There’s no escaping it, streaming is the future, but is it a future the music Industry wants? Microsoft announced this week that they will be launching Xbox Music, initially available on the Xbox it will eventually stretch across all formats, desktop, phone, tablets, androids, ios and so on. Xbox Music simply takes the Spotify model, makes it cheaper and offers almost twice as many tracks, according to estimates 30m, which is pretty impressive when you consider itunes has an estimated 26m and Spotify a paltry 18m. Further to this the Xbox solution also makes itunes look behind the times, offering unlimited advert free streaming of their entire catalogue for just £8.99 a month or £89 a year, Spotify is a little more expensive at £9.99 a month. In addition to this Xbox music like Spotify offers the option to purchase should you desire to own those precious bytes of digital information.
Overall it would appear ‘Xbox Music’ is the first real contender to itunes undisputed 11 year reign and could spell the end for Spotify. However the real question again has to be, is streaming good for the music industry? Considering the recent furore surrounding the seemingly low return for artists and labels via Spotify it is somewhat surprising that major labels have agreed an unprecedented amount of licensing deals prior to the launch of Xbox Music. You only have to look at the recent sales of Warner music and most recently EMI to Universal to realise that the music industry is not in good shape.
Now we’re not going to pretend that we know all the inner workings of these highly complex business’s and the deals negotiated with the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Spotify, however what does seem clear having read many articles on the subject, that there is far less money to be made from streaming vs physical sales, and while this is initially good for the consumer its potentially crippling for the development of grass roots music, the foundation of the whole industry. Therefore going back to our original question ‘streaming is the future, but is it a future the music Industry wants?’. The answer is probably no, majors would much prefer to return to the glory days of CD and Vinyl, however this is not to be, and while streaming potentially doesnt raise the required revenue to run the music biz in its current guise it is very unlikely that this once bloated industry will not adapt and survive, after all people arent going to stop wanting to make and sell music.