Fred Wilson is Still Wrong About Streaming Music and Amazon’s Locker Will Rock
Posted by Bob Warfield on March 29, 2011
I don’t get the idea of music locker services like the one Amazon just announced. If I’m going to stream music from the cloud, why should I continue to buy files and collect them? I’ve been a Rhapsody subscriber for something like 11 or 12 years and I love subscription streaming services. I’ve just stared using rd.io on my Android and on the web and I love it too.
Locker services seem like they are designed to continue the physical model of collecting music and buying music when there is a new and better way – just subscribe to music dial tone and listen to whatever you want wherever you want.
I’m bearish on locker services and bullish on subscription streaming services.
Naturally, I am equally as undaunted. The answer for why we differ so much is a simple one: people interact with their music in different ways. Fred seems to love variety. In a comment to my original post, he says:
i may be wrong. it happens all the time!
but it’s how i see all of this playing out
i own close to a thousand vinyl records
i own at least that many CDs
i have a terrabyte server full of mp3s
all of that is available in our home to our whole family
and yet we listen to rhapsody and other streaming services close to 80% of the time
it’s just easier. we don’t have to wonder if we own it. we just decide what we want to listen to and then play it.
I like variety too, and I use streaming services sometimes when I want to go in search of it. But I like curation better. My curation. The songs I know and love I want to be able to hear when I want to hear them. Music is not background ambience for me. I literally can’t have it on when I’m working, or pretty soon I’m more focused on the music than the work. Moreover, I’m concerned about the future when I don’t own the bits.
Look, things change. The music industry is arbitrary and capricious. Fred himself has suffered the outrageous slings and arrows of their behavior to the point he eventually confessed to pirating some music to get access to it.
I don’t like the possibility that the streaming service I’ve paid for falls into a dispute with a music label and suddenly can’t stream some artist I love. I don’t like the idea that some streaming service concentrates so much power they become a monopoly and decide to charge per listen or some such nonsense. We only just got the Beatles on iTunes after years fer cryin’ out loud. Let’s keep as much power as possible in the hands of the music lovers and not the record labels or distribution (e.g. streaming) channels. I know the latter offer better ways for VC’s and Startups to make money, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it or support it.
If I am going to make the emotional commitment to the music, I want to be in control. Amazon’s Locker Service is the ideal way to have my cake and eat it to. I can get all the benefits of streaming and keep all the benefits of owning. Fred may not value the benefits of owning, and that’s great for him. He should stick to streaming. But his bearish predictions for the non-streaming world don’t reflect the whole universe of whole people interact with their music.
BTW, this is no different than insisting you be in control of your data when you sign up with a SaaS software company. If they can’t deliver regular backups of your data whenever you want to see it, it’s time to start asking why.
For the record, I agree with the sentiment that this isn’t innovative. We’re past the Early Adopters. Amazon’s service is the sound the Chasm makes when you’re already across it. In light of that, I will see Fred’s Bearish call on lockers and raise with my own Bearish call on streamers. Streaming music businesses that can’t also offer a locker service are going to be limited to either casual use as a second service and not the System of Musical Truth that is my music collection, or they’re going to be limited to the portion of the musical audience who, like Fred, don’t require a music collection. In short, there will be a ceiling on their success if they can’t support both models, particularly in light of Amazon and Apple’s distribution strength.