So, I am sitting here in the airport waiting for my delayed flight and thinking about our competition, their offerings versus our offerings and thinking about how jump ahead in the offering space.
I don’t mean to say that our business model needs to be improved. There are lots of people who believe that streaming is the future and who believe that music will eventually come from ‘within the cloud’. If we ever get there, I think it’s going to be a while. Here’s why:
1 there are too many concerns about bandwidth usgae and serivce providers attempting to drive margins higher by charging premium pricing for bandwidth usage. They want to drive out as much cost as possible (despite Verizon rolling out fios).
2 file compression is not improving; but people’s preference for higher qualiy files is improving. Meaning, file sizes, and more importantly (for streaming), bit depths are larger. Right now, the pipe to the home is just too small and too shaed to reliably stream higher bit files without a lot of buffering. And the files are only going to get bigger. If we want to get to cd quality, or surround sound, or sacd, forget it. And to upgrade that existing pipe costs moeny – see one above.
3. Storage is getting cheaper faster than bandwidth. While that holds true, and we see greater amounts of storage on smaller and smaller devices, and 2 above holds true, then wholesale streaming is not going to be the way people consume music.
4. music is an owned commodity. The moment Petrucci rolled off the first shee music for sale it was all over. People own music. They take it home; it is theirs. 600 years of ingrained behavior around music ownership.
So, we’re sticking with music downloads as a business model. We’re hedging a bit by adding radio streaming and pay per stream – oh and btw – for the $3/mo for last.fm subscription you could stream about 120 songs on rVibe and then buy them for a discount – not a full priced affiliate sale.
Ok, but about the offering? So far in the market we see these types of services:
1. a la carte downloads of songs (iTunes, Amazon, rVibe) using client or website
2. Subscription services for downloading (Rhapsody) in web and client format
3. Subscription services for streaming (last.fm)
4. Ad supported services for downloading (spiralfrog)
5. Ad supported services for streaming (imeem)
6. a la carte streaming (rVibe)
7. Legally questionable mp3 search and play services (seeqpod)
8. Free streaming (radio) services (jango, pandora)
And across these sites/services we see these primary content presentation models – retail storefront, jukebox players, playlist sharing, programmatic recommendation/playlisting engines and social networking (to various degrees).
But here is the thing(s) – everyone is selling the exact same 3-5 million tracks (with minor exceptions on ‘exclusive’ contnet). And these tracks are all pre-recorded and produced to one degree or another. So at this point the differentiation is not about the content being served, it’s about the access methodology. To me this is why it’s painfully clear that this market is really in it’s infancy. There is still a ton of content that is missing – the offerings today are not musically comprehensive in any way.
What about live music?
What about rehersals?
What about composing/songwriting?
What about theater?
What about instruction?
What about international?
What about festivals?
that’s the content….
what about the context? other than rudimentary playlist sharing, neighbor radio and some facebook work, music on the internet has no real context.
What does it mean to me?
Why do I listen?
When do I listen?
How do I listen (passive/active)
How do I interact with other people in the music space?
These basic questions are not even being asked (with the exception of ‘how often’ ie scrobbing), let alone given into a context that gives the user any value or meaning.
So – those are the questions that are driving me to expand our offering. I am super excited to provide more content, context and meaning for our rVibe family.