of Endless Musical Choice”

We seem to have created an environment in which wonderful music, newly discovered, is difficult to treasure. For treasures, as the fugitive salesman in the flea market was implying, are hard to come by—you have to work to find them. And the function of fugitive salesmen is to slow the endless deluge, drawing our attention to one album at a time, creating demand not for what we need to survive but for what we yearn for. Because how else can you form a relationship with a record when you’re cursed with the knowledge that, just an easy click away, there might be something better, something crucial and cataclysmic? The tyranny of selection is the opposite of freedom. And the more you click, the more you enhance the disposability of your endeavor.

No scarcity. No treasure.

Streaming Music’s ‘Flavor of the Month’ Problem

Good argument on how streaming music services face sustainability problems as they add more advertising and face competition from new services.

But I’ve been sticking with Spotify, even with the obnoxious ads, because it works better to me. Discovery happens on Spotify. Listening happens in iTunes.

“How Xbox Music Is Going To Make Spotify Obsolete”

…here’s what’s different: Xbox Music is baked into every single copy of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8. In other words, free access to 30 million songs is built into Windows 8, as part of the default music player. Remember, we’re talking about Windows. The last version of Windows sold 240 million copies in its first year. Spotify’s most recent official count was 15 millions users, 4 million of whom pay for a subscription. If Windows 8 matches first-year sales of Windows 7, and just 10 percent of those users latch onto Xbox Music, it’ll have a user base that’s substantially larger than Spotify’s. And if you have access to basically all music ever, just sitting there on your computer, why bother hunting down some other service to get the exact same thing?

I first read this argument thinking it was nonsense, but then I thought about how many people I know still use Internet Explorer.

Spotify is now #2

But the gap of income between Spotify and iTunes is huge.

Sean Parker:

“If we [Spotify] continue growing at our current rate in terms of subscriptions and downloads, we’ll overtake iTunes in terms of contributions to the recorded music business in under two years.

Daniel Ek has been promoting Spotify as a complement to iTunes, not a replacement. Seems like that’s just the way to get a foot in the door.

More on all-you-can-eat music

More on the all-you-can-eat music subscription business model.

Robin Davey:

Most people only buy 1.5 albums a year because that is all they want. They don’t need unlimited access to everything. They like the two CDs they play over and over in the car. Or they just like listening to the singles. Albums are dead and have been for a long while. Spotify promises all the tracks from all the artists. People respond by just wanting that one new track by Katy Perry.

Reminds me of my brother who had a Rhapsody subscription but only listened to Bob Marley.

Spotify is my discovery platform. I listen to new stuff on Spotify and if I like it I buy it on iTunes. I buy less music because of Spotify. I have their free account. They never see a dime from me.

Besides no-risk discovery, Spotify adds nothing to music listening. Social features? Music isn’t better with friends. None of my friends like the music I like and they I don’t like the same music they do. We’re music snobs living in our own bubbles. Spotify has nothing to offer here.1

So do the math. If you’re spending less than $120 a year on recorded music you’d be better off just buying it from a digital retailer than you would be subscribing to a service and hoping the music you love doesn’t get pulled because of licensing.


  1. However, I think there is value in a follower model like Rdio has. I’m able to find people with similar tastes and see what they like. But this isn’t really any different than following them on Twitter or reading their blog and seeing their recommendations there. It’s just a little simpler.