Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Artist exclusivity is a terrible way for streaming music services to compete

Just being a casual observer who happens to have Spotify news added to his Bing Interests, today I saw a post from Fast Company (and other news outlets like the post from CNN Money) about how Jay-Z pulled his first album from Spotify, favoring his own music service, Tidal, instead. Some reports even speculate that this won't be the last of the album-pulling either.

I don't know what all of you think, but this is honestly very stupid. The reasoning behind this is simple: You're making users have to subscribe to additional music services, just to get access to certain artists' music. Along with that, you also get fragmentation between music services because you probably won't have an app that plays nicely with all of the services, and some of these services might even deny such an app to even exist (by revoking license keys, etc).

Core Issue: Choice

Say what you want, but piracy is here to stay and it's not going away anytime soon. When you put users in the middle like what is happening now, it doesn't turn out for record labels, artists, and anyone else who is involved with the music industry. Why? Well, choice is the reason.

If I payed for a streaming music service, I would pick Spotify. That's a no brainer for me, and people who know me well enough can agree with this. However, what if you was an artist who was previously on Spotify and all of a sudden decided to start giving Tidal exclusive rights to your content? Well, that means that my $9.99 Spotify subscription (not talking about exceptions for students) just became a little less useful. You know what also sucks? I'm not going to pay $9.99 (or $10 more for "HD" audio quality) for another streaming music service just to access your new music.

What results? Piracy

When this kind of situation happens, people turn to piracy. To be honest, I wouldn't blame them either. This kind of competition between streaming music services actually harms the music industry as a whole. Besides, there are plenty of popular torrent sites on the internet. Public sites like The Pirate Bay and KickAss Torrents come to mind, as well as numerous private trackers for those willing to pay or become part of an exclusive group. Oh, and mobile torrent apps make it even easier to get rolling on downloading content, all illegally and all for free*.

Some people think that moves like those detailed in the linked articles is backwards thinking, and they're absolutely right. The MAFIAA (Movie And Film Industry Association of America) will never give up on doing its best to do away with piracy, but they certainly continue to add more and more food on their plate when they make such boneheaded moves like this.