How Are Mobile Apps Changing The Music Industry?
Mobile apps are changing the way we consume music. Video killed the radio star, the CD killed the record, the MP3 killed the CD, can mobile apps and subscription services kill iTunes?
There’s little doubt in most people’s minds that as soon as Apple launched iTunes and released the iPod, it drastically changed the way we consume music. Before their launch, we were craving a legal way to instantly download music and continue the listening process. When it came down to it, if it wasn’t Napster it would have been LimeWire and with increasing pressure from the music industry, it was obvious that we needed a legal, digital way to consume.
Similarly in the motion picture industry we know the demise of Blockbuster well. They certainly did not innovate with the digital space and thus were easily left behind as more and more people downloaded movies, music and games from online sources (often illegally). In many’s opinions it’s best move and easiest foray into the digital space would have been to purchase Netflix (hindsight is always 20/20).
The argument for digital consumption almost always comes back to price. If the pricing for either a digital or physical copy of media is too high, the temptation is to find a cheaper way to download the item (often illegally through torrents and file sharing etc).
A service like Netflix is so successful because it has brought the price down of movie consumption so much (to the average user) that they have much less reason to risk downloading illegally and it’s worth the $8 dollars a month to subscribe to the service.
Mobile Apps Address the Problem
What’s fascinating is when we apply the same model to the music industry. iTunes fills a gap with regard to needing a way to instantly download/purchase digital music. However, it never actually addressed concerns that the population obviously had with price. Enter music subscription services like MOG, Spotify and my personal favorite, Rdio.
The music space is one of my favorite – it’s ubiquitous and really hasn’t seen a ton of innovation in the digital space in my opinion – certainly not in the mobile space. We’ve seen the rise of numerous other services like Pandora, Grooveshark, Songza and 8tracks – these services aid a user in the discovery phase and are a piece of the puzzle, yes, but I don’t think they solve the entire process. It’s my prediction that if Apple isn’t worried about where subscription services are going, their cash-cow will slowly dry up.
Mobile apps – Rdio, Spotify and MOG – are the next wave to me, and I think it’s only a matter of time before these subscription services become the listening norm.
What do Music Mobile Apps Offer?
If you’re new to these services, in a nutshell, you purchase a subscription (for around $9 a month) and then you have access to their entire database of music, to be played anywhere at any time. Through these services, you can sync music into your mobile devices (for offline listening), share music with subscribers, create playlists, see what your friends are listening to and more. Finally someone has taken music to web 3.0.
I used to be an avid music downloader and believed if it wasn’t in my iTunes library, it didn’t count – but since subscribing to these services, I have not downloaded a single piece of music in almost 2 years. In short, my subscription enabled me to listen to music avidly without the hefty price point and thus, I had no reason to download the music (legally or illegally).
Similarly to Netflix, my subscription to Rdio found the maximum price I would pay to have access to an entire music database. Every play of a song sends a small fee to the artist (or label) and in theory, the average user won’t listen to $9 worth of music a month, so everyone is happy. Artists and labels get paid, we listen to music any time.
The mobile component of these services is simple. Depending on your data plan, you can always stream music directly or if you’re wary about streaming for cost, you can sync certain albums, songs or playlists to your device on a WiFi connection. Great user experience, simple design and quick response applications have made the mobile experience perfectly seamless.
I think this is an exciting time in the music industry. We’ve got the record labels seeing their margins shrinking because of profuse illegal downloading, so technology comes in the form of mobile apps and finds an adaptable solution to the masses. Here’s where it gets exciting to me:
The music industry will continue to fight in court to discourage file-sharing and illegal downloading, rightfully so; artists need to be compensated and they’re a part of the puzzle. But instead of jailing Joe and Jane Smith for downloading their favorite Maroon 5 album illegally, why don’t these giants focus on how people want to consume their product? Mobile apps like Spotify, Rdio, MOG, 8Tracks, Pandora and the likes are onto something here. I think it’s time for the rest of the industry (and consumers) to catch up.
These services are social, simple, mobile and scaleable. The next stage of innovation should be now – let’s see who wins. Exciting times.
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