By now, I’m sure you’re aware of the endless Internet debate regarding music piracy. Before we start, I would like to state that I’m not an expert, analyst, forecaster, etc. I’m simply stating my opinion based on some basic research, personal experience, and common sense. You don’t have to listen, believe, or agree with me. Use your own judgement and formulate your own opinion on this matter.
Today I would like to go over about what’s happening in the music industry (a giant entity), where I think it’s heading, and why I think streaming services are a great solution.
The Music Industry Is Dying!
We’re constantly hearing this from various media outlets and heavily opinionated blogs. Is this statement true? Sort of…
First of all, lets get one things straight. Music is entertainment.
Let’s do a quick mind exercise. In your head, I want you to try and travel back in time to the Stone Age. Did you do it? I’m going to assume you did. Now figure out your three basic needs. What are they? Food, water, and shelter. Keep this in mind when you’re reading the article. It will help you understand the thought process of people who are living from paycheck to paycheck. Let’s get back to the music industry.
Since music is simply entertainment you don’t really need it to survive. It’s basically a nice pleasure to experience. Because of this simple fact, I feel that people who don’t have extra money to spend on entertainment don’t mind and/or feel bad about illegally downloading music. In some cases it’s even easier to illegally download music, than to actually pay for it. But that’s a completely different topic I don’t wish to get into right now.
Let’s say you are part of the quote on quote “1%.” If you are rolling in money, you could care less about dropping hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your favorite songs. If your bank statements look like 1-800 numbers, then I wouldn’t be too worried about buying MP3s from iTunes or Amazon.
Why not support your favorite artists by purchasing their music and in return get high quality bit rate songs to enjoy? Sounds like a deal to me. To put it simply, I get to enjoy art in the form of audio, and in return I pay money to hold on to that art and listen to it anytime I want. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable business model to me.
The problem we now face is that people simply don’t feel like paying for music when they know they can download it for free. This is especially true with teenagers.
Back when I was in middle school (8-10 years ago), I’m pretty sure everybody I knew used Limewire. If you don’t know what that is, it was basically a filesharing software that people used for movies, music, book, porn, etc. After a four-year battle with the Recording Industry Association of America, they got shut down.
(Now you might get mad and say that teenagers are a bunch of thieves. I would have to counter that argument by simply saying that most middle schoolers don’t have jobs. Usually when they needed money, they will have to ask their parents. To buy music back then you needed a credit card. Asking your parent for their credit card to buy something online, would result in a nice laugh from your parents. Remember, this is when people felt sketchy about buying things from the Internet. )
After it was shutdown, many speculated that users would turn to legal alternatives. But that didn’t really happen. People simply figured out new ways, or used other lesser know filesharing services to pirate media.
Older people, who aren’t too tech savvy, usually pay for songs, movies, tv shows, or software. They don’t know that they can illegally get them for free, or if they do, they usually don’t know how. To make their life easier, they simply buy what they need/want. Convenience usually saves time, which is a limited resource. Because of this people will often spend the extra money just to get things easier or quicker.
The music industry perfectly knows this, it’s common sense. The reality they don’t seem to want to face is that at one point and time, people who were born before the Internet will die. Then, there will be a population of tech savvy people who have grown up with laptops, smartphones phones, Netflix, Youtube, tablets, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’m pretty sure people 40-70 years from now will know how to get whatever they please. All they will have to do is look in the right location.
The Internet is already a beast on its own. In the future governments will try to get a grip on it by passing various laws like CISPA and SOPA, however people will always find a way around them. I don’t care how much money the music industry spends on lobbying. There will always be some kind of alternative way for people to pirate. Unless of course there is a one world government totalitarian system waiting for us in the future. Just kidding, this website is 100% Alex Jones free.
To prove my point even more, take a look at this article. If you don’t have time to read it, it basically says that sales of digital music declined for the first time ever in 2013. The economy isn’t too hot and people are more worried about putting food on the table rather than spending money on the latest radio hit. People are looking for alternatives and the music industry at large has to accept this fact.
What used to be a huge cash cow isn’t being milked anymore. It’s being delivered to people at your local restaurant as rare, medium, or well done steak. The cash cow is slowly being eaten. Old music executives must realize this and figure out a new method of monetization. I know they are probably upset about all this, and I would be too if I was in their position, but they must remember the simple old saying: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
Right now, the system is broke. They must fix it or face the consequences down the line. Going against the current will never get you up the river.
Streaming services to the rescue
Streaming music has become increasingly popular in the last 2 years or so. Let’s face it, we’re moving into a completely digital age where instant gratification is worshiped like a God. People want things fast and they don’t want to wait. If you make them wait, they’ll go to your competitor and see if they have a better solution.
Record labels are starting to get on board with streaming services because they provide a compelling legal alternative to piracy. By having music on these types of services, labels and artists earn a royalty when their music is being played. Many skeptics argue that this solution won’t work, but at least companies like Spotify, Google, Rdio, Beats Music, and Rhapsody are taking a chance and actually helping to combat piracy.
I’ve been using Spotify lately and I must say that it’s worth every penny. I feel like I’m pirating music when using Spotify, it’s that good. I have access to over 20 million songs that I can listen to until my ears bleed. If you currently pirate music, there is no need to waste your time anymore.
Remember: Time is the most valuable commodity. Just pay ten dollar and you technically own 20 million songs… as long as you keep paying every month.
Today I would like to introduce you to the top five streaming music services you should consider trying. If you’re a music lover, you’ll be satisfied with any one of these services. But for the sake of people who are looking for the best solution I’m here to help. Of course, nothing is perfect…not even software. So it’s totally up to you to pick one, each service has a set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look.
Okay, so everyone has at least heard about Spotify at this point. They provide a great service. If you’re looking to find a free service that will allow you to listen to anything you want, this is it. If you want no advertisements, they offer packages as little as five bucks a month. That’s pretty awesome.
Unfortunately, with the five dollar a month subscription, you’re not going to be able to listen to the service on the go or keep an offline play list, that’s going to run you ten dollars. Still better than paying for each song if you listen to music as much as I do. The bad side to using it on a mobile device? Well, it’s pretty laggy, no matter how good your service is. When you’re on Wi-Fi, it runs way smoother.
The user interface is going to cause some confusion at first, but you’ll get used to it. If you’re not looking to run Spotify off your mobile device, you’re in luck because their desktop app is easy to use and has a beautiful user interfaces. Spotify is one of the best music streaming services available on the market today, that’s why it’s so popular.
If you’re not into what Spotify is offering, or just have a distaste for the user interface like most people, Rdio is a wonderful alternative. First and foremost, they will give you six months of on-demand music at absolutely no cost. That’s right; free! I like free, so I gave it a whirl.
I found that their service is almost on par with Spotify, and their user interface is very easy to use. Rdio offers about twenty million different tracks along with one of the cleanest user interfaces available. They don’t clog your screen with a million confusing buttons and hard to navigate controls, just pure and clean interface.
Rdio runs at $9.99 a month. They also offer discounts for students, families, and web-only listeners.
Almost anyone with an Android phone has heard about Google Play Music All Access, which is a ridiculously long title to hold. Since Google is trying to become a major player in technology (i.e. Chromebooks, Android, Google Glass) they wanted to expand into music as well.
The bottom line is that Google Play works effortlessly on Android. Once you chose to add a song to your cloud, or as Google calls it; my locker, your song will become instantly available across all of your devices.
The only downside of Google’s service is that they haven’t entered the Microsoft Store for Windows Phone 8, or the AppStore for iOS. Maybe it’s a contractual issue? Either way, it’s no fun if you want to switch from Android.
They don’t offer a smaller package with advertisements like some of the other services, but they do price match Spotify. Overall, not a bad service.
Beats Music focuses on providing you with a personalized music experience. Launched in January 2014, Beats Music is only available in the US. I’m sure they have a roll-out plan in the future. So if you’re outside the the country, just use a VPN service to access it. Beats Music does not have dedicated desktop software like Spotify, instead they have apps for for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
I downloaded the app on the first day, and was very impressed with the user interface. It’s very simple and easy to use. Inside the app you can create different playlists, share your music with Facebook and Twitter friends, and download music straight to your phone for offline mode. After a 30 day free trial, the service runs at a competitive $10 a month.
Beats Music is very late to the game, but their offering is solid.
First, the good; Rhapsody has a few advantages that other services don’t. They provide parental controls. But, let’s face it, if you’re giving your child a smartphone, what’s the point of having parental controls on one application. If they want to listen to explicit music, they will find it on YouTube.
Secondly, their navigation is impressive. The search feature works effortlessly and they give you access to over eighteen million songs. They do have a thirty day trial period, but they require your payment method upfront, before you finish creating your account. That’s not the best first impression that a streaming service could offer.
They have competitive rates starting at ten dollars a month for one device. If you want three, then you will be paying twenty dollars each month.
Overall, it’s a good service, however the pay up front model is annoying. They’re simply losing potential customers. Rhapsody users have also reported various glitches and bugs, but I’m sure they’re constantly working to fix those.
Overall, Spotify is definitely the right choice, at least it has been for me. I don’t typically listen to music on the go. I don’t want to pay outrageous overage fees on my data plan, so I stick with my streaming services from my laptop. So far it’s been a wonderful experience. The neighbors aren’t too happy about Spotify, but they’ll get used to it.
If you would like to stream music from your Android phone, you should probably go with Google Play Music All Access.
There are clearly way more music streaming services on the web. Please keep in mind that I’ve shared the best choices from my experience. These top five services are going to offer you the most for your money.
If you work for a music streaming service and you’re currently reading this, I have a fairly great idea. I still feel that music discovery is a huge key to success for most of these services. I don’t want to listen to the same mainstream songs I already hear on the radio. I want to discover new music and find new artists to follow.
I know companies are trying to tackle this issue, however the experience is still pretty bad. Here is my personal dilemma.
I mainly listen to progressive house music. Whenever I type in a relatively popular artist in iTunes Radio or Pandora, I get some nice results. The only problem is those results aren’t really “new.” I get the same songs I’ve already heard before from other fairly popular artists (first world problem). I would not call this discovering new music. I would call this, “Here, we found some other songs that match this genre and are also on the radio.”
What I would love to see is one of these companies partner up with somebody like Soundcloud and create a true music discovery service. I want to find lesser know artists who aren’t signed with the major labels. I want to find artists who don’t have million dollar marketing campaigns for their albums (to see what I mean, check out this article by NPR.) I want to find artist who have true talent and are still part of the creative process.
I’ve yet to find a service that does this. I know this idea is fairly complicated, mainly for legal reasons, but I believe this is the future. I’m sure there are bright people out there who are fully capable of writing an algorithm that would carry out this task. I’ve recently discovered some incredible songs by accident on Soundcloud, and feel that whoever jumps on this opportunity first will completely destroy their competitors.