Xbox Music

Streaming won.

That’s right. While you were lauding the sonic quality of CDs, bitching about Spotify payments and repeating endlessly that no one wanted to rent music, technologists, not married to the past, enmeshed in a sphere of creative destruction, necessary in order to win, saw what the people wanted before they knew it and delivered it.

The number one music service today is YouTube. Can a dedicated music service supersede it?

The iTunes Store has peaked. It’s just a matter of when Apple goes into streaming. The Cupertino company has a long history of following the innovation of others with a more highly refined product. And if you don’t think they can do this, you haven’t employed Spotify search. In a world where Google delivers exactly what you want instantly, yes, usually the first hit is the desired one, it’s frequently impossible to find what you want on Spotify. You think it’s not there, then you change search terms and voila! It’s as simple as the lack of a single play repeat button in the app… Apple gets the little things right. They provide all the solutions we need right up front. At least this was all true before Steve Jobs’s unfortunate demise. If Apple gets beaten on streaming music, if it fails to corner this market, you know the company is past its peak.

Yes, it’s not about Microsoft triumphing in the music sphere. Good luck to them. Let the best man win. But it is about bringing subscription services front and center. Just like all Blu-Ray players come with Netflix apps, music apps will be part of future operating systems. Will third party delivery services survive? Jimmy Iovine tied in with HP for Beats, he’d better do so soon with MOG. Then again, HP’s in trouble, when the PC business is cratering and they’ve got no viable tablet strategy.

Spotify was the pioneer.

Oops, Rhapsody was the pioneer. But Rhapsody could not see that a free tier was necessary to adoption. Dope would have a small percentage of its penetration if the first hit was not free. A lousy interface and a lack of experience by the public held back Rhapsody. Then again, maybe Rhapsody was just too early. (I.e. see Apple above re timing.)

With Xbox Music the old world has been put to bed. People expect the history of recorded music at their fingertips. If your business model is based on scarcity, you’re screwed.

And there are cultural issues too. If you’re not insanely great, despite your music being available, it will probably be ignored. Because why listen to crap when excellence is right next door, a click away?

Xbox Music is like Netflix streaming. They had it for years before everybody caught on. And what sold Netflix streaming? Word of mouth! Yup, advertising does not sell new technology and services, only early adopters spreading the word. In other words, you’d be better off reading “The Tipping Point” than getting a job at an advertising firm.

I’m not saying subscription streaming services will triumph overnight. But just like digital photography, something that was heralded for a decade before it peaked, in seemingly a day, streaming will take over. Sales will not fade that same day, but will diminish quickly. And just like with digital photography kids now take thousands of pictures a year, more people will listen to more music.

Will they listen to your music?


You think it’s still about getting signed, getting on the radio, as if old media is gonna be king forever. That’s like saying people will use MS DOS forever. Like saying no one needs a smartphone. Like saying desktops will not be impacted by tablets. Radio ceased long ago being anything but a delivery method, there’s no soul except on talk radio. You can get the hits elsewhere.

Record stores have already disappeared. Those that still exist sell tchotchkes.

Apple’s hottest laptops come without disk drives. So if you think there’s a future for CDs…

And the newest laptops have less storage than before. Because what you need lives in the cloud.

We’re in an era of access.

You’re in the business of creating demand. In a world where everything is available essentially for free at people’s fingertips. How can you motivate people to check you out and continue to listen?

If you hype something bad, you’ve lost credibility. If something’s not great, it won’t be listened to again. It’s not like buying an album and playing it ad infinitum because you can’t afford new music.

And if Apple can break up iLife, allowing you to buy only the components you need, via digital download, what makes you sure people still want the album, especially its weaker tracks?

You can follow the horse race. You can bet on whether Microsoft ends up owning music or not.

You can marvel that music is now a feature as opposed to a stand-alone item.

You can complain that you’re making less initially from a stream than you did from the sale of an album.

Or you can recognize that the future is here, creative destruction is a way of life, and you’re best to learn how to play by the new rules and anticipate future changes.

Sure, people are going to lose their jobs. Winners and losers will be realigned.

But if you don’t think this is a heyday for listeners, you don’t have ears.

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