What can we expect from music streaming services over the next decade?
In the world of digital entertainment, things are about to get a bit heated when it comes to television streaming services. Disney+, a revamped Apple TV, HBO Max and several others have jumped in (or soon will) to compete with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. It's been dubbed the 'streaming wars', and the fear is that it could get ugly, hurting both consumers and providers.
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When it comes to music streaming, there hasn't been anything nearly as headline-grabbing. Yes, everyone thought that Jay-Z was going to upend the market with the exclusivity of his Tidal platform in the mid-2010s, but that never really materialised. In short, music streaming services have co-existed in relative harmony.
Of course, one shouldn't confuse harmoniousness with a lack of choice or competition. There are lots of alternatives to the big players like Spotify, and comparing music services has never been easier if you want to look for a new provider. Indeed, that level of competition has kept prices remarkably low and consistent.
A Golden Era for Streaming
Perhaps we might grumble about paying a few bucks for streaming music each month, but it's a golden era for the listener, with almost every major artist not called Garth Brooks available on multiple platforms. However, there might soon be some spanners thrown into the works, and it will be intriguing to see how it all plays out.
The first spanner thrower might be TikTok, or rather the ambitious Chinese company, ByteDance, that owns the video-sharing service. Rumours abound that ByteDance is aiming to enter the music streaming service market. At first, the new service, which has not yet been named, will target developing markets in Asia, before setting its sights on the United States.
Will ByteDance do enough to upset the current marketplace? Well, it is banking on the draw of streaming music videos to entice new customers. Of course, many services already do that, but we fancy that the TikTok model might be used in a unique way. Still, without more concrete details, we can't be sure if ByteDance's product will be a disruptor or not.
Apple Will Lead the Way in Bundling
Another interesting development is that Apple might go for the bundle option, offering a single price for its Apple TV and Music platforms. Obviously, that's an arrow that the likes of Spotify and Tidal do not have in their quivers, but Google and Amazon could do something similar.
Towards the end of the 2010s, there was a trend in making some of the free services unpalatable for users. YouTube, in particular, indulged in a bit of nudge theory economics and has changed the way its free app functions. Stuff like double adverts, adverts at the end of videos and not being able to listen to music with the app closed annoyed users, but we can see the model being adopted elsewhre.
Perhaps, in the end, the most significant hand grenade will be thrown at the streaming industry by the artists themselves. Yes, this same narrative has been running for several years, and it always seems that the artists are defeated in their quest for a larger slice of the pie. Despite a relative détente in the battle over payment models, you get the feeling that artists are still disgruntled. It would take just a couple of exclusivity deals, similar to what Tidal proposed, and we could see a chain reaction occur. Will that happen in the 2020s? If it did, it would genuinely upend the streaming business we know today.
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