Regular readers will recall my classification of the digital music market into Access services and Listen services, located at opposite ends of the Complexity Axis. Late last week two of those Listen services upped their respective games, with MusicQubed launching a new service with Vodafone New Zealand and Nokia Mix Radio introducing a host of new features.
Both services are focused squarely on delivering elegantly simple music experiences for as little effort as possible from the listener. All you can eat Access services have done a great job of engaging the higher end aficionado and will continue to be the most appropriate business model and value proposition for the more engaged, higher spending music fan. They do little for the lower spending mass market consumer however, which is where Listen services come in.
Interestingly MusicQubed and Nokia’s announcements came in the exact same week that news began to surface of Spotify securing an extra $250 million in finance, taking Spotify’s total investment tally to over half a billion. In fact Deezer and Spotify alone account for approximately two thirds of all of the investment in digital music services in the last three years, amassing $0.6 billion between them from 2011 to 2013 alone. Both companies have reported impressive subscriber counts and have made subscriptions work at scale in a way that the stalwart incumbents Rhapsody and Napster never did. But building the Access business is clearly one that requires a large and steady influx of working capital. The industry has got to hope that the investment to date helps build the foundations of long term sustainability and not simply supercharge a few services for a quick sale without an eye fixed firmly on the long game.
Concerns aside, it is great to see more investment pouring into the space, even if it is too concentrated at the moment. It is even more encouraging though to see more companies recognising the need to engage the less hip, but much larger installed base of mass market fans who are currently getting left behind by the digital music bandwagon. It is to be hoped that these are the foundational signs of a more mature digital marketplace that can take the digital transition onto the next stage.