Sunday, January 17, 2010

Global solutions

Pandora, LaLa, Rhapsody, Spotify. All music streaming/recommendation sites with one commonality, none of them are available globally.

The music industry is in the can, strategically speaking. It can’t stop people stealing; it also seems incapable of finding the best way to monetise the creation of music.

The old model was to sign a band, develop them or allow them their creative space, record them effectively and take them to market. You’d probably release a single, send them on tour with a similar sounding but more popular act, get them on radio and TV and with luck they’d sell enough records for a return on the investments you’d made getting them to this stage. Then the hard work would begin in reaching the next stage, but that’s another matter.

These days the decision on whether to take the initial investment is tempered by the fact that you know it’s possible for as many people to steal the music as to pay for it. Where once the labels would bank on breaking a single or quantity of singles big enough to make people want the album, now they’re not so sure and nowhere near as secure.

Now they want to share your touring and merchandising revenues via the legendary 360 deals, they want to minimise their risk – and who can blame them?

Of course you’d be right to reserve your rights on such issues and ask instead about where and how they’re innovating – what are they doing that will make your music timeless and readily available. One thing I believe they need to do is start acting globally.

If they believe that streaming is the answer to illegal downloading then can we please have a universally approved streaming service? In some respects we can understand that they wanted proof that the ad-funded streaming model would work, they probably now believe that it doesn’t. What they might be better asking is ‘had this model been available globally would it have fared better’?

Spotify used ad-funded streaming to drive a mixture of that offering and a subscription service. The key selling-point of the subscription service was portability, the ability to take the streamed library wherever you go. Sounds great to me but……I can’t currently make a call on upgrading my Spotify membership because I don’t believe the industry is confident enough to say that they’re the one.

I get the impression that there’s better services (or a better price) waiting around the corner. Whilst I have that impression the money stays in my pocket and the business drifts into inertia. We’re still looking for a solution; please can we make it a global one?

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