It’s the oldest journalistic tactic in the book to get companies to fire broadsides at their rivals, especially when it’s a market leader facing a fast-growing rival.
Witness Fast Company’s piece on Rhapsody, where president Jon Irwin says Spotify “may be the leading service globally in terms of paid subscribers, but not in the US – that title still goes to us.”
Irwin goes on to suggest that Spotify’s freemium model “promotes the sense to the mass market that music is free. It devalues music a bit”, criticises its play-cap restrictions (the introduction of which has been delayed indefinitely in the US), and repeats previous questions about the Spotify business model: “How long they can fund their losses remains to be seen.”
All good, knockabout stuff. But the question about who’s leading in the US highlights another point: lack of transparency across the market.
Rhapsody hasn’t updated its 1m paying-subscribers number since December 2011, Spotify won’t break out its figures by country, and MOG, Rdio and Sony Music Unlimited are similarly shy of revealing their stats.
So who has an overview on which streaming services are really paying off for the music industry? Rightsholders, of course.
Which is an important context to read Irwin’s comments, at a time when the major labels aren’t just stakeholders in Spotify, but are emphasising their backing for its freemium business model by relaxing their insistence on the play-cap restrictions.