As Universal and Sony gear up to try a dual front attack on Spotify and other ‘freemium’ music streams services, some industry observers think Big Music is just heading back into another bruising fight over money and control over public access to music and the music industries access to the public.
Some indie musicians find themselves increasingly sympathetic to the enhanced discovery options that flow from such ‘freemium’ business models that let interested consumers discover music outside the heavy promotion the old line industry must use to continue selling its cookie-cutter product to pliant consumers.
The world’s largest music conglomerate, Universal, is trying to pressure Spotify to limit advertising-paid on-demand music streaming — despite the fact that Spotify is the most successful streaming company at signing subscribers and counts its fee-less ad-driven tier as an important pathway to later subscription.
Is Universal, perhaps quite reasonably, concerned with Spot’s relatively low per-stream rate (vis a vis other providers like Google All Access, Rdio, Beats, et al) or are they more concerned that increased ‘free’ discovery benefits smaller artists not on promo-rich labels like the Universal stable of labels — undercutting the huge promotional outlays it takes to get music lovers to listen to the ‘hits’ picked by Universal A&R?
Spotify originally limited their ad-driven ‘free’ tier with a 10 hour/month overall limit and a maximum of 5 streams of any specific song but later relaxed that, apparently trying to lure in more stream-skeptics. Restrictions remained in some markets but in the US and a few others, they were largely dropped.
No one’s asking me (really, they aren’t), but I can’t help but feel the free, ad-driven tier of Spotify is an excellent resource — EVEN though I subscribe to another service I find superior (Google All Access) — because it allows one to ‘share’ the discovery of music with others who may not have a subscription service.
But that function would remain largely intact if Spot were to return to something like their earlier free-tier restrictions, it seems to me.
One thing certain elements in the music industry are edgy about: the 10 dollars or so a month that Spot, Google, Beats, et al, charge for their subscription services is roughly TWICE what average consumers spend on music a month.