The future of streaming could screw over consumers

A look at the emergence of streaming services and where they're headed

Music consumption has changed beyond recognition in the last 10 years. The emergence of streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal has allowed consumers to curate playlists, discover new music and share listening habits. It would appear, however, that Swedish streaming service Spotify may be in a bit of bother. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that Spotify is working on a month-to-month basis with at least one of the major music labels. This, obviously enough, is not good news for the streaming giant, that boasts some 30-million paying customers. 

It's thought the company will go public in early 2017, but they have some major battles to fight before that time. 

The Spotify model is, and always has been, very simple; do a deal with labels, provide music to customers and pay the artists a cut - albeit a tiny cut. They were one of the first out of the traps to offer this and so they did very well for themselves. The fact that they offered consumers a free option, dotted with a few ads, meant there was no need to pirate music. Sure, there was no music from The Beatles there, but everything else we could thinking of was just a click away. 

The Spotify offering meant piracy levels were down, which is obviously great, but the artists started to give out about how much they were earning from service. Most of the general public struggled to drum up too much sympathy for the artists. Times were very tough for most people, so the overwhelming consensus was that the artists can go and cry us a river. 

The market opened up a bit more in the summer of 2015. Apple Music entered the fray and things began to get very interesting, very quickly.  

The slick looking interface from Apple appealed to many. It wasn't without its teething problems. Many people singed up for the 3 month free-test period to see how it compared to the likes of Spotify. This was only available to iPhone users to begin with, coming to Android some time later. The three month offer to consumers was welcomed by many, but not Taylor Swift

The artist singed off her open letter to Apple with a killer line, drilling the message home

"We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation."

Apple did a massive U-turn on their policy and paid the artists during the three month trial period. Since that time, Swift has gone on to star in some of their ads and has pulled her music from Spotify. 

As things bedded down somewhat on the Apple Music front, Tidal then came crashing in. 

This service rubbed some people up the wrong way from the word go. The self-congratulatory nature of the launch looked like the most OTT music video of all time. The premiss for Tidal is that it's a music streaming service owned and run by the artists, meaning that the artists get a fairer deal. 

Exclusives:

It was around this time that things started to get very messy. Artists were offered deals by the various streaming services to launch their albums on their platform. The most famous example is, of course, Lemonade by Beyonce. While this was exciting for those involved in the streaming business and the artists, it was a pain in the face for the consumer.

And as a consumer myself, that's all I really care about. I don't want to have to subscribe to three different services to listen to the music I want. I don't have a CD player to use to rip the music into my iTunes library. I don't have the patience for this.

Earlier this year I opted to go with Apple Music. I preferred how they dealt with the artists and their music selection ticked the most amount of boxes for me. A few weeks on, and I was back to Spotify. I found that it was easier to make playlists and its usability suited my needs.

As it stands right now, I am not happy with the music I have access. I feel the entire streaming space is a mess and we are losing out as a result.  

It's hard to know where this dance will end. It's thought that Apple Music will buy Tidal and take their exclusives with them. If that happens, it'd be a safe bet that their popularity will increase significantly and push Spotify further up the creek. 

Just this week an executive at Universal Music has said they no longer want acts signing exclusivity deals with streaming services. It is heavily implied that the deal between Frank Ocean and Apple Music could be the last one from the Universal label. 

Sadly, all we can do is sit and wait.