By Mark Mulligan, independent music analyst and author of Music Industry Blog.
Beats' codenamed Daisy subscription service has been getting a puzzlingly large amount of coverage for a service that isn't even launched yet. Beats' Jimmy Iovine has somewhat smartly positioned Daisy as a challenger in what he has portrayed as a dysfunctional market in which the incumbents are flailing around, unable to even understand what the big issues are, let alone try to solve them. Discovery, transparency, reporting, these are all great issues that do need addressing but they are also the exact issues Spotify et al are all busy trying to fix right now. The fact they haven't points to the complexity and scale of the problems, and also the limitations of what any one music service can achieve on its own.
But rather than get distracted by the grandstanding and hyperbole (from all sides) it is worth taking a look at the what the next generation of music subscription service could look like, building upon some of the challenges that are faced today. These could be done by any streaming service, but they are also all natural extensions of Daisy's already unique set of assets and DNA. These features are:
- Artist Led Discovery: one of the big issues with streaming services is that they subjugate the artist brand. In the single or album model (physical or digital) the fan is seeking out an artist specific experience. With streaming services the value proposition is all the music in the world so the artist brand and relationship is inherently diluted. So the next generation of music subscription service will be a confederation of artist sub-sites, combining the benefits of vast catalogue with mainstaining artists' profile. Back in the day, MySpace understood the value of unifying disparate artist specific communities with portal-like navigation. So in the next-generation service you will still be able to use traditional tools like searching by genre, but you will also follow individual artists. This, combined with Spotify-artist app-like experiences would give Daisy a genuinely unique take on streaming discovery and navigation.
- Artist Communities: again taking a lead from MySpace, the natural next step of artist-led discovery is to let users gravitate around their favourite artists. To follow them, join communities, join discussions, chat with the artist, get virtual-VIP access. Currently this sort of fan engagement happens one step removed from the music on Facebook and artist pages. Bring it all together and you turn a disjointed discovery-to-engagement-to-consumption/purchase journey into a seamlessly integrated experience, where each of those previously discreet activities becomes an indistinguishable part of a new whole.
- Empower the Artist: and a further logical next step would be to then allow artists to plug directly into this platform and engage with their fans here just like they do on Facebook. This would not mean giving them full exposure to how often their tracks are getting played or how much they're getting paid (labels deals just don't permit this) but it would translate into self-serve analytics dashboards and powerful CRM functionality.
- Merchandize and live: and if you've got your fans engaging with your music then of course you are going to want the ability to sell them other stuff like vinyl, box sets, merchandize and tickets for gigs. This is where Ian C Rogers’ expertise and the TopSpin hook up will become core assets for Daisy. Expect full eCommerce integration. Also don't be surprised to see full Songkick integration either.
So what emerges is a picture of a MySpace / Spotify / TopSpin / SongKick / Facebook mashup, as 360 degree music experience platform, joining the dots in a fragmented digital landscape. If Daisy, or anyone else, pulls this off, we will have a true next generation music subscription service. One that recognizes that streaming is not a business model, but instead simply a technology means of getting music to people on the devices of their choice. A service that understands streaming is the foundation stone upon which rich, immersive music experiences can be built, but not the product itself.
[Thumbnail image of Flower Tree courtesy Tristan Schmurr aka kewl.]