Monday, 7 September 2009

Spotify for iPhone - owning or renting?

Ok here it is: Spotify the iPhone/Android app:Which is in itself a bit of a surprise - Apple not really having a reputation for approving iPhone apps that duplicate the phone's core functionality. And let's face it, regardless of where the music is stored, Spotify wipes the floor with iTunes for user experience. But where the music is stored is the importnant bit. Spotify can cache up to 3,300 tunes in offline mode: ie it stores them on your phone... in much the same way that iTunes does. As long as there is enough memory on your phone, as from my sums 3,300 tunes would take up about 23 Gb. Which even on the biggest iPhone would not leave much space for iTunes!

The obvious flaw in the system for most people is the requirement to pay £9.99 per month to continue to rent your music from Spotify in this way. The beauty of Spotify's streaming music service wasn't just the user experience; it was the freemium mix of ad-supported 95% and subscription-paid 5%. People who have the disposable income to justify £120 per year on music rental, as well as an iPhone in the first place, are also likely to own a lot of music already. Like me, they might also be quite attached to the idea of owning music. To be honest, in the UK this is unlikely to change as Gen Y grows up: we are a nation of wannabe owners, as our housing market will testify. So, while this app is potentially exciting, the potential for most people is more because of what it might mean for future app approvals - the Grooveshark or We7 app for instance. If the pricing can be sorted out (not to mention actually being able to operate in the US at launch), then Spotify Mobile may just have broken down the barriers for someone else to rush through.


john v willshire said...

I agree, the 'renting' thing bothers me as a music lover... but maybe because I'm attuned to 'owning'. Owning is a sign of committing. And I own a lot of music already.

Would your Spotify subscription become as unused and as unloved as a gym membership, or a lovefilm one?

We (a generation aged 28+) were taught to love music was to own music. The generation below was taught to love music was to own music you got for free. The common uniting factor is 'owning music'; forget cloud access, if you've got it on a device, it's yours. Not rented, not borrowed, but yours forever.

But the music industry has still decided it can't give us that at a price they're happy with and we're happy with.

lucydrake said...

wow, I love it

Graeme Wood said...

@Lucy - sure I would also, but can't justify the price

@John - There's something that doesn't feel quote right about the value on offer to a music fan - ownership is too important - to me the housing analogy is closer to how i feel about music. Which i think might cast doubt on how committed I really am to lots of the 'everything digital is free' and 'universal access to all music' arguments I've shouted about on here in the past!

To be honest I still think Spotify is a great app, a groundbreaking business model with their major label investment, and all they have done here is set the pricing too high. I will still always 'buy' (cost optional) music, but I'd definitely pay to rent some more of it for a while too. But not £9.99/month!

r4 ds said...

love your post. thanks for sharing..

Anonymous said...

In the name of research... I tried it out. Because you just can sign up for one month at a time...

Mein gott... it's brilliant. I've had it three weeks, and I've around 25 albums cached on the iPhone that I can listen to whenever I want.

I've ranted at length about it's awesomeness here:

But anyway, I think I can 'un-attune' myself to the need to own ALL my music... the 'library card' model for access to media works for me in this instance.

Final thing though; it makes £9.99 a month for LoveFilm look HORRIFICALLY expensive...

Graeme Wood said...

But LoveFilm is marketing much bigger slower files that are harder to download for free, so ISPs will back whatever the movie industry does to prevent filesharing in a way that they won't for the less bandwidth-hogging record industry. There's then less impetus for movie distributers to look at alternatives to the old business model

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