This week in digital music

Photo by: Ben Dodson

Spotify closing in on the US

It seems that a Spotify US release is imminent. For real this time. Multiple sources report that Spotify has signed a deal with Universal. Sony Music and EMI are both already onboard, and so only Warner remain and they too are rumoured to be close. Worth keeping in mind though, is that it was but a year ago that Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr expressed harsh scepticism towards streaming music solutions. But things change, as they always do.

So with this new development, a Spotify release could happen sometime this summer. In between the several year old Spotify ambition to launch in the US,  and now, some interesting things has happened in the shape of Google Music, Amazon Cloud Player and Apple iCloud. There is also the competition from Mog and  Rdio to take in to consideration. With all this competition in place – how will Spotify fare? How will they position themselves? How will they compete? It will all be very interesting to watch.

SoundCloud marches on

This week SoundCloud announced that they have reached a milestone of five million registered users. The current growth rate is said to be 20,000 users per day. SoundCloud also announced that they have pocketed investments from the investment firm A-grade, run by Gary Oseary and Ashton Kutcher.  Alexander Ljung, founder and CEO of SoundCloud had this to say:

“It’s totally awesome to welcome Guy and Ashton into the SoundCloud family, especially this week as we celebrate such a significant user milestone. A-Grade are joining our mission to get everyone creating and sharing sound in their everyday lives, and with their knowledge and passion for new technologies and using social media to reach and influence people all over the world, their support will be invaluable.”

Meet Kiwi, yet another Swedish streaming service

New streaming service Kiwi (currently in beta) is joining the ranks of Spotify and WiMP to provide millions of tracks to subscribing customers. Behind the service is digital music provider Plusfoursix who recently acquired competitor Global Media Bank. So, it makes sense; Plusfoursix already had the music and the licensing in place – so “all” they had to do was build the service.

Plusfoursix founder Fredrik Nyström tells Swedish Television that Kiwi will target other markets than the Swedish, make bundling deals with telecom companies and they will have curated content in the shape of playlists put together by an editorial staff (sort of like WiMP). Furthermore, Kiwi will offer videos as well. Apparently, there are 10 000 of them in stock so far. As you probably know, the worlds largest music service by far is YouTube. So perhaps this makes sense.

The service is 11 million tracks strong and will work on your pc/mac desktop, as well as on your android smartphone. No iphone yet, as Apple is taking its time to approve the app.

The service will be free from advertising and will not feature free listening. You will, however, get a free month to try the service out. Apparently, founder Fredrik Nyström believes that free services will disappear in the future.

As I got my hands on a beta test account and started playing around with the service I noticed that it is built upon the Adobe Air platform, and I’m sad to say I didn’t manage to listen to any music. But Beta is Beta, so that’s just fine.

It is interesting to watch new streaming services pop-up. If you follow it closely, you can get a free lesson in market positioning, differentiation and brand building.

iCloud in Europe – don’t hold your breath

DigitalMusicNews points out an aspect of the Apple iCloud that completely slipped my mind in the midst of all the buzz: the rollout of iCloud in Europe will of course be subject to (presumably) lengthy negotiations before the service can be made available to us Europeans. DigitalMusicNews reminds us of the historic fact that “Apple endured a multi-year nightmare to license the iTunes (Music) Store across Europe. Now, it looks like that that process is starting all over again with the iCloud.”

One has to wonder (again) who really benefits from this very complicated system of licensing? For someone not initiated it seems that the whole thing should be very simple: theres music, there’s a global audience, let’s do business already. But alas, such is not the way of the global music industry.

As someone clever once said: Change happens when the cost of the status quo exceeds the risks of change. If we are to believe this (and I am tempted to do so) one has to wonder: didn’t we move beyond that point several years ago?


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