Streaming Music’s Popularity Brings New Players to the Table

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Playing music from anywhere, and playing the music that you want when you want it, is becoming something that is in huge demand for consumers. Several companies are stepping up to the plate to provide these services. From well-known entertainment brands to start up companies, there will be multiple choices for streaming music fans in the coming year.

Loosened hold on song rights. The concept of streaming music services used to seem out of reach – but record labels have loosened their hold on rights to songs. They’ve begun to lease collections of songs to providers, rather than focus on the old model of selling individual albums or song singles. Early digital music providers like iTunes prompted record labels to take a closer look at selling music in the modern age, and now streaming services are taking the concept one step further.

Streaming services Spotify and Pandora offer collections of tracks with widespread appeal. Spotify offers unlimited access to 20 million tracks for a $10 per month subscription fee. Pandora delivers the tracks in radio form and lets users create stations based on their tastes.

While both models have proven to be successful, the new crop of streaming music offerings will differ and offer more genre-focused catalogs.

Niche music services. Such niche services are expected to flood the market in 2014. Most will offer a smaller subscription price, based on their limited catalogs of songs. The niche sites are part of an effort by the industry as a whole to bring more consumers into the streaming music market. Compared to per-song or album purchase services like iTunes and Amazon, streaming music is much less popular.

It’s estimated that 1/3 of the world’s music consumers have used music-streaming services, but that just 10% of that number have paid for a service. In the U.S., subscription-streaming services brought in $571 million in revenue (2012) – but this was just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall music industry earnings of $7 billion.

The music industry is catching on…finally. The music industry isn’t taking online music lightly this time. When fans started sharing their music on websites like Napster over 10 years ago, the industry failed to develop a competitive product and record sales in the U.S. have dropped nearly 43% since that time. Since its implementation in 2011, streaming music subscription services have helped stop the downward spiral. Worldwide subscription services brought in $1.25 billion.

By offering new subscription services targeted to niche users, music executives are hoping that the number will climb even higher. In addition to creating targeted music catalogs, they are also looking into offering their music subscription plans to cable-TV and wireless carriers. Bundling the music with other entertainment offerings seems to be a smart move, but attempts to do so the in the past have been met with uneven success.

Still a reluctance to license for some…but not all. Part of the lack of success in bundling rights is due to the record companies themselves. Even with the clear demand for streaming music from the market, many are reluctant to license their music and when they do they demand large, upfront guarantees. Cable TV and wireless carriers often don’t want to take the risk, so streaming online services is the next best option.

7digital Ltd is a London-based firm trying to make it easier for the licensing process to take place. It has put together music-streaming services for Samsung Electronics and Pure, a British consumer electronics company. 7digital offers streaming services embedded in devices based on genres of music – such as country, blues and opera. Beats Electronics is another company that is looking to enter the streaming music market. Beats Music will launch in early 2014 and is focused on helping audiences discover new music – hopefully through their name brand Beats headphones.

Finally, online giant Google is attempting to join the streaming market through their video platform YouTube. The service will let paying subscribers watch music videos without the ads that have become so commonplace. It will also offer streaming music without video, and mobile streaming access. Google’s other effort – Google Play All Access – was launched in 2013, and all subscribers will gain access to the new YouTube service.

Streaming music fans can look forward to lots of new options in the coming year – no matter what their taste is.

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