By: Tatiana G. King
In the ever growing fight for consumer dollars, the installation of streaming music services has become an all-out war. Today the industry leaders are Pandora, Muve Music, Spotify, Soundcloud, and Rdio. If that didn’t sound like a crowded battlefield already, wait until even bigger giants step in.
Beats Electronics LLC (makers of Beats Audio software & headphones), announced they are working on their “Daisy” music subscription service back in January. Daisy, a codename for the project, is partly a result of Beats Electronics acquiring MOG and $60 million investment for the service. According to Bloomberg, Daisy is set to launch around the end of 2013. If that wasn’t enough it was revealed by Reuters that Apple has been holding talks with Beats Electronics about Daisy’s business model and launch plans since January. The interesting point about this is that as far back as 2003, Jimmy Iovine, Beats CEO, has been trying to convince Steve Jobs to launch a streaming music subscription service. Iovine mentioned that Jobs didn’t want to pay the record companies enough in order to have rights to stream content. Now with Tim Cook at the helm, Apple’s less capricious leader may be the catalyst to a partnership. In addition, this would match well with ongoing reports since last year that Apple has been looking to start a streaming music service to work alongside iTunes.
Google, looking to utilize YouTube as a platform, will ready their music streaming service and may even launch this year. As reported by Fortune, both YouTube’s and Google’s teams will announce music features on each platform and will have similar uses (Note: While Google owns YouTube, the latter has still been managed separately from Google). For one, the Google Play Music store, used primarily for direct downloads will be augmented with free, ad-supported and paid subscriptions for access to music. Whether or not music will be limited to a certain number of downloads, if the service included unlimited music, or if there will be various paid “tiers” with certain benefits remain to be seen. Youtube will also be employing the same themes to streaming music. It makes sense that considering the full integration of Google and Youtube that there will be cross-functionality. It is noted that both services will be “adding a subscription fee that will unlock additional features”. Google is in negotiation with record labels, while already seemingly having a partnership in place with Warner Music Group.
Rounding out the heavy hitters is Amazon’s Cloud Player, launched back in May 2011. The Cloud Player allows users to store music to the cloud and access it on an Android or iOS device. Currently, there are two tiers: the free tier allows the import of up to 250 songs (Amazon MP3 purchases do not count towards this limit) then the paid tier which, for $25 a year, allows for the import of up to 250,000 songs. Considering that Amazon has found ways to circumvent both Google and Apple when it comes getting people to using their music downloading and streaming services on competitor devices, they can definitely be considered a power player.
Each upcoming streaming music service will need to focus on three key items: 1.) seamless integration with current platforms (i.e. YouTube & Google) as well as software/operating system compatibility, 2.) competitive subscription price points & storage availability, 3.) scalability and, eventually, international reach.
I wouldn’t say anything is impossible at this point. Just think: a Spotify/Pandora merger? Muve Music being acquired by a foreign mobile phone operator such as China Telecom or Vodaphone ( Muve Music is looking to expand internationally)? As the fight continues it remains to be seen how the streaming music industry will evolve. More importantly, it remains to be seen who will survive.