Music streaming services have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, offering users the option to listen to music without having to actually buy it. Spotify, the most popular of these services, offers both paid and ad-supported free versions for both personal computers and mobile devices. Spotify launched in the United States in July 2011 and has since added millions of users with both free and paid accounts, and roughly four million of them signed up after the service was made available through Facebook in September. Spotify is making efforts to expand the company even further, and is in talks to make it available in Australia as well.
However, Spotify’s success is not making label execs as happy as it should. Some indie labels have actually begun pulling their music from the service, citing low profits as the main reason. Although the exact figures are not generally known by those outside the industry, it is estimated that one cent or less is earned per streaming play. Not to mention, recent studies have shown that despite what Spotify says, at least 37% of music fans say they are less likely to buy their own copy of a song when they can stream it. This has already caused smaller labels like Century Media and Mode Records to pull their content, and some are left wondering if bigger labels won’t follow their example.
As it is, the digital music waters are rocky. Google Music had to launch without one of the three biggest record labels (EMI’s recent purchase by Universal’s parent company facilitating a deal and allowing Google to obtain those rights) because Warner Music has yet to agree to a deal that would allow Google Music to sell their artists’ songs. For consumers, this means some of their favorite bands might not be available through Google, causing them to try out other options, like iTunes Match. The iTunes option offers several things that Google does not: automatic syncing to the cloud, higher quality streaming, and customizable playlists. It is, however, a paid service, which could be a deterrent. Both, like Spotify, offer streaming to both PCs and mobile devices, although the key difference is that Google and iTunes stream songs the user already owns.
Spotify does have something new and different to offer: playlist sharing. Users can share their playlists with others, or even collaborate with each other to compile them. Then, a link is provided that allows the playlist to be shared and downloaded to other users’ Spotify clients, and they update automatically when the creator adds or removes songs. Both iTunes and Google lack this kind of sharing option, though Google Music does allow a user’s friends to listen to a purchased song in its entirety once through Google+. The only current sharing option on iTunes is the option to share a link to the specific page in the iTunes store where a song was purchased. Spotify’s playlist sharing option is one of the features making it increasingly popular when compared to other methods of music consumption.
Between Spotify, Google, and iTunes, today’s music consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to how they want to listen to and share their music. Whether they stream it or buy it or use the cloud to do both, or even turn to slightly-less-legal options like Grooveshark, there’s certainly an option for everyone. What do you use? Tell us how you listen to and share your music in the comments below!