Pandora, Spotify face the music as Apple, Google and Amazon tune up for streaming


Sales of music CDs are waning big-time. Digital downloads from iTunes and Amazon are declining, too. The reason: listeners are flocking to streaming music services like Pandora, with 79 million users, and Spotify with 75 million (see the list of players below).

Despite robust customer counts, however, neither Pandora nor Spotify appears to be making money, and recording artists are unhappy with meager royalty payments. That struggle for a business model may mean, reports John McDuling in Quartz that it will be tech giants Apple, Google and Amazon who determine the industry’s future.

In June 2015 Apple, already the leading seller of digital downloads via iTunes, announced its Apple Music streaming service, born out of its 2014 acquisition of Beats Music. The company also touted enhancements to its free iTunes Radio service. Despite starting from scratch in the streaming space, Apple will have the huge advantage of its installed base of iPhones, iPads and iTunes customers.

Google, with its Google Play, YouTube music videos and Android phone presence, will likely step up to the streaming challenge, as will Amazon with its Amazon Prime Music service.

(latest counts as of 6/10/15)
Internet radio (typically passive listening, free with ad support)
Pandora 79.2 million active users of free, ad-supported tier algorithmic selections from 1 million songs based on “music genome”; small subscription base @ $5/mo eliminates ads
TuneIn Radio 50 million users worldwide 100,000 radio stations, 4 million podcasts
Clear Channel’s iHeart Radio 48 million monthly listeners 1,500 live radio stations; custom playlists from 18 million songs
iTunes Radio 27 million songs
Songza 5.5 million users human curators (purchased by Google)
Slacker 4 million users
On-demand streaming (active listening based on specific listener choices)
Spotify 75 million active users, 20 million paid subs @$10/mo library offers >20 million songs
Deezer 16 million listeners, mostly in Europe; 6 million paid subs 2014 launch in U.S.; purchased popular Stitcher mobile app
Rhapsody 1 million paid subs as of early 2013
Rdio “small by comparison” 20 million songs available
Beats Electronics 250,000 accounts (acquired by Apple 2014)
YouTube rumored subscription music launch soon huge traffic in free music videos
Amazon Prime Music recently launched streaming music free to Prime members

More information about streaming services here and here.
See also: “Revenue Streams” [New Yorker]

After ‘Serial,’ will podcasts thrive?

serial_logoThe breakout success of “Serial,” the podcast spun off from “This American Life” with host Sarah Koenig, has dramatically raised the profile of podcasting as a media format. Mashable’s Jason Abbruzzese reviews the phenomenon, calling the podcast an “artisanal” spoken word format. (See graphic below.) “Serial,” which in its first season revisited the murder of Baltimore teenager Hae Min Lee, will return with a new case for a second season. Will its success help other podcasts?

podcast, radio, streaming music, share

As music business struggles, vinyl records are reborn

Sales of music CDs and digital downloads continue to dive, but vinyl LPs surged 40 percent higher in the first half of 2014, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Not that this represents salvation for the music business, struggling with the lower margins of streaming services.

What’s selling? Top albums, as sifted out by Jack McDuling of Quartz, include Jack White’s “Lazaretto,” Arctic Monkeys “AM” and Beck’s “Morning Phase.” (Also in the top 10: The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and Bob Marley’s “Legend”). Who’s buying? Indie rock fans and “nostalgists,” he concludes.