Digital Music News mentions UI, multi-platform and interoperability
29 Mar 2010 - 3:53pm
5 years ago
Thought this would be interesting to the media & entertainment usability folks.
Resnikoff's Parting Shot: Presentation Matters...
It's something they teach in the second grade. 'Presentation matters'.
But how much does presentation matter in digital music? The answer is
surprisingly complicated, and incredibly important to the future of this
The concept of presentation goes beyond cosmetics. How easy is it to
store, access, and experience the music? Aspects like UI,
multi-platform interoperability, and overall elegance matter. But can a
perfectly-executed application change fan behavior, and create new
revenue streams? Or, are consumers willing to play with something
sloppier, as long as it satisfies some basic requirements and comes for
The questions are more than academic, especially as American labels
ponder Spotify. On one hand, interface and elegance are everything;
look no further to Apple and the iTunes Store for proof. Prior to 2003,
the paid download was a hassle, one that included the headaches of
non-interoperability, ridiculous tethering, and spotty catalogs. After
the introduction of the then-called 'iTunes Music Store,' things
changed, and the proof comes from ten billion transactions.
Or does it? According to the IFPI, paid song downloads are still just 5
percent of the broader download pie, the rest reserved for free
file-sharing. So, 19 out of 20 times, fans are gravitating towards the
sloppy, free experience, and that only includes downloads. Songs
on-the-cheap are riddled with bad metadata, variable recording quality,
premature cut-offs, and even more nefarious problems like spyware,
adware, and even viruses. Whether Limewire, the Pirate Bay, or Skreemr,
this is not a game for perfectionists, but one that fans continue to
Then again, those freely-acquired tracks find their way back to the
elegance of iTunes+iPod, or more updated, iTunes+iPod+iPhone+iPad.
Warts and all, the ugly downloads dance at the pretty ball, and fans
seem willing to compromise.
Jimmy Iovine decries the degradation of fidelity; other
entrepreneurs think that fans are toiling under
bad metadata. But these are perspectives that come from a lifelong
passion for music, one dialed far beyond the typical fan. Outside the
bubble, life is different. Sure, consumers like enhancements, but for
most, 'good enough' is 'good enough,' and the more refined listeners can
upgrade at any time.
But what happens when quality comes handed on a platter? In the case of
Spotify, fans jump on board. In terms of numbers, that means seven
million fans across six European countries, of which 4-5 percent are
paying premiums (according to the company). But stateside, is that
enough to radically shift the numbers achieved by Rhapsody and Napster?
Spotify supporters argue that the enhanced experience changes the game;
that the elegant presentation suddenly makes the cloud a viable,
monetizable entity. But the experience of Apple has shown that elegance
pays, but only to an extent. When the wallets are drawn, most scamper.
And, if Spotify fails to ramp premium on-demand, who can? An even
better experience, waiting in the wings?
Make no mistake, the cloud is more complicated than Spotify. Apple has
yet to weigh in, though the better experience could come from
MobileMe-style access to existing collections. Others like ZumoDrive
are pushing similar interpretations on the cloud, ones that offer less
monetization but are still great for consumers.
Perhaps the pretty package only goes so far. A dreamy version of the
future is that music fans will surrender their archaic collections, and
gladly pay a monthly access fee for the comprehensive and
elegantly-delivered cloud. Easy, neat, elegant, on-demand from
wherever. But the future has a way of writing itself, and the more
complicated reality is already starting to emerge.
Of course, everyone wants to deliver tomorrow, and fans will have a
selection of well-heeled options. But the winning experience will
involve more than just a pretty interface, and for that matter, more
than one access point. Indeed, presentation will matter more than ever,
but consumers may once again cobble together an experience that mixes
elegance with the unrefined.