music streaming

Fight Club! Death to iTunes special: Google Play, Amazon, Spotify and more

Let’s put this to bed.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to find a decent replacement for iTunes. 

The reasons why I want to abandon the world’s most popular music download service are many and varied.

iTunes is a deeply flawed experience. It’s impersonal and slow, with lack of support for different file formats. It has a stubbornly rigid pricing model and no browser access whatsoever.

In fact I rarely use the platform to download. Instead I use a collection of different digital download sites to purchase MP3s online. 

Yet I still use iTunes almost exclusively to organise and access my songs on both desktop and smartphone.

Surely there’s an easier way. Well I’m going to try and find one. For the good of you, me and the music loving public of the world.

Stats and soundbites from Spotify

Spotify might still be loss making, despite revenues of $435m in 2012, but the service is incredibly popular and many think it might be gearing up to IPO.

These rumours have started since Spotify in December secured some $200m in credit lines and recently acquired a music algorithm company, Echo Nest.

If this does mean Spotify is about to get serious about profit, it comes at a time when competitors are more easily found – from Beats Music to Milk, Samsung’s new service.

I listened to Spotify’s Chris Maples (VP, Europe) at last week’s Digital Media Strategies 2014. There were some interesting titbits, from stats to Spotify’s approach to iteration and mobile, that I thought would be worth sharing here.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on Spotify’s future or its approach to subscriptions and product development.

Google Play: a very poor alternative to iTunes

As of July 2013, the Google Play store officially reached over 1m apps published and over 50bn downloads.

As of the same date, iTunes achieved 575m registered users and it’s adding 500,000 new accounts every day.

There is no denying the power and ubiquity of Apple’s digital music service, after all it has transformed the way that everyone on the planet consumes music.

iTunes is a deeply flawed experience though. It’s impersonal and slow, with lack of support for different file formats, a stubbornly rigid price model and no browser access.

In an ongoing series I’ve been checking out the competition to see if I can find a digital music platform that can finally trump iTunes.

So far, 7digital and Amazon MP3 have both shown many surprising wins over the Goliath of iTunes. I saved Google Play till later as I expected this to be where the true battle lies. 

I was wrong.

Seven reasons why I love Spotify and 17 why I don’t

I love Spotify, I’ll just make that clear from the start. Spotify has completely changed the way I listen to music.

In fact, while I briefly linger in this positive mood, here are some more reasons why I love Spotify: 

As a part-time music journalist, I couldn’t function properly without its unlimited access to 20m songs. Also, new album releases for any given Monday seem to appear not long after midnight on the Sunday before. This is terrific for my Monday morning commute.

I can also use Spotify on as many devices as I like (desktop, laptop, phone, work computer) with up to 3,333 songs able to be synced for offline listening on up to three devices at a time.

Just in case Thom Yorke is reading, I will also add that far as I’m concerned, using Spotify has led to me spending more money on music through other channels (mainly independent record stores), purely because of the access I now have to music that I wouldn’t normally listen to

As a final bonus, in the free version of Spotify, it has jettisoned the limits to how many times you can listen to a song and how many hours a month you can use it. I would however suggest that £10 a month is a small price to pay not to have to put up with some of the most irritating adverts ever hosted on a platform.

And this is where we arrive at the major thrust of this article.

Is Beats about to launch a Spotify killer?

Beats, the ubiquitous headphone brand co-founded by Dr Dre, will release its music streaming service Beats Music in the USA on 21 January.

Beats currently controls 27% of the $1.8bn headphone market and 57% of the premium market (an eye-watering place where headphones can cost anywhere between $100-$400) and its headphones have quickly become a visual staple of public transport, the high street and indeed the very office I’m writing this article in now, within only the last few years.

Now it looks like Beats is set to take on the music streaming market with what appears to be an expertly planned, theoretically artist-friendly and potentially Spotify smashing service.

Let’s take a closer look…

Online music streaming doubled in 2013 – stats

In 2013, 7.4bn songs were streamed in the UK, doubling the previous year’s total of 3.7bn. 

This figure comes from the latest report by the Official Charts Company and the British Phonographic Industry, or BPI as it wishes to be known as nobody since the turn of last century knows what a phonograph is.

2013 saw an even bigger shift towards digital technology being the primary way that listeners discover and enjoy new music, helped with the continued increase of tablet and smartphone ownership, and the improvement of music streaming apps on mobile devices.

Here are some more digital music related stats from the report, which may feature names of artists you’ll have to ask your kids about or consult your nearest NME reader.

Tesco buys music service We7

Earlier this week, Sainsbury’s purchased a majority stake in ebook retailer Anobii from HMV for £1 in what was the latest example of a major retailer trying to extend its footprint into the world of digital content.

Yesterday, we saw another example of this same trend as Tesco purchased UK-based music streaming service We7 for £10.8m.