The plethora of services currently available should be enough to satisfy the appetite of even the most voracious music fan. All you can eat models abound, whether web-based or mobile, both download and streaming. Seamless portability and access from “The Cloud” have become increasingly important. And, all the while, everyone waits and watches to see when and how Apple enters the service arena.There now exists a reasonable possibility that fans might once again be willing to pay for music, IF the value proposition is right.
The state of some of the major players:
Spotify – While a fan favorite throughout Europe, it remains a coming attraction in the States, the deals with the U.S. labels and publishers just out of reach. Meanwhile, they continue to improve the offering, adding a bunch of new features. Today’s Los Angeles Times found one of the new capabilities especially interesting, “… perhaps the most enticing new addition is what Spotify has deemed “The Library.”
In short, the feature will scan the music on a user’s hard drive – everything most of us are listening to via iTunes – and allow it to be accessed directly via Spotify. With Spotify, a user’s long-accumulated collection of music could now stand alongside everything available on the service, creating less of a distinction between the music that is owned and stored on Spotify, and thereby allowing subscribers to use Spotify as a full-on music management service.”
Rhapsody – Though spun-off from Real, Viacom & Verizon, and in dire need of a thorough update of its desktop app, it remains the hopeful underdog and one of my favorites. The big news this week, an Apple-approved iPhone app that allows the offline/cached playback of user’s playlists. From Elliot Van Buskirk’s April 27th Wired Column, “The Rhapsody iPhone app 2.0 (iTunes link) still lets you stream any song in your collection or the service’s nine-million song catalog on-demand, the same way the desktop version can — except now, you can download any playlist associated with your account onto your iPhone using either the Edge, 3G or WiFi connection. Rhapsody staff are understandably proud of this feature because although MOG promises to deliver it in May, Spotify already offers it in Europe, and Thumbplay offers it on the Blackberry platform, no other company has managed to offer this feature to U.S. iPhone users yet.”
Nokia’s Comes With Music – In China, CWM is offering the music consumers’ ultimate buffet, unlimited, DRM-free downloads included free with the purchase of certain high-end phones. From the official Nokia blog, “Joining Nokia in the Comes With Music ensemble in China will be Huadong Feitan to ensure that the service is tailored to local consumer needs. At launch the handset line-up will include eight devices – Nokia X6 32GB, Nokia X6 16GB, Nokia 5230, Nokia 5330, Nokia 5800w, Nokia 6700s, Nokia E52 and Nokia E72i.” Meanwhile, Comes With Music continues to struggle to gain a meaningful foothold in a majority of the 30 markets that it has launched in.
MOG – David Hyman’s music service offspring continues to get better and better. From April 18th’s Associated Press, “A $10 monthly plan from MOG Inc. will let people stream music instantly on iPhones and devices that run Google Inc.’s Android software, beginning in May. Users can make unlimited downloads to the device so they have access to music on a plane or in other settings without wireless coverage. MOG’s service also has an intelligent shuffle function that lets people control whether randomly selected songs come from just one artist or many similar sounding ones.”
Napster – Ominously quiet since being acquired by Best Buy, Napster needs to keep up with the competition, or they will be relegated to an also-run status, regardless of Best Buy’s marketing muscle. The current service is dated at best.
Omnifone’s Music Station – While there has been an executive shuffle at the top, there’s not much product news coming from Omnifone lately, an Android app being the last big news in February. A long-rumored U.S. launch is still in the distance, no firm date announced. Their Gracenote relationship is a strong card that needs to be played effectively.
WE7 – Hats off to Steve Purdham and Clive Gardiner, they continue to succeed in the face of impressive odds. From today’s Guardian, “The online music service We7 has succeeded where many similar companies have failed: it has managed to get its advertising revenues to cover not only its own costs but, more importantly, the cost of the royalties it pays to the artists whose tracks it plays. It may not sound like cause for celebration but after three years, We7, co-founded by Peter Gabriel, can lay claim to being the first company in the UK to prove that internet advertising can be used to fund a web-based on-demand music service that pays industry-standard royalties to musicians.”
Apple – What are they going to do? We won’t know until Steve is ready to tell us. While there is a lot of conjecture, rumors and pundit opinions, it remains a mystery. If we’re really, really lucky, someone may leave the entire gameplan on a bar stool in Cupertino.
Hey, I can dream!!