How Apple Can Beat Spotify

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Want to know how Apple beats Spotify? (No pun intended. Well maybe.)

Be better.

Apple has never been first. But they’ve always been the best. They weren’t the first mp3 player. Or smartphone. Or tablet. But they made the best.

Everyone loves Spotify now because it’s the best streaming service on the market. College kids don’t know there are any other streaming services other than Spotify. It’s becoming the Kleenex of streaming.

But it could be so much better.

The data exists, Spotify has just chosen not to implement it.

One of the most annoying aspects of the digital revolution has been the exclusion of lyrics and liner notes.

It’s mind boggling that after all these years Apple hasn’t figured this out with iTunes. BandCamp has. Download a song on BandCamp and play it on your iPhone. The lyrics show up! Why doesn’t this happen when you download a song from iTunes?

Apple could fix this with their streaming service. If they keep Beats’ name, then their Applefied relaunch could include lyrics. How amazing a user experience would that be! All the world’s music… and lyrics! No more jumping back and forth between ad laden lyric sites.

+Apple: We’re Buying Beats For $3 Billion

And what about liner notes? Swipe right and the credits for that track appear. Swipe right again and there’s the album photography. Swipe right again and it’s the artist’s bio. Swipe right again, ALL tour dates AND TICKET LINKS. Swipe again, merch. Swipe again, Kickstarter, PledgeMusic or Patreon campaign. Want to win artists over? This would help!

And what about classical and jazz? Two incredibly neglected markets since the inception of digital downloads. And now streaming. I’d like to hear Rachmaninoff’s 3rd piano concerto. Is the artist Rachmaninoff? Well sure, that exists. But I want to hear Olga Kern play it. So she’s the artist and the song title is Piano concerto No 3? And the album is Rachmaninoff? But what if the album was a compilation of various concertos by different composers? How would I know that Piano Concerto No 3 was by Rachmaninoff? What if I want to hear all the different renditions of Rachmaninoff’s 3rd piano concerto? I get some results, but what if I want to hear the LA Phil play it? You can see the difficulty. It’s nearly impossible to narrow this with so many variables.

iTunes was built for pop. And Spotify tried to copy iTunes.

As for jazz? What if I want to hear John Coltrane’s original performance of So What? Impossible to discover which album it’s off of on Spotify or iTunes. (He plays on Miles Davis’ record Kind of Blue). This should not be this difficult. You really want to consider John Coltrane a “hired gun” on Kind of Blue? Unworthy of a credit? That’s not how jazz works!

Hell, it’s not how music works. I want to listen to every record my favorite drummer, Dave King, has ever played on. Currently the only way to do this is to Google around and find his most popular projects (The Bad Plus, Happy Apple, Halloween Alaska). But I wouldn’t find Mason Jennings from my Google search. Or Ari Herstand (yes, my favorite drummer played on my new record. What what!). But this information is listed in the credits of every album. The data (mostly) exists on AllMusic.com. Sync it up! Let me search in Spotify (and iTunes, Beats, Rdio, Amazon, Deezer, Rhapsody, YouTube Music Key, etc) “Dave King” and have every album he’s ever played on show up. Let me search “John Coltrane” and have every album he played on come up. Let me search “Butch Vig” and have every album he’s produced come up. Let me search “Manny Marroquin” and have all the albums he’s mixed show up. Let me see the credits! You can in AllMusic. So why isn’t this data synced up anywhere I can actually listen?

If Apple jumps on this it’s game over.

People thought the iPod would fail. They said there were too many mp3 players already in the market. I had a Creative Mp3 player back in the day. I remember why I switched to the iPod. It was simpler and so much better. Sleek and intuitive.

Can Apple do this with streaming? Will they? Maybe not now that Jobs is gone. They may have lost their touch.

Will Spotify continue to innovate? Continue to make their product better?

Forget the per-play rates to rights holders. I’m tired of talking about it. Yes, I wish the rates were higher. Yes, the money will increase when more users sign up. No, we’re never going back to CDs or digital downloads.

+Streaming Will Soon Be More Profitable Than Sales

Whichever streaming service stops trying to one up the others with customized playlists or sleeker designs, but actually 10 ups the others, that’s who will win. I happily pay $10 a month for a Spotify subscription now. But if another service comes along and solves these issues. I’d switch in a heartbeat. And you would too.

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

50 Responses

  1. Bill Gaytes

    Apple? iTunes? Who cares?!

    College kids use Android or Windows Phones! 🙂

    Reply
    • Remi Swierczek

      They are or beating music to the ground.
      Stupidity level is highest at Google with Spotify, Pandora, Apple and Amazon slightly behind!

      HEY BIG BOYS! (or at leaf one of you)

      We can convert RADIO & STREAMING to discovery based music store.

      All resources are at our disposal.

      $100 billion dollar music industry by 2020.

      Reply
    • Willis

      No they don’t. I don’t know and have never met anyone who uses a Windows phone.

      Reply
    • Anon

      Beats works on Android, genius. Do you really think Apple will pull a relaunched product from Android? What a dumb comment.

      Reply
      • Nina Ulloa

        Well, what do we know? We know that Apple is merging Beats Music with iTunes somehow. Do iTunes products work on Android? No.

        Conclusion: it would be surprising if Apple DIDN’T remove it from Android.

        Reply
        • Paul Resnikoff
          Paul Resnikoff

          Just goes to show how complicated merging these two products would be.

          Overnight, a true integration would sacrifice an estimated 80 percent of the market. So, leave Beats dangling out there in Android land, with a more complete version on iOS? This is already too complicated.

          I don’t know Ari, I’m an iOS user but iPhones are getting marginalized every day by Android. A true Beats integration must include Android, which famously cuts against Apple’s controlled ecosystem approach.

          Reply
          • Anonymous

            Paul, Beats is the last thing that will bring money or life into the music industry.
            Me to streaming project based on Ek’s and Parker’s semi-communist science of FREE.

  2. Ben Patterson

    Spotify has reported 12.5MM subscribers. At a gross revenue estimate of $10/month per sub, that is $125MM in monthly revenue.

    Apple currently sells 13,090,000 iPhones per month. At base price paid in full or partially by carriers of $600, that is $7,854,000,000 in monthly revenue from iPhones alone.

    Spotify revenues are less than 2% of Apple’s revenue from iPhone sales alone.

    Apple IS beating Spotify.

    Reply
  3. GGG

    Big yes to the search function.

    This type of deep search ability is one of the few things left that could possibly really engage people, besides purely the music. One problem is most people probably don’t even realize it, so it’d have to be marketed (probably virally) very well or just implemented perfectly so it’s immediately engaging. I’m sure everyone on this site has definitely gone down rabbit holes after finding out this guy played on this record or used to be in that band or whatever. If that functionality was streamlined, I think it could really make non music nerds interested, too. Like did you know Lady GaGa wrote this song, or Jack White produced this record, etc. We all know a lot of that shit because we’re obsessed and search for it, but regular Joe’s probably don’t. And then it would play into the discovery idea people love so much.

    Reply
  4. Versus

    Absolutely agree that all those missing aspects are well-overdue. Credits, liner notes, album artwork, various ways to search serious (i.e. non-pop) music genres. Let’s hope Apple can finally deliver on all this.

    Reply
    • Remi Swierczek

      You right, free music, is not enough. Lets give them more for free.

      Music is and should be again a merchandise. Internet is perfect platform to profit from music.

      Just convert all streaming and Radio to music store. Play the best for free and charge if they want great emotion to live again at their wish at any place.

      Reply
    • Name2

      Apple was first to market with the download concept and herding all the relevant cats, and they still aren’t pouring labor into transcribing trivia all these years later.

      Liner notes, lyrics, art design, etc. have always and continue to be available in the free market by buying physical copies. The world knows this, and yet, has responded with a resounding “Meh.”

      Reply
  5. Anonymous

    “Everyone loves Spotify”

    So, you’ve been living under a rock the last couple of months? 🙂

    Reply
  6. Steven Corn

    How about adding a label search field to the list of desired features? It’s on Spotify but not iTunes. If they added it to iTunes, it would likely increase discovery and sales.

    Also, excellent point about Classical and Jazz genres. We still struggle with the proper way of handling multiple primary artists in Jazz. At BFM we managed to make all of the featured artists searchable on iTunes. But it wasn’t easy. As for Classical, nested metadata is nice. But finding the right combination of movement, composer and performer is nearly impossible.

    Making it easy is a proven formula for increasing sales.

    Reply
    • Name2

      Apple’s got bigger financial fish to fry than playing music nerd for the occasional slice of $1.29.

      I’m sure they’d be happy to provide any and all metadata provided them by the music licensors.

      Reply
  7. Name2

    Why, again, are we supposed to be cheering on one corporate behemoth over another?

    Reply
  8. Guest

    Question – if they provided full song lyrics, wouldnt that cost them more in publisher royalties. And if they sync the lyrics to a streaming song, wouldnt that require a sync license.

    Reply
    • Sequenz_

      You are correct. However, I think publishers wouldn’t mind including the lyrics for the same rate. It’s the syncing that could be troublesome and much more expensive. Fortunately, there’s an amazing app called “MusiXmatch” that is streaming friendly and it shows up the lyrics for a lot of songs. It works like “Shazam”, but with lyrics. =)

      Reply
    • Central Scrutinizer

      I believe you are correct

      Does anyone remember the old, old days when you would pick up a vinyl record and on the back if there were any lyrics it would say “Reprinted with permission from (insert music publisher here)”?

      Reply
  9. smh

    omg – of course, lyrics & linear notes!! how did we not think of this before?!?!? obviously this is the answer to how we grow sales and revenues.

    you fcuking douche

    Reply
    • it's like the stone age of digital

      I mean you’ve never even been able to search by label on most stores which is 101 for
      raising sales and having people learn about new music (at least in the indie world). There are also tons of more specific genres that would help sales (within reason). Liner notes and other cross referencing functions would be great too but all this could have been done before and it’s insanely obvious so if it wasn’t done what are they waiting for? It’s all about curation and differentiation but within a set of lines to corral, but if you can’t do that right allow the labels (who already do curation) and the extra genres to lead your horse to water.

      Reply
  10. Jeff Robinson

    Anybody try using Beats on a browser? It’s impossible to playlist UNLESS you have the app on your iDevice and playlist from there first.

    Are they really trying to make it competitive? Spotify is the clear victor in that regard.

    Also, has anyone seen any accurate accounting from them?

    We just first months numbers reporting for September. Under-paid for sure even though the streaming rate was 1.22 cents per stream for the sale (not BMI/ASCAP or Mechanical rate).

    Still wish there were more companies paying like Zune/Xbox at 3.8 cents per stream for the sale.

    Reply
  11. Blahblahblah

    Don’t agree that Spotify is the best. It’s the best known, yes. I prefer Rdio. It’s just a better design. You can search by label. Can Spotify do that yet? Perhaps so. They all sound like absolute shit, though. That’s something that doesn’t get talked about enough. Maybe more people would be open to shelling out a monthly fee if it actually sounded good.

    Reply
    • Jeff Robinson

      Rdio is absolutely focused on play-listing too, but their royalty rate sucks. Sale stream is only 4/10ths of a penny in most cases. The artist/label loses compared to other services.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        $19.99/month for some new piece of crap. hahahahaha…rotflol..hahahahahah…haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

        Reply
        • Name2

          1) Best mobile software of all the services I use.
          2) Desktop streaming available at 44.1/16kHz
          3) Mobile device downloads (even at 44.1/16kHz) playable offline for 30 days.

          It’s worth $20/month to me.

          Your mileage may vary.

          Reply
  12. Hoaxer

    Everyone loves Spotify now because it’s the best streaming service on the market.

    Boo.

    +1 for Rdio > Spotify

    Reply
  13. Central Scrutinizer

    It would be convenient and might inspire me to pay for premium if it offered more details.

    But the cost of creating and sustaining outweighs the revenue created by those few who give a crap about songwriters, producers, lyrics, back singers etc.

    Most consumers want to believe that Taylor Swift wrote, recorded, produced, and marketed her music all by herself. They don’t want to read (echhh) about some stinky producer who helped put it together or some boring record label that marketed and sold it to them or some ugly musician who performed on it.

    Reply
    • Nina Ulloa

      isn’t that how it’s always been, at least in pop music? i was just watching a video about a bass player from the 70s, she was saying that no one wants to learn about some middle aged session musician when they’re buying music.

      Reply
  14. Paul Resnikoff
    Paul Resnikoff

    OK, I’ll bring up the elephant in the room. I don’t think Steve Jobs would have blown $3 billion or whatever on Beats. I can’t say if the product would have lived up to his standards; I’m a happy Beats user and find it more stimulating than Spotify, but Jobs was notoriously finicky and that produced incredible, world-changing results.

    On the headphones side, one could argue that this is more of a lifestyle play than a serious audiophile or quality play. That would also be a consideration.

    But here we are. Post-acquisition, merging Beats Music into iTunes presents a giant problem. If you’ve experienced both apps, you know what I’m talking about. I like to eat pasta primavera, and I also like eating sushi. Just not together, on the same plate.

    In Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs commented that Tim Cook wasn’t a product guy. And he’s not. I think it’s a comment to reflect upon.

    Reply
  15. Andrew Bernier

    The one thing I don’t think is mentioned anywhere in the article or comments section is that 90% of people who listen to music aren’t ‘leaning forward’ like you are.

    Most music listeners are ‘leaning back’ using music as a background to studying, working, getting ready, driving, etc. and aren’t actively focusing on the functionality you request.

    It seems the functionality & quality sound requested would only play to extreme music audiophiles that just aren’t a big enough section of the population to support the kind of revenue needed to generate a big enough pie so that artists can be compensated fairly.

    Reply
    • Central Scrutinizer

      I think I mentioned it two comments above, maybe I was too sarcastic and the message didn’t get through

      Reply
    • Adam

      Exactly! The reason this doesn’t exist on any service to date is that the masses don’t care. They just want to sit back, listen to their Top 100 and go about their day.

      Reply
    • Henrique

      Great point Steven! The article from Ari is more or less what I was thinking this new digital format’s going to be. I’m really curious to see how much from that “album experience” they’re going to able to bring to the digital world

      Reply
  16. Grateful Dawg

    Beats will lose more subscribers when they switch to Itunes because they are going to drop Android. I was using Beats on my Android until I heard this, I’ll never use Beats again.

    Reply
      • Name2

        If you thought one of your services was abandoning your platform of choice, you wouldn’t get busy lining another one up before the choice is made for you?

        Reply
  17. bwrash

    We need to create an open-source musicians co-op to do all the aforementioned…only way it will ever happen right…

    Reply
  18. Jeff Robinson

    Any other artists want to chime in about their Beats Music royalty experiences?

    Also, anybody see any royalties from TidalHifi? Are they expected to be on the lower side or the higher side of the spectrum?

    Reply
  19. Shmackity

    “And what about liner notes? Swipe right and the credits for that track appear. Swipe right again and there’s the album photography. Swipe right again and it’s the artist’s bio. Swipe right again, ALL tour dates AND TICKET LINKS. ”

    This exists.

    http://www.slyde.fm

    Reply
  20. edwardludvigsen

    “And what about liner notes? Swipe right and the credits for that track appear. Swipe right again and there’s the album photography. Swipe right again and it’s the artist’s bio. Swipe right again, ALL tour dates AND TICKET LINKS.”

    Happily, we have that! Slyde™ for iPhone and Android

    This is our first step, with a focus on a more immersive content experience. All the revenue angles are to come.

    Reply
  21. Timothy Buss

    First I would like to thank Ari for the amazing job he does guiding us through the music business. I think that Apple needs to figure in how much Ari’s suggestions will cost to impliment and if it is anywhere near feasible to do it, just like a football team that piles up points at the end of a game just to make sure that the other team has no chance to catch up ever. Especially among millenials, who reports say,are very interested in learning all about an artist or band to complete a feeling of connection with them. The stronger the connection, the more sales there will be on future music.

    Reply
  22. Mike

    Good article. Apple will need to do something because having Tidal and Deezer in the market just made it easy to get high quality streaming and their catalogs are pretty good. I just canceled my Beats subscription and here’s the letter I sent:

    • I started with MOG. Great catalog depth and music quality as well as decent software; especially for streaming on a PC through a DAC to my computer. The PC software was very functional.

    • MOG worked with customers to build a great brand and experience which built loyalty.

    • Like a lot of listeners, I have good equipment and I want top quality so I need software that works well on a PC.

    • Beats bought MOG and made a pretty buggy interface, but I hung in there.

    • Apple bought Beats and essentially… did nothing for over a year. The PC ap doesn’t load properly AND, at least to my ears, the sound quality declined. I tried to wait until things improved, but they never did.

    • I use Spotify because the social sharing is so strong. In fact, our band builds play list that we all share and it’s easy. Not so with Beats.

    • Recently Tidal launched in the US and I also have Deezer via VPN. Great catalogs and sound quality (FLAC). Decent software interface. Tidal has terrible issues with buffering, but I just VPN to their European servers and the problem vanishes.

    • Tidal, Deezer and Spotify are not perfect, but they are ALL better than the current offering from Beats/Apple.

    I see the rumors of a new service, so maybe I’ll come back once you launch. We’ll see what happens. I’ve seen similar comments on forums and it seems that Apple is deaf to the needs of their customers when it comes to streaming music features. Or maybe they just bought MOG/Beats for the catalog, artist and company relationships and figured you can use it as the basis for a new offering to your huge customer base. Whatever the case, Apple certainly didn’t take care of current subscribers by improving the product along the way while waiting for the next great big bang market offering.

    You could have kept me as a customer with a few simple improvements, but now that Tidal and Deezer are in the market, you’ll need to produce some type of extremely differentiated offering to win back my business.

    Reply

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