Dear readers of the music business research blog,
2015 Music streaming was again the main topic in the music business. In June, Apple Inc. introduced the long rumoured music streaming portal Apple Music to the public. Instead of a freemium tier Apple Music is built around an online radio station – Beats 1 – and enables direct contact between musicians and fans by Artist Connect. Nevertheless, Taylor Swift was not amused. She threatened to withdraw her music catalogue from Apple Music as long as no licensing fees are paid to rights holders in the initial trail period. Apple’s VP of iTunes, Eddy Cue, immediately responded by Twitter to announce that Apple Inc. has changed its mind and “will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period”. However, the conflict shows that the discussion on music streaming payments to artists will continue in 2016. An analysis on the blog already addressed that problem – Music Streaming Revisited – the Problem of Income Distribution – and even superstars cannot afford a living from music streaming revenues: Music Streaming Revisited – The Superstars’ Music Streaming Income. It was also highlighted on the blog that the main winners of the music streaming boom are the major recorded music labels which can successfully market their catalogues: Who Benefits from Spotify & Co.?
Before Apple Music was introduced to the public, premium music streaming service Tidal was launched by Jay-Z and 16 further superstars of the music business in March 2015. It remains to be seen if the music fans are prepared to pay a monthly fee of US $19.99 for high fidelity music streaming. The number of subscribers since Tidal’s launch tells a different story.
In November 2015, Google unveiled the first details on YouTube Red. YouTube Red is the successor of Music Key, which never made it out of the beta version. The new streaming service aims to successfully compete with Spotify & Co. 2016 will show if the dreams will come true.
It is striking, however, that all the new music streaming services lack a freemium tier. This nurtures speculations that the end of free music streaming is near what would be applauded by high ranking music industry representatives who regularly clamoured the dismissal of Freemium music streaming models in 2015. It is, however, questionable if a stop of free music streaming is the golden rule for the music business since most of the music streaming markets are not fully developed yet as highlighted in a blog entry: Music Streaming Revisited – the International Music Streaming Market 2014.
Although music streaming seems to stabilize the recorded music markets – see e.g. U.S. and Germany – the first signs of a market consolidations has become visible. The German music streaming pioneer Simfy had to close down and the U.S. based streaming platform rdio went bankrupt in 2015.
Investors, however, do not bet on music streaming services anymore as the panel discussion “Financing Music in the Digital Age” within the 6th Vienna Music Business Research Days highlighted. The international music business research conference that again was held at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna in cooperation with Waves Vienna Festival & Conference also addressed the question in a presentation and panel discussion if streaming is a relevant revenue source for opera houses and concert halls. And the economic relevance of crowdfunding for the music business was analysed in a keynote talk too.