Apple will unveil a new streaming music service in early 2013. While Apple Streaming has been rumored for a while, a new report from Bloomberg shows that it’s about to become a reality, with negotiations with record labels and publishers well underway.
My question is: what took so long?
Apple single-handedly led the charge in pushing music (and all media consumption, really) into the twenty-first century. But not long after iTunes was up and music went digital, we all got hip to the reality of streaming music. Three or four years ago, by the time the iPhone was released and broadband and wireless networks had become super-fast, I started asking, Why do I still have to buy—and worse, store—all this music? Why can’t I just stream it?
Pandora eventually came around but was a huge pain in the ass to any music fan because it doesn’t let you listen to the music you feel like listening to. Eventually we had to wait for Facebook co-founder Sean Parker to launch Spotify in Europe and let its success there create demand in the U.S. before it finally arrived here last year, delivering pretty much what we’d been asking for for years.
Now Apple is finally playing catch up, years later and with sales of digital music in decline. From the Bloomberg report, it does sound like they’re aiming for a Spotify-style app that lets you listen you what you want. Bloomberg says Apple is “seeking licensing pacts with labels that allow more flexibility about what listeners hear” and quotes analyst Robert Greenfield who says, “they’re seeking direct licenses to avoid all the restrictions that come with a [Pandora-style] compulsory license.”
Which is great. And I realize that the licenses are very tricky to negotiate. A Guardian report a couple moths ago even implied that Spotify doled out shares of the company to the labels as a long-term profit sharing measure. But for the first time in the music and media world, Apple is in a position where they’re trying to come from behind.
Apple does have a great record of making the best in category for their products. We’ll see if if they can top Spotify next year.