A big talking point of streaming, particularly of the Spotify variety has been that streaming is a solution to piracy, and that “access over ownership” models are the future.
Well… ok… but that assumes that piracy (of the corporately sanctioned, ad funded variety) remains a download business, while consumers migrate to the easier more accessible (free tiered, ad funded) music streaming models.
We’re told that the ad-supported free tier is the only way to attract consumers from piracy to legality. To be clear we’re not opposed to free trial periods. Free trials of 30 days, maybe even 60 days should give the consumer the ability to fully experience the value a streaming service offers. We just don’t see how the economics of ad-supported free streaming can create a sustainable revenue model for musicians and songwriters.
But here’s the bigger question. What happens when the pirates migrate to streaming over storing? Now we’re back to square one. A decade ago iTunes and later Amazon provided an legal solution to piracy that was superior in every way except one, price.
Why would anyone think that streaming would combat piracy any better than transactional downloads? Well, for the same reason piracy is, was and remains the primary source of music consumption, price. So the conversation and controversy over streaming is not one about the method of distribution, or technology. The conversation is the same as it has been for a over a decade, price.
Essentially Spotify appears to be designed to model ad-funded piracy whereby the company who can capture the largest market share would have ability to legally devalue music by delivering it to consumers for free. This math just doesn’t work. We can’t even see where the math on paid subscriptions will ever get to scale or revenue at a price point of $9.99 a month per subscriber.
So the inevitable question becomes if streaming is the solution to piracy, what happens when piracy is streaming? There are already multiple applications that are available or in development that reportedly enable users to stream music directly from BitTorrent as opposed to the need to download files to a local hard drive.
So explain to us again exactly how streaming is a solution to essentially the same service? Oh, they both need to compete on the same price point, which is free. Well, guess what, ad-supported free distribution of music is not sustainable.
YouTube is the largest free ad-supported free streaming distribution platform and it can not create the type of revenue required for the sustainability of the recorded music business. If we believe what they say, YouTube isn’t even a profitable business for Google!
So here’s the bottom line. Spotify, YouTube, Pandora and other ad-supported free streaming services are a side show to take the conversation away from the core problem, piracy. Internet piracy is big business and these side shows distract the conversation away from the fundamental truth of our economic reality… Free doesn’t pay. It’s just common sense and it’s just math…