Music Industry

Has Greed Killed Streaming Music?

Uh-oh. Is streaming dead already? Let’s take a look at this article from GQ.

In October, Jay Z appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom to testify in a copyright case concerning his 1999 hit “Big Pimpin'” and experienced an embarrassing memory lapse. Asked to list his various roles, he mentioned his music, clothing line, restaurants and sports agency. “You have a music-streaming service, don’t you?” his lawyer prompted. “Yeah, yeah,” said the rapper. “Forgot about that.” It’s an ominous sign when even the man who launched Tidal lets it slip his mind.

Perhaps he’d like to forget about it. As soon as Tidal relaunched with all-star hubris in March – Alicia Keys called it “a moment that will forever change the course of music history” – the knives were out. Pretty soon, Bloomberg Business declared it “a complete disaster”. Jay Z bought the service from its Scandinavian owners for £36m as a way to make streaming benefit artists rather than tech companies, but it lost two CEOs in quick succession and struggled for subscribers. Jay Z, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj recently headlined a special show in New York to celebrate passing the one-million users mark, but after seven months that’s an underwhelming milestone. The streaming war that has convulsed the music industry this year is not for the faint-hearted.

Two years ago, I visited Spotify’s head office in Stockholm, where I was told of its ambition to make available every song ever recorded. Spotify dominated streaming. Its rivals, including Deezer, Rdio, Google Play Music and Beats Music, offered similar features: a library of 20-30 million songs plus a “radio” station programmed by algorithms to suit each listener’s tastes, though Spotify had also introduced human-curated playlists. None of them waged star wars or bid for exclusives.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38319 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Has Greed Killed Streaming Music?

  • “Try as Spotify might to take a curatorial role with playlists and recommendation algorithms, it’s basically a vast, impersonal library. Dreamt up by Trent Reznor and steered by its pathologically hyperbolic creative director, Zane Lowe, Beats 1 enables Apple to be a tastemaker. ‘It’s got a point of view,’ Reznor told Rolling Stone.”

    Impersonal? I know Alan has talked about lean forward/back streaming paradigms before. I get to pick the albums I want to listen to rather than force-fed some shit. Apple’s Beats 1 is not my thing at all.

    Sidenote, Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist is shockingly personal. I can’t believe how well it figured out my taste after only a few listens, and it’s been great for the nearly two months I’ve been subscribed. It’s actually publicly accessible here to Spotify users if anyone is curious:


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