The catch? Spotify’s paying customers are still just renting songs, for about $13-$16 per month, depending on the country in which the listener resides. Most discussion of Spotify has centered around a trend toward streaming music rather than owning it, when in fact the more critical question is whether it can persuade a significant percentage of consumers to rent songs rather than just listen for free. (Otherwise, it’d be just another free music site, doomed to face the same struggles as MySpace Music.) I doubt that many free users will convert to paying customers, for a few reasons:
- By and large, consumers aren’t all that interested in renting music. When each last revealed its numbers, neither of the two leading music rental services, RealNetworks’ Rhapsody and Napster, had more than a million paying subscribers.
I fundamentally disagree.
That’s what paradigm shifts are about: changes in behavior. Yeah, in the existing paradigm, people actually think they “own” music. In fact, all they own is a license to listen to the music, delivered on some kind of disk or wafer (or digital file). Behavior will change when the audience begins to understand that, for the cost of “owning” 10 tracks, they will have access to the entire universe of recorded music. And when the technology becomes both reliable and ubiquitous.
And, as I keep saying, the amazing thing about Spotify is not the model or the depth of the catalog, but all the buzz it generates about being the “iTunes killer” when it is not even generally available in the country that has the most iTunes users.
Nevertheless, the buzz around Spotify serves the useful purpose, of educating the public to the possibilities.