Our Virtual Panel Looks Back on 2014 | Kyle Bylin of Soundhound
Kyle Bylin, of SoundHound, former editor of Hypebot.com and author of Promised Land, a collection of essays on how disruptive startups and digital youth reshaped the music industry from 2008 to 2013, revisits his old stomping grounds by joining our year end virtual panel. On the significance of YouTube Music Key and the expansion of Beats Music within Apple's ecosystem, Kyle shares: "The debut of YouTube Music Key and distribution of Beats Music within Apple’s ecosystem are important, highly-anticipated moments in the online music sector, but whether they will lead to a much larger streaming music audience by the end of 2015 is still open to question." For more from Kyle on what 2014 meant for the music industry, continue reading.
Do you see the current debate questioning the effect of ubiquitous free music online leading to real change? Or is the Taylor Swift debate just a short-term distraction?
I watched the Taylor Swift debate from the sidelines with great interest. The key point for me came from a photo that appeared on Facebook. A younger cousin of mine bought the album and posted a selfie of herself holding the jewel case. Her excitement in this image pours from her face and bursts through the screen. It's the kind of smile makes you ruminate to yourself, “I wish I could be that happy about anything!” As I looked at her photo, I thought to myself, “What am I supposed to say about the Taylor Swift debate? She bought the CD. She doesn't care if she can stream the album on Spotify. So why should I care? What do I know?” Then, of course, I wanted to listen to the album to see what all the fuss was about and realized that I’d have to pay for another streaming service, such as Rhapsody or Rdio, or buy the album on iTunes. Thus, I still haven’t heard the album. The point that I'm making in telling this story is that my cousin, as far as I’m concerned, is the Taylor Swift expert, not some music industry executive or bigheaded pundit. Does she know that the Taylor Swift debate happened? In any case, she still opted to buy the shiny disc. Were other fans disappointed or angry? Yes. Did Taylor Swift miss out on the several pennies that I wanted to send her? Absolutely. Could any artist other than Taylor Swift cause a huge debate over withholding their album from Spotify? Very few, if any. I think this event happened in the Taylor Swift universe and that it’s outcome is unique to her. Therefore, it’s misguided for other artists and managers to believe that they could also withhold future albums from Spotify and have the same effect of fans buying their music.
How important are the entry of YouTube Music Key and the expansion of Beats Music within the Apple eco-system? And will they lead to a much larger streaming music audience by the end of 2015; or a just fragment a steadily expanding user base?
The debut of YouTube Music Key and distribution of Beats Music within Apple’s ecosystem are important, highly-anticipated moments in the online music sector, but whether they will lead to a much larger streaming music audience by the end of 2015 is still open to question.
What surprised me about the release of YouTube Music Key is that Google drummed up more excitement on Twitter for Inbox by Gmail than they did for their music service. It seemed like the Google product team shrugged their shoulders and said, “Here you go! We added a few paid features to YouTube. Sign up for the beta. We’re going on vacation now.”
The launch of YouTube Music Key happened so quietly and quickly that I often forget it happened. It could be that they are taking their time, working out some kinks, and using the beta to perfect the service. It could be that YouTube’s reach is so strong and wide that a ton of people signed up for the service because these features are exactly what they have been asking for. But I have a feeling that’s not the case. It’s not a slam-dunk. It’s not a huge success. It just is whatever it is, and it feels like an afterthought.
As for Beats Music, it’s hard to say what will happen. Apple has a myriad of ways that it can build interest in the service and grow the subscription base. Will Beats Music be integrated into iTunes properly or hidden in some obscure tab or dropdown menu? Will it be placed on the home screen of every iOS device as a standalone app or added onto the Music app? Will Apple offer steep discounts that get people paying for Beats Music? Will they improve upon the user experience and make it simpler, or just rebrand the product and launch it again? These are important questions that we will hopefully see Apple answer in the coming year.
What was the big shift or story of 2014 that will have a major effect on your business/sector in 2015?
Bill Werde exited Billboard magazine. This news story signaled the end of an era in music trade journalism. There were many other shifts amongst the ranks of editors and writers at various publications that led to changes in coverage or lack thereof, but this one should be seen as major domino in a long line of other tumbles and falls that forever changed the sector.