After launching in the US last summer, Spotify has more than doubled its revenue to €187.8 million, but is spending nearly all of that. Paid Content reports that Spotify’s annual loss widened to €45.4 million in the 2011/2012 12 month period. Spotify’s challenge is to expand rapidly enough to cover expenses, while battling the high cost of streaming music laden with hefty licensing fees.
Unlike platforms like Pandora, iHeartradio and other streaming broadcasters and online only webcasters, Spotify is an on-demand platform that negotiates licenses directly with the labels. In fact, the major labels all have a stake in the company as part of those negotiations.
Spotify’s business model is different as well — subscriptions are a more important part of their revenue strategy. Spotify is spending lots of time and energy pursuing the widespread use of its API and third party app, and in fact hopes to become the world’s source for streaming music. When you think about the fact that the labels have a stake in this, it makes quite a bit of sense.
The main problem is that expansion is difficult, margins are slow, and losses are becoming hefty. Which could necessitate more funding. Which would in turn dilute the labels and prompt them to negotiate higher rates in future licensing deals. A merry-go-round of a business model…
Spotify has moved to offer its mobile streaming options, previously locked down under a monthly subscription, free to listeners. In an obvious response to the exponential growth that Pandora has experienced in mobile listening, Spotify will now feature “free mobile radio – Spotify style”.
The offerings feature the ability to create a station from a song, artist or genre and unlimited listening. Calling it the only free radio that you can save, Spotify mobile offers interactive options to like or dislike a song to influence your station or save the song to a playlist. Until now, it cost ten bucks to get all that on your mobile devices.
It sounds like a good offering, one I’ll bet Spotify wishes they had jumped on a little earlier. Pandora, with 150 million registered users and direct connections on lots of dashboards and tuner devices, has had a handy headstart. This move by Spotify is recognition of the impact that a popular free app in the iPhone and iPad app stores can make.
Free users in the US will hear advertisements from the following launch partners: Chevrolet, Durex, Heineken, Red Stag by Jim Beam, Lipton Iced Tea, Macy’s, McDonalds, Progressive, Red Bull, Taco Bell, Verizon Wireless, and Warner Bros – all of which are current Spotify advertisers.
As for Pandora, I suspect they knew it was only a matter of time before Spotify moved to pick up a piece of all that mobile listening to Pandora for free. They may even welcome the fact that Spotify will now join in their efforts to monetize mobile streaming ads…
More than a quarter of mobile subscribers listened to music on their phones in April, according to new data from comScore. 25.8% of US mobile subscribers used their mobile device to listen to music, a number that is up 1.3% from the first quarter stat. Texting is the most popular activity at 74.1%, with app use, browser use, social interactions and gaming being the other popular activities.
The increasing popularity of mobile music listening is having an impact that is interesting to observe. Last week I wrote about Samsung as the latest mobile phone manufacturer to purchase a streaming service, recognizing the opportunity that lies in providing music content. SiriusXM recently announced a major upgrade to its mobile streaming offering – in the future, hanging on to their subscribers will likely require more and more competition with streaming services that are mobile-ready.
Meanwhile broadcasters are pressing for FM chips in phones to be mandated by congress, despite resistance by phone manufacturers. This could be a critical piece of broadcast radio’s future survival as mobile listening continues to grow. But the question remains, will listeners choose to listen to fm services when streaming services are available? Given the higher degree of interactivity offered by most streaming options, this is a big question.
Nearly 40% of smartphone owners have used their device to listen to a streaming music service while in their car, according to new research by NPD Group on automotive connectivity. Devices and ways to connect them have become a serious focus for the auto industry. 79% of car owners are using a digital device in their cars.
It appears at this point that streaming in the car is used to supplement listening to traditional radio – according to NPD’s Ben Arnold, seventy three percent of drivers report still using their FM radio “always” or “most of the time” during car trips while more than half (57 percent) of vehicle owners say a CD player is vital in their decision to buy a car stereo or entertainment system.
The desire to consume connected content is a challenge for the auto industry as well – as they focus on best ways to integrate mobile connectivity into the car with minimal driver distraction. Apple’s voice controlled Siri and Microsoft’s motion controlled product found in Kinect are technologies that automakers are looking to integrate into the equation.
Meanwhile, in place of smooth integration, consumers are finding ways to connect their mobile devices using auxillary inputs (18%), USB ports (11%), and Bluetooth technology (56%). This fact – that consumers are so interested in developing workaround ways to use their connected devices in their cars, is a huge indicator of the desirability for a more connected dashboard.
“The key is for auto makers and traditional audio manufacturers to facilitate consumer use of connected devices in the vehicle, allowing content from the smartphone, tablet, or digital media player to easily stream or be controlled through the deck mounted in the dashboard,” Arnold said. “We’re only going to see greater consumer attachment to social media, streaming audio and video, and other services as content options grow.”
Last year was quite a year for Internet radio and related streaming music services, and judging from some of the end of the year activity, this year should be lots of fun as well. I took the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, so here’s my just-a-little-late 2011 recap, summed up in what I think were the stories of the year.
1. Pandora went public. They raised $234.9 million in their public offering in June, selling 14.7 million shares at $16. The stock has struggled to regain that kind of price since then, but the service continues to gain listeners, ending the year with well over 100 million registered listeners.
2. Spotify launched in the US. While they would have liked to get their ducks in a row and have launched before Pandora’s public offering, Spotify did launch in July. Europe’s most popular streaming service began serving US listeners and gaining great attention with mobile apps, on-demand and programmed offerings.
3. Facebook made friends with streaming platforms. In September at its f8 developer conference, facebook announced that it would integrate third party streaming music apps into its platform, opening up the gates for those services to gain listeners as folks listen and like songs and share them with their network of friends.
4. iHeartradio revamped and relaunched. The all new iHeartradio includes all the streams offered online by Clear Channel stations as well as streaming channels. Other broadcasters are offering their programming through the platform as well – including Univision, Cumulus/Citadel/ABC, and EMF. These changes signal Clear Channel’s intention that iHeartradio become a portal to streaming broadcast stations.
5. Digital trendspotter and investment analyst Mary Meeker predicts that online audio is the next big thing.
Those are the five things that I think were the biggest stories in online radio in 2011. I think the real story is a combination of all of them – an investment friendly marketplace with increasing competition and opportunities. What do you think?..
Consumers want Internet radio in their dashboard. 64% of consumers would listen everyday if they had access to streaming music sites in their cars, according to a newly released study sponsored by Harman, the premiere audio system brand. The only thing they want access to more than streaming music in their car is real time traffic, and being connected to a home computer, news, and the Internet were attractive options as well.
All of this from a new study, Driving the Connected Computer, that examined the technologies that consumers want in their cars. Voice controls are highly desirable, 70% of those said they would prefer voice controls that make a car easier to use.
The overwhelming takeaway is that consumers consider it essential to stay connected in their cars. “Staying connected in the car is essential to success,” is the way one survey participant put it. The survey consisted of interviews with Adults 18+ who own a car, make buying decisions and already own several tech products such as a smartphone, mp3 player, etc.. Voice controls, Internet connectivity, and tools that enable productivity are the hot buttons for these consumers.
Arbitron has announced a deal with Euorpean based online audio ad serving and measurement company Adswizz which signals their intention to return to server based streaming audience measurement. During an earnings call, EVP/COO Sean Creamer reported that Arbitron signed an agreement with Adswizz last week.
“AdsWizz will process the server-based, streaming log files exclusively for our planned digital radio service. This collaboration is designed to help us to realize our vision for providing standard reporting metrics for over the air and digital streaming audiences on behalf of our current radio broadcast customers and for digital music service clients. We are currently working with both our radio station clients and the digital service providers to develop the first report deliverables.”
Arbitron departed from server based streaming audio measurement when it purchased and subsequently shuttered Measurecast in 2004. Earlier this year they announced a plan to develop a comprehensive streaming audio measurement solution. A server based streaming audio measurement solution would put Arbitron in direct competition with Triton Digital’s Webcast Metrics, which currently measures services including Pandora, iHeartradio, Slacker, CBSRadio, AccuRadio and others.
Creamer’s announcement also promises a solution for current radio broadcast customers and digital music service clients. While it may seem obvious that the only way to produce a credible streaming measurement platform is to include both streaming broadcast and online only services, I had heard rumors that some of the broadcast clients of Arbitron were opposed to a solution that included online services like Pandora and Slacker. I’m hoping everyone has come to their senses on this point.
Competition in audience measurement of streaming can only be a good thing as it will encourage continued development of each solution’s capabilities. It’s also a good sign of a thriving industry…
Americans spend a lot of time listening to music in their cars. According to a new report by NPD Group, two out of three Americans say most of their music listening happens in cars. Most of that listening is still to radio and cds – but that appears to be changing.
The report shows that 80% of Americans listened to radio in their cars and that is a two point drop from a year ago. 53% listened to cds, which is down 4 points from a year ago. Meanwhile 29% are listening on a connected device which could be a smart phone or iTouch. That number is up 9 points from a year ago. Time spent listening with those devices has increased 9% as well.
“A tipping point is approaching when vehicles and portable devices move from a tethered connection to a more integrated one,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president and entertainment analyst for The NPD Group. “Smart devices streaming music could end up being the largest threat to CDs and broadcast radio since the dawn of digital music.”
More evidence that consumers are shifting to connected mobile devices for music. Pandora now has 70% of their audience on those mobile devices. Last week I featured a post about Mary Meeker‘s latest presentation which is all about mobile, and the way that mobile will make online audio the next big thing.
Are you familiar with turntable.fm? The latest hip streaming music startup is getting funding from Fred Wilson‘s Union Square Ventures. It’s Internet radio gone social, and it’s getting lots of buzz. Founded by Seth Goldstein and Billy Chasen, both of whom have been around digital startups before, this site has a social twist that should help it build an audience.
Listeners can choose to listen in any number of “listening rooms” or create their own and invite their friends. It’s still in beta, you need to already know someone who is in (and be friends with them on facebook) to get invited. But even that seems to be part of the cache – and they already have more than 300,000 users.
Turntable.fm is the kind of site that could even be compatible with other streaming music sites. Paste Magazine recently held a listening party for English folk-rock band Slow Club’s upcoming disc Paradise. And why couldn’t any DJ or station do the same? Host a listening party, invite your listeners, and let turntable.fm pay the royalties.
I’m intrigued by the idea that some of these emerging streaming platforms are compatible rather than competitive with other music platforms. I know a lot of folks, particularly in the broadcast industry, subscribe to the “walled garden” way – but perhaps it’s possible to use turntable.fm to extend your station’s brand and your relationship with your audience, without having to build it yourself. Maybe a place like turntable.fm is where everyone goes when they want to hang out and listen with friends.
If you have a station and give it a try, please let me know..