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August 2017
September 2017

2017-08-03 »

While I wasn't looking, Apple frittered away its dominance of the music industry. Perhaps this is old news to everyone but me, but the story is something like this:

  • "Nobody" wants to buy music anymore. It's all streaming.

  • In case you do download music, everyone long ago gave up on DRM and switched to watermarking. So you can carry your music away from whatever store you downloaded it from (including iTunes) and even switch platforms easily.

  • Even Apple wants you to switch to streaming: Apple Music. Perhaps because streaming is still DRMed.

  • Streaming apps (at least some of them) now work great with "offline mode." You can just pick entire albums and mark them offline, which downloads them to local storage, straight from the Internet.

  • That means you don't need iTunes to load music on your iPhone anymore.

  • Because you already bought a monthly subscription to the streaming service, you aren't making an "in-app purchase" when you do this, thus you bypass Apple's 30% cash grab on in-app purchases.

  • Most streaming apps are cross-platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac) so there is no vendor lock-in. And they store all your settings in the cloud, so you can switch devices seamlessly. (Incidentally there's not much vendor lock-in to particular streaming services either. With a few exceptions, they all basically have all the music.)

  • Spotify has ~2x as many users as Apple Music.

  • Tidal is smaller than Apple Music, but has better sound quality.

Goodness, how quickly things change. It wasn't so long ago that Apple was shutting down devices which tried to fake their way into auto-syncing music from iTunes. I wonder if they're actually worried about all this, or just don't care that much about the music market at this point. (It looks like the whole business is about $4B/year[1], and most of that presumably goes to the record companies. Not sure if that's US-only though.)

They still have the power to make things miserable for all these other music services, but they're not using that power.

[1] http://www.ifpi.org/news/IFPI-GLOBAL-MUSIC-REPORT-2017

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