It’s been a crazy-busy January. I’ve been cooking a few different blog topics in my head, but time has gotten the better of me this month. However, I’m really excited to announce that my band, Amy and the Peace Pipes, has released a new single, “Burning Bridges”. Go check it out!
I know many of us are now using streaming services (and why not), but if you’d like to download your own copy, we’re giving it away for free to our Peace Pipers mailing list subscribers, just join up and you’ll get the download link! Even if you don’t download music, you should join up anyway. In the age of prevalent social media, it’s become increasingly difficult for bands to reach their audience across all of the noise (especially when Facebook wants to force people into buying ads to reach all of the people who liked their page). The mailing list is really the one true place where everyone who is interested in us has an opportunity to receive our updates – whether they open the emails or get too many emails to open them is another story, but at least I know that our updates were at least delivered.
Thanks so much to everyone for supporting me and my band. When I stop and think about it, it’s really incredible to think that we can put stuff onto iTunes and Spotify and make it available for the world to hear.
Let’s get this out of the way: Apple is completely within their rights to set whichever app approval policies in their platform. It’s their OS, their store, their rules. I’m not a lawyer, but when it comes to Apple enforcing their own policies: I don’t think Spotify has a legal leg to stand on.
That said: Apple may (and should) lose in the court of public opinion, and their behavior is asshole-ish to say the least, and likely anti-competitive to the point that they may (and should) be punished.
I get it, you built the store and thus are entitled to take a cut for setting up and facilitating a profit center for app developers, and I realize Apple feels they deserve a cut for digital goods and subscriptions for apps that charge nothing up front. Throughout the course of the app store, Apple has become competitors in many of these markets, and are now using their platform ownership to slant the playing field in their favor.
In the case of Spotify: aside from the fact that Apple Music is a red hot mess, Spotify has superior music discovery features and an easy way for me to interact with my friends and embed playlists in various posts. At the time, it’s a superior product, but Apple is hiding behind their app store policies to give themselves a competitive advantage in price-point. Sure users can sign up through the Spotify web site to get avoid the Apple tax, but it’s asinine that even mentioning that through their app prevents the update from being approved. This “Minister of Truth” garbage makes no sense.
As the app ecosystem has evolved, many legitimate questions have arisen about how app makers can continue to monetize based off their apps. Now that we’re reaching a saturation point with users, we’re finding out that it’s not sustainable to pay $3 for a Podcast app and expect feature enhancements until the end of time. I’ve come to accept that in order for apps I love to stay in business, I’ve accepted that I may need to fork over an annual fee for an app like PocketCasts or Tweetbot. Apple facilitates the platform and should probably maintain their cut. Their new subscription platform does offer some reprieve if users subscribe into their second year. This seems like a fair way to do business.
On the other hand, there are apps, platforms and business models that have developed their own sustainability and are expected to be omnipresent in all computing platforms: Amazon Kindle, Spotify, Netflix, Comixology to name a few. These apps have their own revenue streams and ultimately the app store doesn’t play a meaningful role in delivering that content to the user. Apple is just another platform – albeit one of the biggest – in this service’s eco-system. By forcing these apps to tax their users or simply pretend they don’t sell the content (Comixology does this) and trust that you’ll figure out to go to their web site, Apple demonstrates that they don’t give a crap about your user experience while using this app on their platform – which goes completely against their mantra of simplicity and elegance in their UI.
Then there’s apps that are in all places (e.g. Social Networks), making their money by selling advertising through their own platforms (combined with the user data they can harvest). I could be wrong, but Apple doesn’t get a share of that ad revenue. In many ways Apple and the social networks have a symbiotic relationship with one another. I’m pretty sure that for some apps like Facebook, some money has exchanged hands with Apple to get the deep OS integrations – but I don’t believe for a second that the App Store is taking a cut from the ads that Instagram serves me. How is this different than the content that’s being served up the previously mentioned omnipresent apps?
As much as I’ve enjoyed having the latest and greatest apps on my elegant piece of hardware, the anticompetitive stupidity that results in these awful experiences may ultimately drives away users like me. What’s 30% of $0 spent, Apple?
I’m so incredibly excited to be playing FoCoMx again this year with Amy and the Peace Pipes, this time headlining the Boot Grill on Friday Night! There are so many incredible bands taking part in this festival, and to celebrate that I wanted to share some Spotify Playlists of the bands. Whether you’ve already got your wristband, love the FoCo Music Scene, or want to check out some awesome bands, hopefully these playlists will get you excited about the upcoming weekend!
I’m especially sad because the truth is that I’ve been flirting with other music services over the years, and there are some key features that kept me coming back to Rdio. Now that it’s going away, I’m going to have to find another service that crosses off the most checkmarks when being compared to Spotify, Apple Music, Google Music, Amazon Prime and Microsoft’s Groove Music:
Remote Control Mode. This has been the biggest differentiater between Rdio and other music services. If you were running Rdio from one device (such as your computer or tablet), you could open the app on another device (like your phone) and remotely control all of the music. This has been invaluable in many parties and game nights where I didn’t want to be tethered to the speakers all night. I *think* Spotify may do something similar, but no services has been as elegant for me.
Family Plan Pricing. If memory serves, Rdio was the first ones to feature this, and my family quickly took advantage of this, serving three accounts with one low payment. The other services have followed suit, but hats off to Rdio’s innovation in this area.
Last.fm Scrobbling. As I’m fast approaching 60,000 scrobbles, this is paramount in my music consumption. I realize no one really uses Last.fm anymore, but as long as the service is around I’m deeply invested in the stats. I know Spotify offers Last.fm integration, but I’m not sure if any other other major providers offer this (Google does through a hack).
Platform-Agnostic Apps. This is the deal-breaker. Rdio was ubiquitous across the internet. They came out the gate with the browser UI, then expanded to mobile apps, have a Windows 10 presence and even a Roku app. Spotify is probably the most prominent in this space, but their browser-based UI didn’t compare to Rdio. To make matters more frustrating, platform-based music systems (Apple, Google, Microsoft Groove and even Amazon) are more interested in using music to propagate their own platforms.
Playlist Lock-In. This is going to be the biggest frustration. I have dozens of playlists (not to mention my “collection”) within Rdio and now I’m going to be challenged to import that into another platform – although Soundiiz looks promising.
I’ve tried most of the major services and have a pretty good sense of the benefits and shortcomings in each
Apple Music: Loved Beats 1, but that was about it. While the selection is great, the interface is just awful. The deal-breaker is that in order to use it on PC you have to go through the bloated hog that’s iTunes. The Android app is in an early (and ugly) beta, and it’s nowhere to be found on any TV platforms. No remote control. I couldn’t cancel my free trial fast enough.
Microsoft Groove Music: Good interface and ubiquitous. The fact that it’s on Xbox makes it appealing as well – however the lack of Scrobbling and no family plan won’t let me take it seriously. I let the free trial lapse. No remote control.
Google Music/YouTube Red: This one is most murky, given the recent Youtube Red development. On face value it looks like a great deal (ad-free YouTube along with Google Music Streaming, not to mention that you can upload 50,000 of your own songs to supplement the service). However it’s not clear to me how their family plan works with YouTube Red, and you can’t Scrobble through the mobile apps. No remote control. I’m currently in the YouTube Red free trial, but will likely cancel.
Amazon Prime: As a Prime customer this has been a nice perk, but in no way will this be replacing Rdio. The features just aren’t there.
Spotify: The most serious contender. They offer the platform ubiquity, the family plan pricing, Last.fm Scrobbling, (I think) a remote control. The interface is just so ugly.
So there we have it. Right now it really comes down to Spotify vs. Google Music, with a current edge to Spotify. Writing all of this makes me really miss Rdio. RIP to a wonderful music service.