A Roaming Network For Subscription Music Services

Back in the early days of the ATM machine, you could only transact on ATMs operated by your bank. If you were a Chase customer, you needed to find a Chase ATM to take cash out. That, of course, was a pain and the banks recognized it and formed roaming networks. The one I recall best was NYCE, which was formed by NatWest, Chase, Manny Hanny, Chemical, Barclays, Marine Midland, and Bank Of New York.

The same thing has happened with mobile wifi networks. If you are a T-Mobile Hotspot customer, you can often roam on a Boingo network or some other mobile wifi network.

Roaming is a great solution to the problem when multiple businesses offer a proprietary commodity service. The customer is forced to choose one provider but in effect the service is identical from vendor to vendor.

And that is the case in subscription music services. I have used Mog (now owned by Beats which is rebranding it as Daisy), Rhapsody, Spotify, and Rdio. They all offer essentially the same libraries. The listening experience is almost identical. They differentiate with slighly different user experiences. Some are more social. Some are faster. Some offer better curation. But in my opinion they are all proprietary commodity services and a roaming service that would allow a subscriber to Rdio to log into Spotify would be a good thing for a lot of reasons.

And the music industry really ought to want to see this happen because they are coming to realize that subscription music services can bring in significant revenues. This is an important future business model for them. But they should not make the mistake they made in the mp3 market where they essentially gave one company, Apple, the dominant position in the market. If the music industry came together, like the banks came together to create ATM roaming networks, to create a subscription music roaming network, they would create a dynamic where no one subscription music service could create the kind of network effects that would allow them to become the dominant subscription music service. And that is very much in the music industry's interest.

It is also in the consumer's interest. Just yesterday my friend Kirk found some new music because he follows me on Rdio. But I can't do the same thing with my friends who are on Spotify. Because all of these services are silos, by definition of their paid business model. If a roaming network existed, there would be more social music discovery, listening, and, I believe, uptake of the paid subscription model by consumers.

Of course, a roaming network could be started by an entrepreneur who thought this was a decent business to be in. It does not require a music industry consortium to come together to create this. But regardless of how it happens, I think it should happen. And I hope it does.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    So you’d pay extra to communicate, share, etc from MOG to Spotify? Because you’re not really talking about access, which is equally easy (ie you can access spotify just as easily as you can access MOG). Your examples/analogies of roaming networks relate mostly to access (banks, mobile carriers).

    1. fredwilson

      i would pay a bit extra to have “paid status” in each service

    2. kirklove

      Ditto. I’d pay. Right now I do. I believe in supporting artists by – shocker… actually paying for it. So I pay for Rdio, Spotify, Daytrotter, and albums on Bandcamp. I’d glady plunk down extra $$$ a month to have cross-platform access with one account.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Hard to argue with that.

  2. Charlie Crystle

    I always hate hitting the last node on what was promoted as a network but is actually a limited, closed system.Anyway, I wonder what that would look like. While it might be better for the music industry, what’s in it for the commodity services? How would it work?

    1. fredwilson

      more uptake because customers aren’t being forced to make a choice of one silo vs another

      1. Charlie Crystle

        reminds me it’s time to breakup cable. Call it a commodity, let anyone start a cable company without having to build or maintain the infrastructure.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        But everyone will want to make a profit, so it’ll inflate costs at least a little – maybe an acceptable amount – except they’re all trying to have a closed / controlled ecosystem so they can increase their own profits – by not sharing them.

      3. Matt A. Myers

        To add to my previous comment, the music industry will be able to artificially charge more because services are bringing in an inflated amount – except it’s a bit of an illusion / mistake because if the control was let go of, and the system was fluid then there’d be a higher quantity of paying users in the systemUltimately it has to be the music industry that facilitates / supports / wants this system in order for it to be successful.

  3. Farhan Lalji

    I think you can follow users on Spotify now, it’s just not the most intuitive interaction. Would be interesting to see if all the services are open enough with their APIs to enable that to happen.

  4. Matt A. Myers

    I know with ATMs now, at least banks who don’t have some neutral agreement, will charge non-customers an additional fee of $1.5+ for the convenience they’re providing – meanwhile making billions more in profit per year.Is this how you see roaming music network working? I’m not sure consumers online in the digital world will pay additionally, and unlike the real / physical world, there’s less ability for organizations to force cash use, etc..

    1. fredwilson

      the way i would see it working is revenue sharing among the services. i am a rdio subscriber. if i listen a lot on spotfiy, rdio sends some of my subscription dollars to spotify.

      1. JimHirshfield

        But that’s analogous to the banks moving deposits from Chase to Citibank to suit consumers. Not a likely model.

      2. ErikSchwartz

        The margins for both Spotify and rdio are minuscule at best due to both license and streaming costs. I think if there’s revenue sharing they both lose money.

    2. JimHirshfield

      $3 per transaction from the big banks. $1.50 is cheap.

    3. Cam MacRae

      I solve that by carrying a card for each of the major ATM networks. Alas, it thickens the wallet.

  5. JimHirshfield

    Sonos kinda sorta does this for us in the office. We access Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, etc from each of our laptops…taking turns DJ’ing. I guess it’s roaming one-way, in that we can play from all those services, but the collective data isn’t shared back across all of them. Obviously it also requires that we have accounts with each of them. So, we’ve got aggregation, which a step towards “roaming network”, but not quite there.

    1. markslater

      we do exactly the same here – we have sonos zones….occasionally we bomb the product group with country 😉

      1. JimHirshfield

        🙂 gotta love sonos!

        1. markslater


  6. J Herskowitz

    Agree, and I’ve been on that soapbox for a while – and wrote another piece on it for Billboard last week. http://www.billboard.com/bi…But roaming would require the buy-in of too many stakeholders, where a meatadata interoprerability gateway does not. I definitely believe there is a business to be had there, and the team behind the multi-source music platform, Tomahawk, will be launching some interesting solutions in that space soon.

        1. fredwilson

          cool. i will check them out.

          1. Jason Keck

            Jason…great article and well said. I love what you are doing.Fred….I completely agree that there is a problem connecting users across music services, but I don’t see the roaming network idea having legs. Compare it to roaming across mobile operator networks Internationally.You pay for mobile service in your home country, but when you go abroad you want your phone to still work… so you’re prepared to pay a small premium for it.The problem with doing this for music services is that so few people are paying for their basic streaming service (Spotify & YouTube are mostly free) that the idea of paying a premium to go on other networks is too much to ask.Good companies like Tomahawk and The Echo Nest are offering translation services to map from one provider to another, allowing developers to build a meta-layer on top of them, but the meta layer takes work and is only valuable if your friends are all on it.Stereotypes.fm built our own translation service AND a meta-layer on top of other music services last year. It took a lot of work and we found that user demand was low, especially since there is only value once most of your friends start use it (Jason H, take note).We learned from that exercise and made 3 changes that have been very well received.1. We moved from web to mobile – we launched an iPhone app in February2. We committed to YouTube as a music source (soon adding Soundcloud). There is no point trying to do mappings and translations when YouTube is the most popular music service for young people and has a large free catalog.3. We launched as group messaging for music, letting users share different music with different groups of friends. This is both more intuitive for users AND reduces the chicken and egg problem because you only need the people in your group to join for it to have value (not all of your Facebook friends).Our research showed that the group sharing model is the way to go with music because you only share music with people you know are interested, not ALL your FB friends and Twitter Followers, and that means you are more likely to get people paying attention and responding, which is what people want from sharing music in the first place.Check it out: http://georiot.co/4AYV

          2. Allen Louison

            Fred and Jason — great insights. Indeed, this is something that has bothered me for years — in fact, I wrote a lengthy post nearly four years ago describing the hardships you both see: http://allenlouison.blogspo… . The crux was a personal need to unify and synchronize my music collection across all platforms yet also expand the notion of what my “collection” was to the metadata level because of the myriad of ways to discover music as social media channels increased..Since then, I had discovered Playdar and watched Jason bring Tomahawk and toma.hk to the forefront and expand the metadata and open/portability concepts that had been circling my brain for years (metadata is the key!). Playdar’s concepts was what ultimately motivated me to start developing a product to tackle these issues for myself: http://cumulus.fmWhile we have a working version in play, it lacks the bells and whistles that need to get hammered out for a mainstream audience. In the meantime, we’re taking a few pages out of the Steve Blank and Geoffrey Moore playbooks: doing some Customer Development on the early adopters to verify our hypotheses. I’m happy that we have the basic underpinnings complete that will unify, synchronize and collect music from the web (and your hard drive) in any way a user wishes.I hope all of us can move the needle forward and point to a future where music can be enjoyed as freely and as ubiquitously as we want it to be.

    1. William Mougayar

      Hi Jason, I just downloaded Tomahawk and it’s great. Any plans to take it mobile or allow us to stream the sound to my stereo via airplay or other wi-fi connected network?

      1. J Herskowitz

        Thanks! Yeah, both are planned (and mobile is well into development) .

        1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

          I just downloaded Tomahawk as well. It looks very promising!

    2. kirklove

      Jay, dug that post. Agree. Labels aren’t as dumb as people like to think. They’ve mastered divide and conquer and it’s the user left in the blood-soaked wake.

    3. JamesHRH

      Many solution pieces + corporate boundaries = no chance in hell of happening

    4. ShanaC

      What causes roaming to be bought into originally by the telecoms? (I supposed it helped that ma bell was the big behemoth, but the labels could act as the same deal)

    5. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      Nice post!

  7. kidmercury

    in my opinion the real solution is for these providers to resist commoditization via innovation. social, curation, etc may seem insignificant differentiators now, but they won’t be in the hands of the right company.but, alas, amazon has woken up to the streaming music opportunity. so it’s time for all these players to run for the exit before they get squashed. once amzn’s streaming music offering gets bundled with prime, and with the speed and cost advantage via AWS (extra for kindle owners), it’s game over. amzn can survive at prices no one else can and if the market is truly a commodity, price is all that matters.

    1. fredwilson

      amazon sucks at music. big time.

      1. kidmercury

        they have a bigger catalog than a lot of these other players, so personally i think they have some advantages. in any event, it is the same as amzn instant video — they will invest in original content, will leverage enormous cost savings via AWS, and will bundle with prime. in my opinion the network effects play to their advantage until someone truly caters to a niche.

        1. fredwilson

          i will be interested to see them sign musical acts. that certainly hasn’t happened yet. and in the age of kickstarter i wonder if musical acts are going to be signing deals as much going forward when they can take advances from their fans instead.

          1. kidmercury

            amzn will only bribe to have some exclusive stuff, not all. just like how rhapsody and itunes already do it. the difference is that amzn has the cost structure to give a greater share to the artists — just like they have the cost structure to give more to developers. and of course, wait till amazon coins kicks in……..

          2. whitneymcn

            I’d be a little skeptical about Amazon signing bands any time soon (effectively acting as a record label) since they haven’t yet really figured that out in print publishing, but it’d be interesting to see them taking on the manufacturing/distribution end of things (as they have with publishing).

        2. awaldstein

          We’ve had this discussion before.Amazon does one thing really really well. That doesn’t by definition mean they can bridge that.We shall see.

          1. kidmercury

            the one thing they do well is data mining. which, unless you are focused on a qualitative, niche offering, is all that matters. that’s why these big players (mainly google and amazon) march on into every random niche and make themselves a threat — because they are entering areas where they can use a big data approach that does not require a qualitative analysis or consideration for passionate, niche customers.

          2. awaldstein

            Well said.They are masters of catalogue ecosystem. Connecting people to products that can be bought without the need to be sold.I did my taxes recently and see how much for my businesses I purchased through them.Creative content like a movie though, like Netflix did, is not a catalogue item. It needs to be sold. It remains to be seen if they have this within their DNA. I think not.

          3. Richard

            They go a “good”‘job with classification algorithms, not great. This year I would buy a book on machine learning every month. They can’t seem to figure this out!

          4. kidmercury

            yes i agree, their classification could be better. they are 2nd rate to google here. as they get more and more information, though, i think they will improve. amzn is getting to know me better as i use them more (though they clearly have a long way to go).

      2. Montgomery Kosma

        Their new program where you buy a a CD and get an instant digital copy for streaming or download is pretty clever , for those like me who prefer CDs. It gets me listening instantly and drives usage of their mp3 service.There is something interesting going on with licensing, since physical and digital are almost never coupled.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      They can’t develop every single music app use case (highly unlikely anyway).

      1. kidmercury

        the extent to which it’s streaming music is a commodity means that different use cases don’t matter much. but in any event, amzn is also positioned to leverage its architecture and growing developer community to build stuff around their streaming service through APIs.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          So in this case they will then be sharing the profits / taking a cut of everything – which is still a good position to be in. All current music apps could technically, and perhaps would have to then integrate with them if they are sucking all traffic away – though then it’d be up to Amazon to play nice and share fairly (whatever that means).

    3. kirklove

      Kid, I LOVE Amazon and fucking hate (yes hate) their music experience. It’s the most clunky ass-backward one of the bunch. Shocking really for such a polished operation. I avoid it at all costs.

      1. kidmercury

        patience, my friend! 🙂 they don’t have streaming yet…..wait till they do and it’s fully revamped accordingly. it will still be crappier than the others, but, true to amzn form, it will also be cheaper and more convenient.

        1. fredwilson

          and available only on kindle android

          1. kidmercury

            that hasn’t been their modus operandi thus far; they’ve got apps for roku, PS3, and others as well. though in general, i’m a believer in the value and profit opportunities afforded by integration.

      2. ShanaC

        a lot of their content business is like that – exercise dvds are a good example (they don’t chapter them)

    4. Richard

      I got a daily deal from amazon at checkout yesterday. Groupon, livingsovial had two chances, slim and none, to win this market, and that was slim who just left the building.

  8. jason wright

    I went back to Spotify last week after six months away after receiving their ‘please come back’ invite email. Now I can play my favorite song as many times as a I want to.There also seem to be no more annoying advert interruptions of my listening pleasure.I’m still not handing over any money for the service I receive – terrible of me I know, but there’s still no spellbinding feature that makes me feel the need to voluntarily open my wallet.I’m sure the music industry could x10 its revenues with the right plays.

  9. Bruce Warila

    Exactly. Roaming is an interesting (if not appropriate) verb to use to describe the solution. Like Jason (below), I have been ranting about this for a while. http://echolouder.com/echo-

    1. fredwilson

      that’s a different discussion really. your post was about collecting and building a library vs an “all you can eat” streaming service. at least that is how i read it.

      1. Bruce Warila

        to me, playlist portability, a roaming network, or a “universal translation layer” (http://www.tomahawk-player…. all solve the same problems (more or less). To use your telecom analogy, playlist portability = number portability (prevents lock-in and decreases switching costs).

  10. William Mougayar

    It seems to me that the value of this interoperability is more in knowing what your friends are discovering, rather than listening to music on these other networks.So, why not have interoperability just at the discovery level? So, you woud authenticate with the other networks and it tells you what your friends are discovering, but it lets you listen to that music on your own network. And if that song isn’t available on your network, then you can listen to it on the other network for $1 or something like that.

  11. Richard

    This is a brilliant idea.

  12. awaldstein

    An idea that just seems right.Will work for most any digital content that is not tied to hard goods inventory.

  13. OurielOhayon

    Fred, i agree that access to music is becoming a commodity but i don t see the need to get my music from another service if the one i use, say Deezer, or spotify already offer the catalog i need. Why would i need a second music servie which gives me an equivalent access to an equivalent catalog? i think it differs when you talk about digital goods where catalogs are very large. That would be a totally different story if the catalogs were limited and scarce. I would need say Deezer for Jazz and Spotify for classic. but this is not the case at all

    1. fredwilson

      the social discovery, sharing, etc. we need some form of interop for that. i just think the music industry will like the roaming model best. but as others have commented, there are other ways to get there.

      1. OurielOhayon

        so roaming for social features yes. But the key feature which is access to catalog is too limited to justify a full equivalent to mobile operators

  14. leigh

    I love that you keep trying to reinvent the music industry but it’s such a tough one. The future is in live and niche bands having highly engaged fans willing to pay for the privilege Not sure paid subscription will ever work out.

    1. fredwilson

      paid subscription is working out. i believe its a billion dollar business globally already

      1. ErikSchwartz

        It certainly grosses a billion. But at what margin?

        1. fredwilson

          maybe 30% gross margin at best. hard to make money on those margins when you have a high cost of acquisition and big infrastructure costs

          1. ErikSchwartz

            That high? I’ve heard license fees alone are close to 90%

          2. fredwilson

            not at scale

      2. takingpitches

        The Mack is definitely Back in the music industry .This is Doug Morris, CEO of Sony, former CEO of Atlantic and Warner, speaking last month:“The industry is transitioning itself into something that will be very valuable, unless we screw it up. There’s big money coming in from videos. Huge money. There’s a transition from ownership to access personified by something like Spotify. We’re making a lot of money from this explosion in Internet radio, the Pandoras of the world. You can see Apple getting ready to get into it. It’s a better business. The margins are higher.”

  15. Catknees

    I woud like to see a music service from amazon that used the same network as the Kindle. Then a music watch with te bluetooth Jaybird headphones would be the jam.

  16. tsella

    I have to question with the notion. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see the value.In the case of both ATMs and WiFi hotspots, the services were dealing with physical limits. I banked with Citybank in Reston, VA, where I worked. Citybank saw no reason to have a brick and mortar presence in Centreville, VA, which is where I lived, and they resolved it with an ATM agreement with banks present at that location. I could withdraw on Sundays. Yippy. WiFi, same deal. They needed to cover physical groud, so roaming agreements made sense. Predating that is ISP roaming (e.g. iPass).With digital services, the necessity mostly goes away. The big exception is identification/presence for open services. These are basically ruled by the social networks and Google Plus nee Google API. I log into Disqus with Facebook, Twitter, Google. I do the same for Boxee, Spotify, Songza, Runtastic and a myriad more.In the case of Facebook, that also resolves “the consumer’s interest”. If choose to publicly share my usage and habits, that is where discovery happens. Facebook is the silo.. We, the makers, all play along to the extent we can. We, the consumers, share to the extent we can and want. Facebook benefits. We, makers, and consumers benefit. With a bunch of big asterisks, but those are for other discussions.And as you said, Fred, “They all offer essentially the same libraries. The listening experience is almost identical.”. We choose between them on experience Or probably, most based on (social) hearsay or first time use (like those clinging to their aol.com email..). No value for roaming here.Most if not all services offer a freemium or try before you buy model. No lock in, you can switch and stop paying at will. And if you’re using Facebook, the sharing and discovery continues unhindered.There is one feature I do see, and that’s common indexing/searching. If my friend listened to the new Depeche Mode on Spotify, and I could create a radio on Pandora based on that band or album. Feature. Not a business.Try Songza. Human curation. Free, ad supported. Greatness.

    1. Harry DeMott

      Love Songza

  17. Harry DeMott

    I think where the analogy falls apart is that when NYCE appeared, banks knew that cash was a commodity, and eveyone who had an account had a checkbook, passbook and a paper statement. With each of these music services focused on their feature set and trying to drive engagement it is hard to get them to see the wisdom of the idea.Remember, cash machines were a way to cut back on the cost of banks physical presence – fewer tellers, smaller footprint facilities etc…A roaming music service – while an absolutely great idea – does nothing to alleviate the cost pressure on each of these companies – so harder to get broad adoption.Why should Spotify, which has raised $100’s of millions, share its service with Rdio, which hasn’t or MOG which got subsumed? It turns what are inherently tech companies (or at least they would believe they are tech companies) into marketing companies – which is a extremely different skill set – just ask the commercial banks.

    1. awaldstein

      Depends on how you look at customer acquisition, the very largest and most unsure of all company needs and costs.My sense is that the aggregators will be doing the brands a service by driving attention. And in a competitive situation with a commodity product the value of the brand itself will truly pay off.

    2. fredwilson

      in the next year we will see a half a dozen or more subscription services enter the market from the likes of Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, etc, etc. Maybe Spotify will see the writing on the wall and change their strategy which is currently based on the idea that they will be the dominant player in this market. I just don’t see it, particularly as the big guys will subsidize their costs on music in order to achieve some larger strategic goal.

      1. Harry DeMott

        Agree. Very difficult to make it as a stand alone – when you have guys who can subsidize for the purpose of selling higher margin services. I’ve never understood why the phone guys don’t do this – particularly someone like T-Mobile who is dying for subs. Taking $5 per month off of their margin and handing it to the majors would be a very cheap way of acquiring subs IMHO.I do think there are ways for some of the bigger players to make it through, but they are going to have to act fast.

        1. Ricardo Diz

          At least one of them is doing it, In Portugal. Portugal Telecom made a deal with Portuguese company Nmusic to offer a Spotify-like service to its customers. The telco gets its own branded app – i.e., MusicBox. It costs €5 / month, but if your monthly bill is high enough, they’ll just offer the service for free. It works pretty well. Oh, and related Internet traffic doesn’t count towards your monthly limit.

    3. ShanaC

      They effectively are that. So are many many companies that we think of as tech companies – they are big data marketing companies in disguise.I think the sooner we open up to that, the sooner that the interesting tech around what they are actually doing will be born out.

  18. Paul Sonkamble

    We don’t need to be able to roam. We need resolvers that match the same content on Spotify to that on Rdio, Deezer, Mog etc… This is in fact already happening, with the Rosetta Stone project and initiatives like the Tomahawk player.

    1. fredwilson

      i think this approach has merit. if correctly implemented and supported by all the major platforms.

  19. kirklove

    Schmed Schmilson Google Juice! 😉

    1. fredwilson

      if you have it you need to give it

      1. kirklove

        Everybody goes to the pay window

        1. fredwilson

          if hope that is true

  20. markslater

    sitting behind all of these services that you mention is a little company from up here in boston called the echonest. they have quietly become ubiquitous in the music business with their big data model powering nearly all the services that we all use…..you would love what these guys are doing fred….

    1. fredwilson

      i do love what they are doing

      1. markslater

        we share a CFO – i was fortunate enough to have dinner with Jim on saturday – what a great guy…they are going to dominate their space.,..

        1. Harry DeMott

          Jim Luchese is truly a great guy and great CEO. Essentially if you are not Pandora – you are using Echonest in one way or another to power your radio service.

          1. markslater

            yep. its a great model on top of a great technology, run by a great guy.

    2. ShanaC

      so why can’t I contract with echonest and pay a small fee for my primary music serice provider for the added stuff like UI

      1. markslater

        i am not clear on what you are asking shana

        1. ShanaC

          that I pay my subscription fee to echo nest directly and pay a ui fee to whomever I want. since my music subscription is universal, i shouldn’t have a problem switching or getting music from other uis

          1. markslater

            i am not sur that echo actually serves up the music – i believe they are an intelligence layer that can better help a service to provide its customers with an experience.

  21. Christian

    There are two interesting aspects in this: the music license, and users. Roaming agreements could easily cover the music licensing. User X played song Y on service Z -> Z pays the artist/label/etc. the license for one play of the song Y, and this does make some sense. It’s notoriously hard to negotiate all the licensing agreements and that market could do with some improvements. On the user side, multiples approaches to music make sense from a competition point of view: it’s still hard, as mentioned in the article, to find good music reliably. Given the plethora of playlists and curations in every one of the existing services, it’s questionable whether simply consolidating all the data will help. In my opinion competition is still needed to come up with better ways to help users deal with their existing music libraries, old catalogues, discovering new artists, and so on.

  22. Wesley Verhoeve

    Oh how joyous the day that this would happen! And how painful to watch the incumbents block this option forever more. That’s at least what I think would happen, based on the past.

  23. Inge Andre Sandvik

    Yes, that is a very good idea and that is what Soundrop is doing 🙂 Feel free to test out http://play.soundrop.fm/

    1. fredwilson

      soundrop is cool. but how does it let me roam from one service to another?

  24. John Regan

    Fred, I agree. We are currently bounded to our streaming service of choice, making it extremely difficult to share with friends on a different service.I am founder of NYC based Droomba.com (currently in private beta) that specifically addresses the highly fragmented world of digital music by allowing different music services to work together. Droomba is a common platform to play and share music from any of the services you currently use, combined with a personalized blog aggregator. I look forward to keeping you updated on our progress!

    1. fredwilson

      hi John. i will try Droomba when it comes out. you should know that this post generated at least a dozen emails, etc from entrepreneurs pursuing very similar plans. it seems like a great idea and much needed. but it will be a crowded market.

  25. Andrew

    Is last.fm partway there already? Spotify, Rdio (and Hype Machine and ExFM, and turntable.fm extensions and many more) can all send their information there, so you can see what any of your friends are listening to from anywhere, provided they have hooked up their account. You can also go to any individual song and it will show you the link to Hype Machine, Rdio, and YouTube, if they can find it. So it seems like they have the data and API hook-ups to do this?

    1. fredwilson

      but they really don’t allow listening the way they should

  26. LukeG

    the open web (including open APIs) wins…eventually.

  27. RudyC

    All I’m going to say is that we are VERY close to finally finishing our website. I hate self promotion and have no intention of self promoting on this forum as well but at the very least I will say that some eyebrows maybe raised as to how we approached music. i know you went in there a while ago Fred, but we changed it enough that hopefully one day you’ll come back….

    1. fredwilson

      i always come back when invited back

  28. Dan Kantor

    Facebook is close here. Spotify, Rdio, etc send ‘listen’ actions to FB. You can see what a friend listened to on Spotify and play it in Rdio. If they had playlist syncing we’d be very close to what you describe here.

    1. Andrew

      I put this comment elsewhere, but you’d be one who knows (I know your work!)- is last.fm at all a possibility in this? Everyone scrobbles to them, everyone can pull data from them, and they generate links to Rdio, Hype Machine and YouTube for individual tracks. As a lay-person it seems like it would be a good space for them to go after.

      1. Dan Kantor

        Last.fm has play data. To really make this work you need playlists, social graph and the activity stream. They don’t have that. I suppose they would be in a good position to go after that data but I don’t see it happening.I wonder if someone wrote a Spotify app to import Rdio data, and an Rdio app (when they exist) to import Spotify data if that would suffice.

      2. fredwilson

        last.fm seems to have withered on the vine. i still use it and still scrobble all my listens. but it doesn’t seem to have much mojo anymore.

    2. fredwilson

      if you use facebook. i don’t.

  29. sparky

    you guys are funny. music industry owns a good chunk of spotify.there has never been solidarity in music and never will.

    1. fredwilson

      a man can dream

  30. ShanaC

    This post is true for a lot fo content. I would happily try figuring out how to do this with reutuers/afp/ap and do the same with news sites.The content industry has always been one of siloed, deliberate sharing. Consumers have been empowered to do their own sharing on many different networks, which has become problematic if you are used to the siloed kind. It makes sense to start paying for content sourcing in that sort of model, and ignore the sharing methods

    1. fredwilson


  31. Jean-Michel Koenig

    How do artists make money from streaming their music? I’ve been reading a lot on this and the maths for musicians looks horrible unless I’m missing something. It seems that the platform owners extract the most value.

    1. Curt

      Artists make nothing. Labels are scamming artists, here. Huge advance go to labels and none will ever trickle down. Streaming is all about upfront advances cause there’s no money on the backend.

    2. fredwilson

      artists have to stop taking advances from labels and giving them the economic rights to their music. they need to start taking advances directly from their fans.

      1. Chris Horton

        This is akin to saying entrepreneurs have to stop taking VC money and giving them stock. Labels are just VCs for artists. Some artists are already doing what you suggest, but if an artist wants to become a major star, nothing beats the label system. What is the advantage of using a VC? Same as for using a label.

        1. fredwilson

          it is also happening in VC. crowdfunding will impact all sectors that have this model. you are right about that.

      2. justin

        god! you are an idiot.

        1. fredwilson

          thanks. i appreciate the compliment. derision is the highest form of flattery i can ever hope for. all truths are derided. the more true they are the more derided they are.

  32. Montgomery Kosma

    We’re starting to see innovatiive music discovery layered on top of other services. For example, TastemakerX is a gamified experience powered by Spotify, and Plug.dj is rather like Turntable.fm and powered by YouTube.To the extent there’s a “platform” play available, I think the players are unlikely to embrace the idea of roaming. What does Spotify have to gain by allowing you to share with users in the Rdio silo?

    1. fredwilson

      what we need are cross platform services. based on all the feedback i got from this post, i can assure you they are coming. dozens of them in fact.

      1. Montgomery Kosma

        Yes, the big value-creation opportunities involve music exploration and discovery experiences. (Given the amazing remix fun my kids are having, I suspect we’ll also see movement down the spectrum from consumption towards participation.) Many of these exhibit network externalities (though not to the same degree as a communication network).In contrast, mere access to content has become a commodity. The implication is that it’s wasteful to have numerous providers supplying access to content.My question is whether the path will be companies offering cross-platform interoperability, or a unified, winner-takes-all platform powering lots of other services. And my observation is that Spotify and YouTube are moving in this direction, providing infrastructure that’s powering new UX layers.

  33. Yepi Friv

    They effectively are that. So are many many companies that we think of as tech companies – they are big data marketing companies in disguise.

  34. Chris Horton

    See sharelists.wikispaces.com. The issue is not the music industry.

  35. Jack Foreman

    I worked on an initiative underwritten by Warner Music called Choruss just a few years back. Universal licensing/distribution and authentication to all services was one of the main value props. The challenge is negotiating with the labels since the larger services typically have negotiated their own rates since the standard rates can crush an on demand music service. Non-interactive (i.e. streaming services like Pandora a Songza) get more favorable terms, but monitizing those types of services is much more difficult, Our biggest challenge was creating a way to fairly split revenues,, and the weight of the complexity would likely make it very difficult

  36. Miten Sampat

    @fredwilson:disqus i think the premise of roaming for web-based services is broken as competing services are only one click away.for ATM’s, Wifi Networks, Mobile Networks, etc, roaming works as the consumer is constrained by geography. Eg: AT&T does not cover the whole world, and if I am in London, i’d love it to have mobile access through an AT&T peer. Same for Wifi, and same for ATM’s. The separation of geographies also ensures that peers dont compete head-on for the same customer base.on the web, your browser can take you anywhere, and thus there is no barrier of access.the feature of being able to locate items across services would be nice though! …so if you commented on a track in Spotify, and I used Soundcloud … i should be able to find it. this issue also exists for Place data (4Sq, Google, Mapquest, Localeze represent a place within their namespaces).

  37. Justin G

    Agree that streaming services are generally a commodity. They have to add value beyond the music libraries. It’s obvious where all this is going.. Just look at Netflix as a case study.. I feel release windows coming very soon..

  38. SoSimpull

    I really think soundcloud has done a lot to become a great place to listen/find music and not just upload it. Granted a lot of the music is from less known people, but they are working on getting more mainstream audiences in there. Before thier ability to discover music was lacking, but they added tons of new features that help spread music. They also have both web apps and cell apps. Besides that many blogs use it to share music around the world. I think if they continue dev, they could be even bigger then what they already all.