We’re over thinking it.
The concept of streaming is astounding. Mind blowing. All the world’s music at your fingertips for the price of one lunch a month?
So why hasn’t it caught onto the mainstream?
People say it won’t work. That Rhapsody has been trying it for a decade. That people clearly must not want it.
Well that’s what they said about tablets. Until the iPad came out.
They say streaming isn’t sustainable. Rdio is nearly bankrupt. They say Spotify is next. And then Beats.
iTunes (and Amazon) has its streaming service ready to go. They will flip the switch when the time is just right. They don’t want to lose out on revenue. And the time is not right yet. Sure download sales are declining. More rapidly every month. But we’re not there.
No one with half a brain denies that streaming is the next dominant audio format.
Downloading music will not exist in 10 years.
Well maybe FLAC files for audiophiles. It will be niche. Like vinyl today.
But why hasn’t it caught on yet?
Mobile Data Speed
The first reason is mobile data inconsistencies. It’s not just speed. I live in Los Angeles. The 2nd largest city in the country. And with Verizon, I’m rarely on LTE OR 3G near my place. Usually I have that 1x icon with one bar.
A half a block from Sunset Strip!
I can’t play Spotify from my phone on my block. Or load YouTube videos. Forget downloading anything.
I know it’s because of the Hollywood Hills, but still.
Until mobile data and connection speeds are flawless and FAST people won’t adopt it.
And unless the stars align for your mobile connection, it’s very likely your streaming service won’t work flawlessly when you try it out for the first or second time.
People put up with YouTube because it’s free. Even though the sound quality is horrendous, search is frustrating, curation is nonexistent and it relies on shoddy connection speeds and buffering.
The 2nd, and more important, reason streaming hasn’t caught on is because it’s a hassle.
Average Joes and Janes have no patience for music services. Hell, I barely do. How much effort does it take to sync songs from my iTunes to my iPhone? Way too much!
Most people who have an Android don’t even know that you can put music on it. Even those with iPhones KNOW they can, they just choose not to because of the mental effort it will take to go through all the steps.
Forget iCloud transferring. You have to pay for the amount of storage you need to actually hold music.
Convincing average, non-techie, non-musician, non-music lovers to download an app that may or may not work perfectly depending on your data connection and then PAY monthly to ACCESS the music on it? Forget about it.
Beats is onto something, though.
Add it to the cell phone bill. Don’t ask. Just do.
Apple got it right separating the iTunes app from the Music app. To play music on an iPhone you touch the Music button. Intuitive.
Droid has a Music app button as well. Getting music to it is another story. Most people have thousands of songs in their iTunes. How do you transfer that to the Music app on a Droid? Yeah, I’ve watched the YouTube videos too to figure it out.
There needs to be 1 button on the phone that streams all the world’s music.
Effortless. Touch it and go.
No headache. No credit card.
You say that’s YouTube. But it’s video based. Sound quality is horrible. Albums are impossible. There’s no radio.
YouTube Music is coming. Rumored for this Summer. But it was rumored for last Fall too. We’ll see if it can takeover. I doubt it.
Spotify should be striking deals with Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. Or Beats will beat them to it. Or YouTube Music.
Or, and most likely, Apple.
While Spotify, Beats, Rdio, Amazon, YouTube Music and the rest are battling it out, Apple will soon flip the switch.
That little Music button on the iPhone won’t just be the songs you downloaded from iTunes. It will be all the world’s music. $9.99 will be added to each phone’s bill – or maybe $14.99 for a family plan. But it will be seamless.
Then Google Play in the Music button will follow for Droids.
AT&T will abandon Beats when Apple and Google get to them.
Spotify, Beats, Rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker? Well, this will kill them.
Unless they strike the deals first.
And who will get to the auto industry first? That could save Spotify or Beats. YouTube Music could get there first, but that would surprise me.
The reason Satellite radio is so successful is because it came with the car and people just kept paying for it because they liked it. They didn’t have to decide to download it. Or install it. It was there. They tried it. They liked it. And they just kept it.
Once you can click a button and verbally ask your car to play this song or that playlist or that station without having to plug your phone in? And that data is synced to your phone, tablet, laptop and in-home stereo system. Game over.
Musicians won’t have to worry about low payout rates. Once every Droid, iPhone and car has a built-in music streaming service that people are automatically signed up for, added to the bill, the checks will flow. And they’ll be better than download sales.
If you give people an effortless alternative, with no decision making, no downloading, no installing, no buffering, no hassle, they’ll shrug off the extra line to the cell phone bill.
Photo by Audreyjm529 from Flickr used with the Creative Commons License.
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of Ari’s Take. Listen to his new album, Brave Enough, on Spotify (or the streaming service of your choice). Follow him on Twitter: @aristake