Spotify is my first music streaming service, and I love it’s social feature back to 5 years ago. I was in China back then, and I need to use VPN to access Spotify. I remember it had no free-tier at that time, but paying $4.99 is already affordable.
At 2014, I start using Rdio. And it’s great, from any perspective. I sticked to it’s web tier for a while. And good friend who worked in Rdio invited me to his “family”, and then I can use Rdio’s premium service for free. That last another year. After that I continue my Rdio subscription and using the $9.99 tier because it supports me using the offline feature for my wife.
And then Apple Music debuts. I remember it has long trial, and then I switch to apple music so my wife can use the Rdio subscription on her phone. She start using Rdio frequently, and I was always kicking off while listening.
Apple Music is not great, quite disappointed. Rdio close it’s door at end of 2015. Then I start a premium-trial (3 months, it’s very generous) on Spotify again, I registered a new US account. Actually I’m not very happy about Spotify, but after losing Rdio I have not much choice. Because my wife switched to Spotify after Rdio died too. So I was kicked off from Spotify frequently then. The alternative I found is getting a subscription in apple music China, it’s cheaper ¥9.99/mo. And the Apple Music China have good availability of Mandarin pops, which my wife and me enjoy sometime. This is not a very satisfied state, we are OK with the service, but have no love for long relationship.
I bought an Echo not long after it’s debut. And Echo is pretty interesting device. My daughter really love teasing it, and keep calling it “Alexia” which Alexa don’t understand. But Echo is very very dumb working with Prime Music. Because Prime Music ask user adding playlist to their library before they can play them. So you need to remember the playlist’s name, which is a hard work. The result is awkward, I have very narrow selection of playlist, and Echo have hard time to satisfied the family’s music need. We do use Echo integration with Spotify sometimes, but it’s just like a network speaker, it doesn’t smart enough to have conversation with human. So the integration is kind of useless.
Amazon released Prime Streaming Music couple of days ago. It’s only $3.99/mo for Prime customer who own an Echo. And then I start the trial. And then I can tell that my daughters love it. My elder daughter will tell Alex “Play elmo song from Sesame street”, and then they will start squiggly and laughing. And I can tell Alex playing music by artist name, which is more natural than telling it a accurate playlist name which is in my library.
So I cancel my Spotify Premium again. And I don’t think I will look back. “I switch to some other streaming platform” is not even an reason to leave Spotify, it’s asking this question when you cancel your subscription. I think that’s funny. When the wave of smart device coming to home, Spotify should show a more aggressive attitude on integration. But maybe that’s not a choice for Spotify, they don’t have a choice.
BTW, after iOS 10 upgrade. The apple music China’s subscription become awkward. Because you can’t login to Apple Music from different account than your primary iCloud account. Apple’s policy on cloud integration is stupid, it’s own implementation suck and it’s not open for other player. This locked a device to use same iCloud account for all. And then I start using Apple Music on an android device, which is funny. But that music streaming device is optional. I use iTunes on my Mac which still allow different apple store account.
There’s a bigger problem sitting behind all of this. Premium hardware manufacture want to control the eco-system, which is a software/developer platform. Amazon is leading the home smart assistant market, google is joining the game by google home. Apple’s siri is dumb, otherwise it should work with Sonos and creating a smart home assistant already. Spotify is an embarrassing, it’s a developer and have multiple platforms to support. And Spotify has an mediocre user experience, I think they know but can’t change the status quo. So I think Spotify may lost it’s leading position in next 5 years. Google Music becomes interesting here. Because any rich company can join the game and throw money into this money pit. Music label will get more revenue they lost from pirate copies. I think Music label will issue more contract with those rich company then, exclusive contract will be rarer. But how to make your music playlist portable is a headache. Cloud data portability is only based on good will, not shared interests. And user will suffer from this if they are early adopter and willing to move (which is complex and time-expensive).
There’s 1 solution. Build some playlist in your head. And bet on AI based human-computer conversation interface. So you can bring your favorites to anywhere. Or maybe build a software which speaks your playlist out to Echo/Google home. That’s a dumb idea :-). Let’s see, I already pre-ordered google home. And I’m looking for more premium experience from google, like what they did in Pixel phone. But Amazon play the game differently, they bundle more and more values into their prime account which sticks user very well. I’m sure some user prefer quality first, others cares value/price ratio. I want to see how much quality difference between them, and then I will buy my music streaming service on that platform.