Tidal, the music service backed by Jay Z and other celebrity musicians, streams music in high-fidelity, not compressing the songs like other music services, and offers “access to exclusive music, videos, tickets, merchandise and experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Google Play Music, the search giant’s streaming music service, proclaims it has “millions of music videos” and provides “the perfect music for the moment.”
Rdio offers “personalised recommendations” and a “personal radio station.”
And Apple Music, the new streaming service that the iPhone maker unveiled to much fanfare at the company’s annual developer conference this week, has a 24-hour global radio station curated by celebrity DJs.
These services may sound like they’re different, but at the core, they’re pretty much all the same — with a few exceptions. They allow you to stream nearly any song, on any device, and at any time. They also allow you to save songs to your devices so you can listen when you don’t have an internet connection, like if you’re on the subway or on an aeroplane. They all have “curated” playlists and each try to get you the exact song you don’t even know you want at that moment.
And each service charges $US9.99 per month for its core service. (Tidal’s high fidelity plan is $US19.99 per month, Rdio offers a limited $US3.99 per month, Apple will have a family plan for $US14.99, and each service structures free trials, if they have them, differently.)
And that’s why they need gimmicks, like “exclusive experiences,” “editorial teams” and platforms that promise content like “candid shots from backstage” and “in-progress lyrics,” because you can pretty much get the same music from any of these services, and they’re all the same price.
Streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime Instant Video, and HBO Now, have exclusive movies and TV shows. You need to subscribe to Netflix to stream “Orange is the New Black” and Marvel’s “Daredevil,” or HBO Now to watch this season of “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective,” or Amazon to watch “Transparent.”
But with a few exceptions, on-demand streaming music services don’t really offer anything compelling that you can’t get from a competing service. Yes, there’s an artist here and an artist there, but are you really going to choose Tidal over Spotify just because Taylor Swift’s songs are available on Tidal?
So Spotify, Apple Music, and the other streaming services are trying to win you over by differentiating themselves in terms of experience, not in terms of the actual music.
And it could actually work.
In a sense, that’s how Apple beats every other handset maker with the iPhone. After all, all premium smartphones essentially do the same things — they make calls, run the same apps, let us send text message and browse the web, and have impressive, high definition screens.
But Apple wins, time and time again, on experience — the company offers a phone that to many people is just a better experience than everything else that is out there.
The question now, though, is whether or not Apple will be able to do the same with music.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.