Tag Archives: rhapsody

Painting The Town Spotify Green

The competitive landscape of online music services had a busy week, with everyone out and about in Austin at SXSW wooing press and fans. Just 3 months after announcing that they had reached 5 million subscribers globally, Spotify announced this week that they now have 6 million paying subscribers, and declared themselves the fastest growing music service ever. Their presence in Austin featured a house, painted Spotify green, where they hosted live bands.

Spotify's big green house #sxsw

Rdio announced this week that they are expanding to still more countries. Their service, which new subscribers can hear ad-free for the first six months, is now available in United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Sweden and Brazil, in addition to the US.

Pandora hosted a “Discovery Den” that featured many well known artists, some of which also made an appearance at iHeartRadio‘s SXSW party. Rhapsody had a party, and hosted a panel as well: ‘Streaming Music: A River of Cash or up the Creek.’ The panel will bring together perspectives from all sides of the issue to examine what roles streaming music services can play for artists today and in the future. Hats off to them for that.

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Streaming Music On Smartphones Is Popular

Smartphone users like to use the devices to listen to music, and that’s a trend that is on the upswing, according to new information from NPD Group. 56% of smartphone users listen to music on their devices, with 39% of them doing that daily. Of those, they mostly listen to Internet radio (65%), but also stream on demand services like Spotify or Rhapsody (30%) and listen to their own music (it’s not clear whether it’s on the device or streamed from a cloud service) as well.

Music listening on mobile devices extends to tablets as well, with 40% of tablet users listening to music on those devices.

Ovi Music - on the go

Ovi Music – on the go (Photo credit: Nokia RSA)

The Audio Consumption study done by NPD Group also observes that hardware of products that enhance wireless local playback of streaming services on mobile devices, like wireless speakers and headphones, are growing as a result of this trend. “With both local music storage and the ability to connect to any number of online music services, tablets and smartphones are actually contributing to a net increase in their owner’s use of internet radio and personal music collections,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD.  “As a result, we are seeing sales growth in products that compliment playback on mobile devices, particularly those that feature wireless local streaming.” Wireless streaming speaker sales more than tripled in 2012, and wireless headphones grew by 34 percent.

NPD Group’s Russ Crupnick is a featured speaker at the upcoming RAIN Summit West on Sunday April 7th at the Las Vegas Hotel. For more information and to register, click here.

Streaming Music On Smartphones Is Popular

Smartphone users like to use the devices to listen to music, and that’s a trend that is on the upswing, according to new information from NPD Group. 56% of smartphone users listen to music on their devices, with 39% of them doing that daily. Of those, they mostly listen to Internet radio (65%), but also stream on demand services like Spotify or Rhapsody (30%) and listen to their own music (it’s not clear whether it’s on the device or streamed from a cloud service) as well.

 

Music listening on mobile devices extends to tablets as well, with 40% of tablet users listening to music on those devices.

 

Ovi Music - on the go

Ovi Music – on the go (Photo credit: Nokia RSA)

 

The Audio Consumption study done by NPD Group also observes that hardware of products that enhance wireless local playback of streaming services on mobile devices, like wireless speakers and headphones, are growing as a result of this trend. “With both local music storage and the ability to connect to any number of online music services, tablets and smartphones are actually contributing to a net increase in their owner’s use of internet radio and personal music collections,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD.  “As a result, we are seeing sales growth in products that compliment playback on mobile devices, particularly those that feature wireless local streaming.” Wireless streaming speaker sales more than tripled in 2012, and wireless headphones grew by 34 percent.

 

NPD Group’s Russ Crupnick is a featured speaker at the upcoming RAIN Summit West on Sunday April 7th at the Las Vegas Hotel. For more information and to register, click here.

 

HTC Moves Into Streaming Music With MOG

Image representing HTC as depicted in CrunchBaseIt’s all but confirmed that mobile phone company HTC will purchase on-demand streaming service MOG via their Beats Electronics high end headphone brand. Which is a very interesting play for the folks at MOG. That service, while interesting, might have been dismissed not very long ago as one that was getting sidelined by other on-demand services like Spotify and even long timer Rhapsody, which recently reinvigorated itself with the purchase of the legal remainder of Napster.

Following in the footsteps of the mobile phone/streaming service pairing between Muve and Cricket, this deal looks like a good one for MOG, which was founded by David Hyman in 2005 and had raised $33 million. MOG reportedly has about half a million users.

HTC, the fifth largest smartphone maker in the world, took a controlling stake in Beats last year. That company is tied in tightly with Universal Music, the largest of the big record labels, which adds yet another interesting twist to this deal.

So MOG, or whatever it becomes, will become an on-demand music source built into a large number of smartphones. Sure – those folks can still subscribe to Spotify or Rhapsody, but if HTC comes with a free service that offers the same thing why would they?

Coldplay Gives Spotify The Cold Shoulder

Coldplay released a new album this week and didn’t license subscription services such as Spotify to play it, a strategy that is raising concern for on-demand services. There’s been a debate brewing about the wisdom of offering brand new releases through on-demand subscription services and whether that has an impact on song and album sales.

After withholding their new album Mylo Xyloto from Spotify, Coldplay sold more digital albums that ever before in the UK – something that doesn’t bode well for on-demand services like Spotify. DMN reports that Coldplay sold more than 200,000 units in the UK alone, 40% of which were digital sales. Figures from US sales were not yet available.

Services like Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and MOG offer on demand song plays for a monthly subscription fee. But artists have been unhappy with the payouts from these services, and some are removing their new albums, or even their entire catalog from the playlists of some streaming services.

In a story on this topic, CNET quoted artist and indie label owner Sam Rosenthal pointing out that 5000 song plays on Spotify would earn him $6.50. An artist would earn $.20 per song download on iTunes, or $1000 for the same number of song sales.

But does an on demand song play on Spotify replace a song download? That’s a good question and one that no one can really answer. In the CNET article, Jon Irwin of Rhapsody claims that rather than cannibalizing song sales, on demand services are cannibalizing piracy – that inexpensive subscription services appeal to the younger listener who used to download all their music illegally and now pay a monthly fee instead.

Unfortunately, higher song sales for Coldplay after holding back their new album from Spotify doesn’t help on demand services make that point…

Rhapsody Buys, Extinguishes Napster

Rhapsody will acquire Napster from Best Buy and perhaps that will – once and for all – kill off the most notorious company name in online music. I for one am glad to see it go. Napster was launched in 1999 by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker to promote illegal online sharing of music in the form of mp3’s. It was shut down in 2001, declared bankruptcy in 2002, was reborn as a commercial venture in 2003 and purchased by Best Buy in 2008. I always thought that was one of the worst decisions to buy a brand that a company ever made.

Now Rhapsody, in an effort to stay alive and compete with newer on-demand services like Spotify, will migrate Napster subscribers over to the Rhapsody platform where they will enjoy subscription based on-demand streaming, along with the ability to build playlists for offline listening, a feature that Rhapsody introduced earlier this year. Reportedly, Napster subscribers who were paying a cheaper, $5 a month fee will have to upgrade to Rhapsody’s $10 a month subscriber fee.

Rhapsody has 800,000 subscribers, about 15 million songs, and has been in business for about ten years. While they’re not huge, they are the largest on-demand subscription service. Best Buy paid $122 million for Napster in 2008 and will get a minority stake in Rhapsody in the transaction.

Napster openly and defiantly promoted illegal music sharing and caused a lot of animosity between labels and services, not to mention contributing to the “music is free on the Internet” mentality that is still pervasive today. There’s a real satisfaction in seeing one of the oldest names in online music finally put the brazen bull that caused so much damage out to pasture..

Nielsen is Tracking Billions of Streams

Nielsen Entertainment recently expanded its coverage of music streaming measurement, adding several key streaming platforms to its streaming panel. Newly added services include Vevo, Slacker, MOG, Thumbplay, Akoo, and Cricket. Data from these services, and from the existing reporting panel consisting of AOL, Napster, Rhapsody, Verizon Wireless and Yahoo! will appear in Nielsen’s BDS reports.

Nielsen Entertainment produces reports on lots of activity related to the music industry – Nielsen BDS monitors music played on radio stations in the US, Canada, Europe and Mexico. Nielsen SoundScan reports on physical and digital song sales. They provide lots of insight into things like what songs people listen to and buy, which it sells to radio programmers, record companies, etc. Sources like Billboard produce their reports from this data.

During the first six weeks of 2011, Nielsen tracked more than 1.1 billion music streams through online music streaming services. More than 165 million streams per week are captured and nearly 26 million weekly song downloads are tracked. That is a lot of streaming music activity.

According to their press release, Nielsen is the only company able to provide weekly trending information on streaming activity, as well as a more granular understanding of from where consumers stream music. Nielsen also provides insights on the type of streams; on-demand streams, those songs/videos that consumers choose to listen to, versus programmed streams, or when songs are not chosen by the consumer.

As music streaming activity and digital downloads increase while physical song sales sink, streaming’s importance is growing as an important measure of who is listening to what. I expect we’ll see the list of streaming music platforms in their panel to continue to grow.

Apple Wants a Slice Of The App Pie

Apple pie has been consumed in England since t...

Image via Wikipedia

Last month Apple announced that the ten billionth app had been downloaded from the app store. Apple’s app store is a huge success that has revolutionized the way people use mobile devices, and the way online companies do business. Now every major mobile OS manufacturer has an app store, and Gartner recently predicted that 17.7 apps will be downloaded this year alone.

So it’s hardly a surprise that Apple wants a slice of the pie. They’ve announced big changes with regard to their app store that include, as the most controversial, their taking a 30% cut of all subscriptions that they drive to a company through their app store. Along with that, they are implementing changes in the platform that will make it much easier for mobile app customers to purchase apps from the store with one click. So, enhancements for the seller, enhancements for the buyer, and a cut for Apple.

Of course, the companies that had been enjoying lots and lots of app sales through the Apple app store without any rev share are not at all pleased. Rhapsody, as a subscription based on demand platform, was downright pissed off, calling Apple’s 30% share “untenable”, and adding that Google’s rumored-to-be-coming-soon 10% rev share was more reasonable.

So, the app party is kind of over, or at least the open bar has closed. I’m just not sure that it’s unreasonable that Apple wants a cut, a pretty big cut, of the money everyone is making off of their platform. If the improvements are so good that it’s as easy to subscribe as it is to download a free app I think companies will benefit. The problem now is that disappearing from the app store would be like cutting off a lifeline. Which may be the indication that Apple has earned a slice..

Last.fm Lockdown

Image representing Last.fm as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Last week we had a couple of good reasons to take a second look at subscription models for streaming music business. First, Last.fm announced that the radio service built into Last.fm mobile apps and on home entertainment devices will become an ad-free, subscriber-only feature on February 15th. It’s not practical, they explained on their blog, to deliver an ad-supported version of their streams on mobile and other connected devices, so they’ll continue to offer an ad supported free version from their website, accessible through your computer, but if you want to listen on other devices you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription fee of $3 per month – the cost of a “fancy coffee.”

Last is not the first (get it?) service to head in this direction – many other services offer ad-free versions of their sites for a small subscription fee. Pandora One, Pandora‘s ad-free version, costs $3 a month as well – although they do offer a free version that is available with mobile devices. It’s working out okay for them – as we saw in Pandora’s recent SEC filing, they have managed to convert a small percentage of their large user base to paying customers, and generated 13.6% of their revenues in the first 3 quarters of last year from subscriptions.

Other services are working the subscription model as well – MOG, rdio, and Rhapsody, who offers unlimited streaming for $10 a month along with the ability to transfer playlists to a device for offline listening.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 33% of Internet users said they had paid for digital music online – which presumably includes downloads as well as access to premium streamed content. Digital music topped the list of items consumers were most likely to pay for.

Streaming music services have struggled to develop successful business models. CBSRadio, which owns Last.fm, no doubt decided that profitability or the pursuit of that is important enough to implement some changes that will no doubt impact the size of their audience. Can they leverage their brand and audience into a decent size subscriber base? Some early indicators say they just may be able to.

One Third Of US Internet Users Have Paid For Music Online

iPod-like icon

Image via Wikipedia

The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 2/3 of Internet users have paid for digital content. Thanks to pervasive broadband penetration in the US users can quickly and easily download software, movies, television shows, music, e-books, and news articles.

The survey asked more than 750 adults whether they had ever paid to access or download a list of 15 types of digital content, ranging from digital music to ebooks, movies, photos, games, apps, adult content and more. 33% of Internet users said they had paid for digital music online – which presumably includes downloads as well as access to premium streamed content. Digital music topped the list of items consumers were most likely to pay for.

It’s a study that validates the premium subscription revenue model and has great and positive implications for media companies that are struggling to recover revenues lost to dwindling circulation or audience for their traditional media. Beginning this month the New York Times will lock down unlimited access to its website under subscription, limiting online access to its content to online or newspaper subscribers.

Streaming music services have struggled to develop successful business models as well, with some services such as Pandora and Slacker exploring both ad supported and premium no-ad subscription platforms. Others such as Rhapsody and MOG deliver on-demand streaming songs for a monthly subscription. This seems to be a model favored by the record labels, who have refused to license on-demand service Spotify in the US for their ad-supported on-demand service. Pandora, Slacker and other webcasting services, which do not deliver on-demand songs, have a compulsory license (and associated royalties) for such.

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