Hopefully the millionaire musician owners of Tidal have been listening to the criticism from their fans and peers. I outlined a couple weeks ago how their insulting launch totally neglected the one group of musicians who actually need a theoretical payment structure improvement: the indies. Instead, millionaires stood on stage lecturing the public on why they should pay them more money. But I guess when your entire think tank consists of millionaires and yes-men, you’re not going to get the perspective you actually need to launch a successful music service in 2015.
Apple is mere weeks away from launching their Beats-powered streaming service to (finally) attempt to compete with Spotify. But rumor has it they aren’t looking to do anything different in the space – save for a few lackluster exclusives.
Spotify was the first to scale with streaming, but even they aren’t providing the experience fans (or musicians) crave.
A few nights ago I was listening to the Daft Punk album Random Access Memories on Spotify. I never gave it a proper listen when it came out two years ago. Yeah, “Get Lucky” was funky, but I didn’t realize the depth of this! And the musicianship! Okay, I’ll give you a moment to scroll down to chastise me in the comments for missing this boat.
Anyway, I was funking out and I couldn’t get over the rhythm section. So tight. The drummer’s pocket was locked down. Such an interesting, almost mechanical (yet still human) groove. I needed to know who this was! And those guitar tones! Gahhh.
But how do I do this? Impossible on Spotify. Impossible even if I downloaded it on iTunes. Impossible in Rdio, Deezer, Tidal or anywhere else.
So I went to the one place where this information clearly exists. No, not Wikipedia. Allmusic.com. But, for some sadistic reason, Allmusic.com on Safari on my iPhone takes over audio control from Spotify and shuts off the funk!
Tidal includes the most track info for (major label) artists (fucking the indies seems to be a common theme with Tidal across the board), but still has major holes. I just tried finding this info in Tidal on my phone and it includes Producer, Lyricist, Composer and Featured Artist information for the Daft Punk album. But no players!
Rdio on the desktop displays the featured artists, but not on mobile. Allmusic.com links to Rdio to stream any song from their site, but ironically Rdio contains no Allmusic information in their app! How difficult is it to integrate all of the information from Allmusic.com TO Spotify? TO Rdio. TO Tidal. TO iTunes…
And what about lyrics?
None of the streaming services (except Deezer – which isn’t available in the US) include lyrics (on mobile)! So what are we supposed to do? Head on over to Google and search for them – which inevitably brings up an ad-laden, “illegal” lyric hosting site. Which isn’t mobile friendly so I have to manually pinch in.
What a horrible experience. All around.
Doesn’t anybody understand it’s not JUST about the music?
There needs to be a platform that is THE destination for true music fandom. A beautiful, all-encompassing, music listening experience. Why is listening to vinyl so enjoyable? In part, it’s the ritual of taking the record out of the package, placing it on the turntable, but also exploring the liner notes, lyrics and artwork.
iTunes completely neglected this experience for the past 10 years, but because there was no competitive alternative it got lazy and forgot what a true music experience could be. It’s not just about the transaction! Or the audio quality.
The destination for music should be an identically pleasurable experience on mobile, tablet, desktop AND …wait for it… television.
Yes, with everyone owning a smart TV, we should be able to fully immerse ourselves in the music on the TV. Show me HD album artwork, credits, lyrics, music videos, photos, bio, everything with a couple clicks of the remote.
On mobile, play the song, swipe right for lyrics, swipe right again for FULL credits (include the ability to click featured artists, songwriters and producers to then see THEIR credits – in app), swipe right for bio info, album artwork, swipe again for tour dates, TICKET INFO, merch options, crowdfunding campaigns.
How to do this? Link up with Allmusic.com. Link up with Songmeanings.com (one of the few legal lyric sites out there). Link up with BandPage for merch and tickets. Merge with PledgeMusic to have the crowdfunding LIVE within this app. Ongoing. Stop making the users hop around the internet, apps, phones, platforms. What is going to be the hub to kill off everyone else?
And what about Jazz and Classical? No service, download or streaming, has gotten this right. How do I search for all albums with Herbie Hancock? No, not just his albums, but the records where he’s a sideman for Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, and the list goes on. Impossible! And what about Olga Kern’s version of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #3? Good luck finding that. Well, it’s on YouTube. Maybe YouTube Music Key will solve this. Doubtful.
Yes, Exclusives are important. And the 2013 Nielsen study revealed that music fans would pay up to $2.6 BILLION more if they were offered behind the scenes, VIP access, exclusives and experiences. But the superstars are so out of touch they don’t know what exclusives fans actually crave. The Tidal exclusives are laughable. A video? Come on! It’s thrown up on YouTube minutes after it hits Tidal.
Want to know exclusives people would pay for?
Live streaming hangouts and home concerts in the app, interacting with the fans commenting in real time. That can’t be replicated. Early access to tickets. The ability to buy backstage, pre-show hangouts. Forums, message boards and fan collaborations where they know the artist will peek in once in awhile and say what up.
Why isn’t anyone thinking like this? And if they are, what’s the damn hold up?!
Bitching about higher streaming royalties dilutes the true issue at stake. The user experience is abysmal. Let’s get people to FALL IN LOVE with the experience of listening to music again. Yes, audio quality is important. But so is everything else.
The app world has it right. Get the user hooked on the free version, then get them to make their purchases in app. The free version of these streaming services could include low-fi music. The paid version would unlock a music listening experience so great that fans wouldn’t think twice about upgrading. And with their credit cards on file, they’ll buy tickets, support crowd funding campaigns, buy merch and tip their favorite artists.
Want to win the future of recorded music? Don’t play catch up. Innovate!
Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business, a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake
Photo is by Amanda Norisada and used with permission (yes that’s an Ari Herstand baby romper. what what!)
*Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that no streaming services include lyrics. It has been clarified to state that no American streaming services include lyrics on mobile.