How to Make The Perfect Music Service

Following on from my detailed look into What A Music Fan Wants To Own and Why, we are left with a lot of problems to solve. If nobody wants to own music anymore, what will they pay for? If Sky have managed to charge people £50/​month for content the customer doesn’t own, it can’t be impossible. How does the music industry create an environment that allows music to make money once more?

I buy vinyl because I love that it’ll always be next to my Record Player ready to play, because I love studying the artwork and reading the booklet, and because I love owning something that forms a collection that I’ll keep on show for the rest of my life. These are all desires explained in detail in my previous post, but there is no point in making one service that serves this niche, because there’s no money in it. But making one service that meets all the needs and desires of every type of customer would be impossible. Even if it were made, it certainly wouldn’t be capable of keeping up with new demands or opportunities.

The ticketing industry pays a commission to anyone who points traffic in their direction, meaning sites such as Songkick can make a profitable business relying heavily on this revenue alone. It’s this open approach to selling your content that incentivises companies to make developments for you, making your product more valuable in the process. The days of selling music in a regimented controlled environment are over, and should be replaced by an open system where developers can let their imagination run free. The list of recent developments at SxSW Interactive shows how much imagination there is, but they all serve a small niche. Developers need a music based platform to target their audience. Apple’s app store is not enough.

Simply put, we need Spotify with an app store. Rights holders should relinquish any hope that they will regain full control over their marketing and distribution, and prompt others to meet the niche needs of the fans for them by creating an open environment that allows them to build on top of a music service.

So how can services or Rights Holders make more money? Here’s a list of ideas. There is nothing new or revolutionary, but by taking what already exists and moving it closer to the fan I believe that, in time, the fan will value what they can already access for free.

You want unlimited music? Then pay £5/​month.

On a mobile? £10/​month.

On a car stereo? £12/​month.

The lyrics too? Extra £1/​month.

Every Pitchfork review alongside the album stream? Extra £3/​month.

You want to read sections of ‘Revolution in the Head‘ whilst you listen to that Beatles song? £5 one off.

Unlimited passages from a range of authors on 10 bands? Extra £10/​month.

You want to see what merch is available whilst listening? A free app, but we’ll take a cut of what you purchase.

To see limited edition merch before anyone else sees it? Extra £3 /​ month and we take a cut.

To see what gigs are on? Free app, we take a cut on purchase.

What gigs are on that you might like? An extra £1/​month, and we still take a cut.

Priority tickets? Extra £5/​month.

For the music to match the speed at which you run? Extra £3/​month.

With one free vinyl release or merch item to your door per month and ability for one click purchases? Extra £15/​month.

For all of the above? To use whenever you want? For your whole family? With unlimited downloads? On your stereo and mobile? In every room of your home? In your car, friend’s house, every hotel room and holiday home? £50/​month. Cancel that Sky subscription, I never watch TV anyway.

It’s true, we don’t want to own the music. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to pay for something.


  • Lee Stoneman wrote:

    Some interesting ideas there, Chris, but I’m confused about your suggestion that you should pay more to listen on a mobile vs a car stereo?

    Would you charge someone differently depending on which ear they listened with? Would you suggest newspaper owners charge based on which hand the pages are turned with? Charge extra if you read on the train vs in the car?

    Just because you *can* do those things in a digital realm doesn’t mean it makes sense to do so. That kind of greedy thinking just leads straight back to the Pirate Bay.

  • I agree with Lee, Chris. Apple ditched DRM on the iTunes store because it was so easy to get around. I know that if I download any music or film (legally or illegally), I have software that I can use to make it available on any device I own… and if I don’t have the software, I know where I can get it…!

    The other added value offerings though, reviews, tickets and merch… possibly. But I wouldn’t want to pay for them. You can take a cut.

  • ChrisStoneman wrote:

    Firstly, this isn’t about control or DRM. Users can still do what they want with the music they buy, but there should be premium alternatives that allow them to do what they want, easier.

    I’d have never thought this way before I realised what I’d pay to use the Spotify app. Point is, I could (I did!) go to pirate bay or iTunes, download, and add it to my iPhone. But that’s too much hassle, I’d rather pay Spotify to bring it to me with less effort. What else would I pay someone to do to save me effort?

    And that’s the point, you CAN go and buy the software and hardware to play music in your car, but who’s actually bothered to? With the first cars now being released with built in WiFi, these opportunities are just round the corner, and people would pay for the ease of use. They’re more than welcome to plug their phone into a car dock, no DRM will stop them, but there should be a premium alternative.

    Lee, I pay the Guardian £5/​quarter to read their paper on my phone, and I’d pay more if they asked. People already pay Spotify more for mobile use than PC use, it’s exactly the same principle.

    Mike, yes you can do what you want with your downloaded files, but it involves hassle. Streaming removes that hassle, but adds control. It’s what services do with that control that is the crux of the matter here.

  • Hmmm.. Let’s see what Apple has its sleeve with the new data centre in North Carolina ( I reckon you could the humm from here when they switch it on!

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