The race to the cloud heated up yesterday as Amazon jumped the gun on Google and Apple and got a running start. Expect responses from the latter companies soon. This increased emphasis on music lockers, however, could have unintended consequences that actually make the record industry worse off than if they had embraced Spotify and others with open arms.
Once fans have a cheap way to access their MP3s – long before they've grown accustomed to supplementing them with streams – they may not as readily flock to Spotify. And guess what? Spotify might pay low amounts, but fans accessing their MP3s from Amazon doesn't pay anything. Major labels hope that fans will develop a new interest in downloads when they may be encouraging the contrary: file sharing. A few thousand songs makes a great, "self-built" music service.
For fans that have gorged on free music for 5-10 years, filled their hard drives, and are more or less content with their collections, they've already got most of what they want and aren't that pressed to get more. Instead of growing tired of MP3s and looking at subscription services with fawning eyes, many may begin to see lockers as a way to give their MP3s a second life. Why, after all, would someone subscribe to cloud-based service when the average TidySongs user is reported to have 7,160 songs in their collection? For them, a self-administered cloud-based service is cheaper to create then the apps available. Rather than using Spotify (which they can't) or Rhapsody or MOG (which they don't know exists), fans may take the major label bait and store their music in a locker. The only concern is who the hell knows where it came from or if they've paid for it. It seems like fans are shifting away from file sharing and streaming more music, but if they jump into the music locker market instead, BitTorrent looks ever more appealing.
Fans have shown signs of wanting to leave their MP3s behind. The major labels, however, have been pushing for Google, Apple, and others to secure lockers so fans will see their collections as having renewed value. That would be great, if the post consumption fan bought all those MP3s in the first place. Now, rather than leaving file sharing behind and moving to "greener" pastures, fans may maintain their risk-free grazing for a while longer. Considering that the labels have brought this new development on themselves, Eliot Van Buskirk at Evolver.fm remarks, "it's supremely ironic." In delaying Spotify and pandering to Google and Apple, the labels may have pushed fans to migrate back to file sharing at a time when fans were willingly leaving the practice. Now, they may have reason to stay.
That is, of course, if the labels don't try to kill off the new Amazon locker first.