Netflix has no free tier, but it’s managed to sign up more than 75 million paying subscribers, many attracted by its original shows like House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black and Making A Murderer.
No wonder there have been calls for Spotify and its rivals to follow suit: start commissioning albums (or musical projects, at least) that are exclusive – for subscribers only.
Kobalt’s David Emery disagrees. “Music connects you, as a listener, with an artist. TV, and film, and theatre for that matter, can do that but it is not a fundamental part of the medium. Rather, they connect you with a story,” he wrote in a blog post discussing the ‘Netunes’ concept.
“‘Created by Netunes’, or ‘Created by Spotify’ or ‘Created by Tidal’ sounds exactly like a product that is trying to be sold as art.”
He also points to the lack of scarcity in music, compared to TV: “If there’s a record that’s exclusive to one platform, rather then going to the effort of switching platforms to listen to it – and having to switch my whole music library with it, another problem not shared with TV – I’ll just listen to something else.”
Instead, Emery thinks the lesson from Netflix is that “TVs are now computers”. Why?
“Netflix means that people are used to interacting with their TVs, whether it’s via a “smart” TV that has apps built in, or whether it’s through a device like an Apple TV. And for music, this could be hugely important because as it turns out, TVs are probably the best way most people have to listen to music at home… Someone is going to turn the TV into the iPod of the living room. I wonder who it will be?”
We expect streaming services to continue poking around the idea of what original content might look like in the music world: Apple funding Taylor Swift’s live documentary is one recent prominent example, Amazon’s Christmas and children’s compilations are another; and Spotify’s plans to commission its own music-focused video shows yet another.
Nobody is going full Netflix just yet. Even so, there are still calls for that kind of model. Tim Ingham of Music Business Worldwide offered his own spin on the idea at AIM’s Indie-Con conference on Friday, for example, suggesting that independent labels can play the role of the production companies selling their formats to Netflix, Amazon and other digital video companies.
“I think independent labels can get their artists to the position where they’re saleable to massive organisations, be it Spotify or Google Play or Apple Music. Discover the artist, develop the artist, then sell the product wholesale to those large digital channels,” said Ingham.
“If you do that, you don’t have catalogue, but you’ll have a big fuck-off payment upfront. And Apple will say ‘we love what you’ve done with this: we’re going to stick it at the centre of our platform’.”
Ingham would like to see the indie label community create an event akin to the Sundance Film Festival or Independent Games Festival to showcase their signings: “an event where huge digital distributors can come in and buy your content for masses of money”.