Streaming is believing: The race for streaming supremacy is on

Craig Wills
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Jay Z and friends launching Tidal: But will he be at the crest of the streaming wave? (Source: Getty)
Don’t we just love a media-fuelled battle for supremacy, the winner in the ‘big race’, Goliaths all lining up for the 100 metre Dad’s dash?
The truth is, in the mega-subscriber streaming market the gun went off years ago. The battle for streaming kingship is, as they say, a marathon not a sprint and there are many runners that have highly enviable services, technology and of course user bases.
Lke many of you, I was brought up on a musical diet informed by Our Price, the Woolworths 7” section, taping the hit-parade and - luckily for me - a cousin who had more taste than Radio One could offer.
To me, streaming and open source access to music is akin to a Pandora’s box – a never ending vortex to satiate every musical desire.
Recent headlines have been littered with the power brands of Google & Apple slugging it out for column inches and of course subscriptions and making some loose claims to artists rights and ethics; chipping in from the sidelines the media friendly Jay Z has thrown his cap into the ring with Tidal.
Then of course there are the established players, predominantly Spotify.
This all begs the question; how will the new players in the streaming market match up, who will be the future winners and how might they get there?
Classic marketing would ask: what business are all these brands in? Simple: entertainment, exploration and the satiation of musical curiosity. The technology is merely a means to massage this emotional desire.
Arguably very little has been done to build emotional equity into many of the streaming brands, the focus being on the technical and functional aspects.
The sites that offer parallels to radio one could argue provide a parallel to more classic entertainment language and intuitively feel like more human-friendly brands – there is though an evident opportunity gap to be filled.
With crystal ball in hand I’d proffer that the big players will hold firm, such is their scale and reach through their wider brand ecosystems and of course cash reserves.
But with little or no entry or exit barriers for users streaming promiscuity will continue to be rife and as the classic music industry sales models shift; vinyl grows, downloads shrink and the streaming market growth takes a ‘chill-pill’ sliding from 50 per cent-plus growth in 2013 to a still outstanding 29 per cent growth in 2014 – the power shift is what interests me the most.
The ultimate winner will be us, the users, the music lovers for whom access to an almost limitless source of music and converged entertainment will be part free, part paid-for. Consumer driven innovations will rule the day.
What this means for the creative industry is another argument but as we shift further into an empowered state - taking what we want, soaking up suggestions and living in a borderless world where entertainment will be intuitive and always on – this emotional space is wide open as our music curiosity will continue to need satisfying like never before.

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