I can’t remember the last time I pirated an album, it has easily been several years since I’ve even thought about it. Services like Spotify have made it so incredibly easy to listen to 99% of what I want at any time, why would I need to illegally download music at this point?
But let’s flash back to 2012, and this song sounds awfully familiar. Take the above paragraph and replace a few key words and it reads like this:
I can’t even remember the last time I pirated a movie. It has easily been several years since I’ve even thought about it. Services like Netflix have made it so incredibly easy to watch 99% of what I want at any time, why would I need to illegally download movies at this point?
I remember the first time I stared at the Netflix library I felt like I was doing something illegal.
Netflix alone used to be the the absolute best way to get access to thousands of movies and TV shows all for less than two lattes a month. I remember the first time I stared at the Netflix library I felt like I was doing something illegal. “You mean to tell me I can watch every season of ‘King of the Hill’ right from this app anytime I want?”
But things have gotten extremely complicated for the world’s largest streaming service, as third party content owners have gotten stingier, new competition has started providing great alternative services, and the Netflix library continues to dwindle. I used to struggle to pick something to watch because I felt overwhelmed with options. Now I struggle because the aggregate quality of the majority of the titles has taken a steep decline.
But in the music industry, a world where Spotify feels like Netflix did in 2012, these are the glory days, so enjoy them now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m (still) in the camp of “Netflix has always been under-priced” and now that they’re investing in exclusive content, I still don’t mind spending $9 a month for access to their original shows. But the heyday of streaming TV seems to be shifting into an extremely modular experience, where a cord cutter like myself is left signing up for 3-4 services in order to remain satisfied; there is no holy grail anymore.
In the music industry, a world where Spotify feels like Netflix did in 2012, these are the glory days, so enjoy them now. Anytime I launch the desktop app, I’m immediately overwhelmed with just how easy it is to stream almost any song I want. I get lost in the “Related Artists” section all the time. I have to remind myself not to take this moment in the music industry for granted, because I’m positive things are going to slowly trend the “Netflix” direction here, and it won’t be pretty.
We caught our first major glimpse of this recently with the Tidal-exclusive Kanye release, a move that saw piracy spike once again. But it also drove Tidal to the top of the app charts, and worked exactly as intended, promoting the service. Taylor Swift has kept her most recent release off of Spotify and has been very public about her distaste for the service.
And now the competition continues to grow. Just this week SoundCloud launched their own monthly subscription service, Tidal still exists, YouTube Red launched, Amazon is floating around in there somewhere on your Prime subscription, and most threatening, Apple Music is chugging along.
Here’s what is going to happen, and don’t be in denial about it: Artists are going to look for exclusive deals, or rather the above services are going to look for artists to create exclusive deals with, in an effort to promote their respective services and albums. This is going to ramp up in a big way and soon the music streaming industry will be just as fragmented as its television and movie counterparts.
The only difference here, it seems, is that music tends to have a more elastic supply than movies and TV. Will consumers be willing to pay for several streaming services or will they simply just ignore (or pirate) new releases that don’t appear on their one subscription?
Either way, enjoy access to to your massive music library on one service now, because it’s only going to shrink in the near future. We’ve seen it all before.