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Music Ally’s Global Experts Panel is an international group of industry leaders. Each month we put a single, vital question to them about today’s music industry – and ask them what should happen next.

Streaming platforms have undeniably transformed the music industry since emerging in the mid-noughts. While some of those impacts – especially with regards to the money that reaches artists and songwriters – are still being hotly debated, music fans are happily pouring money into DSPs for access to music.

And much of that money reaches the music industry, albeit perhaps not as evenly as some would like. In March, the IFPI credited streaming services for boosting recorded music income back to where it was 20 years ago, and more than a few areas of the music industry are quite happy with this status quo.

Tech-based services need to keep nimble in a landscape of rapidly-shifting user expectations, and DSPs – revenue-rich and with huge user bases – are seemingly set up to encourage rampant innovation. But one criticism that could be levelled at western DSPs is that they all offer a near-identical core service: all-you-can-eat music for a monthly fee. The similarity between the platforms almost feels a little odd – don’t some of the DSPs’ 400 million paying users demand a different experience from each other?

There are some signs of expanding the user experience from the big streaming platforms: Spotify has invested heavily into podcasting, Apple Music continues to put emphasis on its radio features, and Amazon Music has folded Twitch livestreaming into its app. But it’s hard to avoid the idea that each streaming app greets users with a very similar experience: a black rectangle with lots of playlists in it.

So we asked our experts panel what DSPs should do differently. Should they evolve their user-facing services, or offer more B2B services? Should they try to be more different to each other – and if so, how?

Many of our experts were keen on differentiation and change – with many wanting additional in-app experiences to enrich the fan experience and to strengthen the connection to the artist. Here are their thoughts…

Vickie Nauman, Principal and Owner, CrossBorderWorks

At a high level, all of the DSP music catalogs are the same – broad and inclusive of everything commercially-recorded and released digitally.

In my view these broad DSPs have become like utilities. Hundreds of millions of music lovers have a free or paid subscription, and once you are accustomed to the convenience, you can’t imagine life without them. The large DSPs are already differentiating in features and user experience, and positioning podcasts as part of the content mix. The utility of broad DSPs has created stability of revenues for rightsholders and a highly competitive race to acquire and retain $9.99/month customers.

This stability and maturity of the digital music economy has opened up an opportunity for more niche services and experiences to be brought to life. The broad DSPs serve as a new baseline for access to recorded music, and we should not expect them to have every feature and bell/whistle under the sun. Music is tribal and diverse, and we need a wide variety of ways to light up music for fans.

There is a robust global appetite for music fans to consume music in forms that go beyond the access streaming model. It is a golden age of innovation right now with music/tech startups and innovative technologists presenting music in live streams, fitness, games, AI, AR/VR, and virtual worlds.

Lara Baker, Director of Business Development, UK & Ireland, Songtrust

I remember when the Music Producers Guild launched their “Credit Where Credit Is Due” campaign, lobbying to get contributor credits, which have always been printed in CD/record sleeves, made available on digital services, so fans could see who else was behind their favourite songs.

I would love to see this done, or the work of companies like Jaxsta more widely implemented, so that fans could go down a rabbit hole exploring the catalogues of certain songwriters, producers, labels etc., with access to more information.

Services like Bandcamp and SoundCloud have always provided additional information on songs and albums, and the recent introduction of Apple’s Behind the Songs portal and Spotify’s songwriter pages and Noteable portal are steps in the right direction – more of this please!

Adel Hattem, Founder, DMusicMarketing

The Ideal DSP would be a store / platform that: gives the artist the option to personalize their profile and speak to their fans via the platform: this would allow the live streamings, Artist-fan communication, virtual merchandise, etc; has the capability for song premiere events with live interaction between fans and the artist; has the capability for fans to speak via the platform while sharing music (like Resso); allows more interaction with fans – such as “The Fans First” but giving the artist access to that communication still maintains an easy-to-use search engine and recommendations to find music seamlessly.

Jane Dyball, founder of Laffittes Ltd

To me it’s a no-brainer that subscription services need to continue to develop. I’ve always felt they focus too much on the lowest common denominator of user – presuming that everyone is reluctant to pay, listening on crappy headphones –and consequently miss out on upselling opportunities.

There’s enormous potential for services to adapt, and market forces will dictate that they have to. The surrounding marketplace looks very different now to when Spotify launched a decade ago.

Beth Appleton, General Manager and SVP Marketing Australasia, WMG

DSPs have been excellent at enabling instant access to vast amounts of music – the ‘celestial jukebox’ imagined 20 years ago. And they’ve made big strides when it comes to curation and personalisation.

But there’s still scope to do much more. How can superfans be rewarded for their fandom and how can their loyalty be encouraged? Can services better connect individual artists and their fans through richer experiences?

I’m 100% certain that there’ll be more innovation, invention and evolution in the years ahead.

Robyn Kennedy, Senior Sync, Bucks Music Group Limited

I think there are definitely opportunities for DSPs to expand their services and to work with rights holders, writers and artists to create more of an experience for listeners. Perhaps tiered subscription prices would allow them to offer upgraded & exclusive content to audiophiles and super fans without raising the basic subscription price for customers who just want access to music.

Personally, I would love to see curated content that compliments the music listening experience (the modern-day equivalent of liner notes in a record) and I would be happy to pay extra for that, particularly if I knew the musicians were getting an additional cut.

Cindy James, Head of Commercial Marketing, Virgin Music

DSPs and labels, working together, continue to be a source of innovation when it comes to engaging music fans and building stronger connections between subscribers and the artists and music they love.

In the beginning, when super-fans were the main subscribers, a lean-in experience was more common. However, since then, many platforms have begun offering more discovery and lean-back experiences and features, providing fans with a ‘sliding scale’ based on their personal listening habits.

As DSPs move toward providing more of an all-in-one experience, there’s an immense opportunity to build even higher engagement and loyalty between artists and listeners.

Lead photo by Zarak Khan on Unsplash

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