Honestly, can you remember another time in history where music in its most basic form has been more sharable and more consumable than it is now?
Through the use of social networks, streaming music platforms, and music festivals that have become stand-alone media outlets in themselves – music has become more than just a product that you sell. It’s now an experience that fans have more control over than ever before.
And all of this begs the question: When it comes to the new social music war that we’re witnessing, who is winning? Who has the upper hand and the distinguishing advantage? Who’s playing catch up? Who are the new kids on the block, that are just starting to make a name for themselves? Who’s the established juggernaut that everyone is aspiring to be like?
These aren’t easy questions to answer. Between some of the seemingly more established services such as Rdio, Spotify, Reverbnation and Pandora – things have truly gotten interesting. In addition, lesser-known services like Myxer as well as major tech and social network players like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google continuing to throw their hat into the social music ring.
Take, for example, how both Facebook and Spotify continue to toss their weight around in the social music wars. Many of us are aware that both companies created an exclusive partnership when Spotify first made its way to the States. But now, Spotify has announced a new Music Unlimited service exclusively for iPhone users, with plans available in the $3.99 and $9.99 price ranges.
Meanwhile, its partner Facebook has now added a ton of content to its artist pages including total number of Spotify plays, videos, a sharing feature and more – making it easier for listeners to reference a particular song and encouraging users to use both Spotify and YouTube more. Spofity also recently announced a partnership with Yahoo to provide users with on-demand music.
Not to be outdone by their bigger rival, streaming service Rdio has done a lot in the past year to make a name for itself as a company. Between announcing an exclusive partnership with Paste magazine and unveiling a newly revamped service, both in May, Rdio is looking to continue building on the momentum it gained when it was founded in 2010.
And Padora is looking to be no slouch on the social music scene, either. After a five-year hiatus, the company announced that its services would again be available in Australia after it dealt with several licensing issues in the country. Pandora has even been able to create an exclusive partnership with Chase Card Services and Chase Sapphire to offer personalized music in the summer months to its listeners. But it still seems that it still has some catching up to do if it is to regain some of the footing that was stolen from it by Spotify in the last half year.
But of course, the social music wars reach far beyond just regular ole music companies. For example, Bill Gates brainchild company Microsoft, still smarting a bit from the failure of Zune, recently announced Xbox Music, a brand new venture that will apparently challenge both Spotify and iTunes in streaming music over Wifi and 3G devices.
Beats By Dre, the company known for producing upscale headphones that have become status symbols for celebrities and regular folk alike, recently purchased digital music service MOG, which reportedly has about 500,000 subscribers, according to a report in the L.A. Times. The purchase gives Beats By Dre the opportunity to build on-demand music service into its ever-growing array of products.
The most interesting and dynamic thing about the social music wars is that they are all encompassing and non-discriminatory. There’s really no kind of music company or service that’s not being dragged into this new competition, be it a terrestrial radio station, a streaming radio service, a record label, a tech company or what have you. Companies of all kinds are realizing that music has, for one become more disposable, but for two, has also become more easily sharable and consumable, and they are taking advantage as such.
So, again, who’s winning? Well, from the looks of things right about now, the clear front-runner in all of this would seem to be Spotify. Having been able to successfully introduce services in the United States last year, and partnering with the biggest and most formidable social network in the world clearly gives Spotify the upper hand. In addition, being able to offer their services across a ton of different platforms Spotify is a social music juggernaut with no plans on stopping any time soon.
But the truth is, it’s still too early to tell. The social music landscape can change from day to day – and who was on top once can easily fall to the bottom very quickly and with a plethora of social music services being dreamed up there’s no telling who or what will be on top in the near future.
But at this point in history, it’s kind of a treat to see all of these companies duking it out to see who’s truly going to be top dog when it comes to giving music fans the most engaging and most enjoyable social music experience. And be prepared for more companies to start vying for the attentions, hearts and minds of those all important music fans. Ding ding!