Last month, we wrote that freemium streaming was under attack from all sides, from both artists and labels. The search for a viable business model isn’t over, far from it: as Hits Daily Double reports, Sony Music Chief Doug Morris himself recently declared that “in general, free is death,” and praised Apple Beats and (even) Spotify for their efforts towards continued innovation in this field. Morris will be at Midem this year to answer these burning questions in person – in the meantime, what do the latest industry developments tell us about the evolution of the music business?
You must have heard of TIDAL, the new streaming service launched and co-owned by some of the world’s biggest artists, led by Jay-Z. Kanye West, Rihanna, Coldplay, Madonna, Alicia Keys, Daft Punk, Beyoncé and more were present at Jay Z’s press conference (watch the video below). The rapper introduced his new streaming site, “originally launched by Norwegian firm Aspiro in October 2014 and acquired for $56m,” The Guardian reminds us. What makes TIDAL so different from its competitors? According to all the aforementioned artists – who have been promoting the service from their social media accounts since the launch, using the hashtag #TIDALforALL – it will offer some of their exclusive music, “including studio sessions and demo tracks.”
A streaming service for artists and managed by artists: this is definitely a major response to the industry, since the initiative will theoretically allow them to make more money and to “lobby” their labels into making new releases exclusive for TIDAL for at least a week, according to Jay Z. The thing is, “the first artist-owned global music and entertainment platform” – to quote Alicia Keys – is already getting knocked by critics, who question its $20/month premium price and the service’s very relevance. Will it really “serve different sectors of the musician community equally?” The International Business Times asks. Lily Allen, on her part, expressed her skepticism in a series of tweets – she thinks initiatives like TIDAL could result in “people swarming back to pirate sites in droves,” Music Business Worldwide reports. Her full quote:
I love Jay Z so much, but TIDAL is so expensive compared to other perfectly good streaming services. He’s taken the biggest artists & made them exclusive to TIDAL (am I right in thinking this ?), people are going to swarm back to pirate sites in droves, sending traffic to torrent sites.
In other words, the debate is far from over – all the more so as labels, too, have their word to say! Universal, for instance, recently launched no less than a Spotify rival in Brazil, capitalising on the local growing music business. Bradesco Music will charge its customers the equivalent of just $1.55 per month. This attempt to “monetise the mainstream consumer in Brazil, the world’s ninth biggest recorded music market” – according to Music Business Worldwide – epitomises the current battle among labels to get as many international markets as possible covered by their streaming services.
There are more business battlefields for large music companies in 2015, though. Innovation also rimes with tech these days, with firms like Sony launching a PlayStation Music service in partnership with Spotify, The Guardian reveals. The objective remains the same, obviously: to get as many customers as possible on board, as soon as possible. Meanwhile, streaming music apps conceived especially for mobiles – such as Beatport‘s, analysed here by Billboard – help “DJs and EDM junkies” fulfill their need to listen to music anytime, anywhere, and above all on any portable device.
But what if the real question was: Is streaming really the key to the music industry’s future? It certainly will be in a not-so-distant future, but let’s not forget that strategic acquisitions – like Sony buying distribution company The Orchard – are still what gives the industry its current shape. The move also suggests that the once-independent distribution platform must have been doing something right, to have been acquired by a major…
See you all at Midem in June 2015 to witness more exciting evolutions and get a glimpse of the industry’s future!
Top photo © TIDAL