What’s the Big Deal Around Streaming Services?

For artists, labels, and the service itself it’s about monetization. For consumer’s it’s about something else entirely…

Recently Taylor Swift announced that she was taking ALL of her music off of Spotify. To put it bluntly, she wasn’t happy about how she was getting paid for people listening to her music. With a new album coming out, I don’t blame her. She’s got a lot of work put into her music – a lot of feeling, blood, sweat, TEARS – and she’s not getting compensated for much of it. The labels usually take most of the money when it comes to album sales, and artists like Taylor, really only make pennies per play from a streaming service.

streaming

I was listening to MacBreak Weekly and they started talking about Beats Music and Apple, and of course, the whole issue with Taylor got brought up and NOBODY, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE on the show understands why streaming services are having such a hard time getting off the ground.

First they thought it was pricing… they chewed on that for a while and then touched on ownership of the actual songs or downloaded music… when that didn’t produce a definitive answer, well, unfortunately, I arrived at my appointment and had to turn the car radio off and didn’t get to finish the show, but no one gets why consumers are jumping all over this, and to me, it’s the easiest thing in the world.

Hello…?! Mobile broadband consumption.

The issue on the consumer side has nothing to do with the labels, has nothing to do with the artists and has absolutely nothing to do with the streaming service. Honestly, they’re just like any other content store. You can pretty much get the digital music you want and like there like you can on iTunes, Google Play or Amazon. In the end, it really doesn’t matter WHERE you get it.

The big problem isn’t even ubiquitous connectivity. No one cares if the Cloud evaporates or not in this case. When you combine mobile broadband and Wi-Fi together, you’re pretty much gonna have an internet connection, especially in urban areas like New York, Chicago, L.A., or any other big city. The problem is mobile bandwidth… It’s not free like (most) Wi-Fi is.

Yes, an OK, free Wi-Fi connection is likely available on nearly every street corner in a big city or other urban area. And you may be able to survive on free Wi-Fi between Starbucks, AT&T, Xfintiy free Wi-Fi access points; or any other store, or retail POS location that offers unsecured (or known, connectable) Wi-Fi access points. The problem is that THEY aren’t ubiquitous.

Which brings us back to the whole mobile broadband thing… Streaming services rely on an internet connection to provide you with music. It used to be, back in the day, that your place of work didn’t mind you playing a WinAmp station on your PC as long as you had a set of headphones. You could listen to music at your desk at work all day long. It was great! That is, until the IT department caught wind of how much bandwidth everyone was using up while listening to music all day; and then they blocked the service… No more music for you!

…and that pretty much killed it for every other music service you might want to listen to at the office since then, too. As soon as packet sniffers at the office alerted the network admin that someone was listening to streaming music or audio, it got cut off; but again, mobile broadband fixed that…and it was ok until the Cloud Computing trend started to get real popular and mobile carriers did the same thing that the office did – started sniffing packets to see what was eating up all of the bandwidth on their network.

Once they figured out that people were streaming audio, video and other consumer content through their networks, they didn’t cut us off like the office network admins did… No, no, no… Please! This is America…

No, they did what any good and greedy company would do – they decided to kill all of the unlimited data plans and started charging users based on bandwidth limits. Then when you reached that limit, they’d either cut you off, charged you overage fees or shuttled you to a different network that throttled your service speed and you couldn’t stream content as well.

See… the problem with streaming services isn’t that consumers don’t like the content, or that they don’t like paying for it. The problem is that mobile bandwidth is expensive and your monthly allotment is extremely limited.

For example, I have 15GB of mobile bandwidth; but that allotment is shared between three different numbers on my mobile, AT&T account. Mobile streaming services use a LOT of bandwidth and pump a great deal of data over the network. Any time someone starts pushing a lot of audio or video through their handset, I can tell. I usually get a text message that I’m running low; and then, I usually call my daughter and tell her to find a Wi-Fi network to connect to or to stop listening to iTunes Radio or to Spotify or whatever else she might be doing.

My wife usually doesn’t bother with streaming content, and neither do I… I’d rather use the bandwidth or FaceTime calls or for data intensive applications like Facebook (uploading and downloading pictures and videos of my granddaughter, for example…) or something else; and then, I’m going to do my best to find a usable Wi-Fi network with some decent through-put.

So, let’s get this into some real perspective – the reason why music streaming services are having problems – at the heart of it all… the lack of customers – isn’t an issue with the artist, labels, content or even the price of the service. It has everything to do with the fact that mobile broadband is expensive and that the mobile carriers are screwing the day lights out of their customers when it comes to paying for it.

If the RIAA, MPAA and any other annoying lobbying organization wants to do the consumer a favor (so that in the end, THEY (the lobbying orgs) make some real money), have them go after the mobile carriers. They could use some pressure to either lower the price of their data plans, or perhaps they can cut deals that would make streaming audio and video free on a mobile network… I can guarantee the American consumer won’t complain about that…

That is, until they realize that the amount of money flowing back and forth between the mobile carriers, the RIAA, the MPAA, etc. could resolve the National Debt inside of a couple of weeks…

So what do you think? Are music streaming services like iTunes Radio, Spotify, Beats Music, Tidal, or Google Play Music something that you’re interested in? Do you think they are the future of the music industry? Will the music industry be able to find a consumer pricing friendly model that allows labels, artists and the streaming service to make money without pissing off the consumer because of the amount of mobile data it uses? Will they be able to find a way to make the mobile carriers cooperate, or will everything revert back to playing music from a local copy on either a PC, Mac or mobile device?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below, and give me your thoughts. I know that there are a LOT of differing opinions out there, and I’d love to hear them. If you have a compelling question or point, I’d love to develop another article around it, so speak up and let me know what you have to say!

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