Music as a Service

Today, a great wireless device has to be a phone, a camera, a computer, a GPS, an e-book reader, an application ecosystem, an entertainment center, a social instrument, a business toolbox, and a great music service.

Music probably consumes more device-time than any other phone feature.  So, it’s clear that device manufacturers understand that music-as-a-service (MAS) is a core feature that’s essential to competing. 

However, the current music stack that includes: MP3 acquisition and management, playlist management, playback control, music discovery, music recommendation, and social sharing is outdated and cumbersome.  

Streaming services such as Spotify and RD.IO are far better.  However, to a device manufacturer such as Apple, leaving MAS to a third party is akin to letting Sony or Cannon supply the iPhone camera (after the sale and out of Apple’s control).  

Similar to cameras, maps, telephony, social, and cloud services, MAS will be a supplied (more than less) by device manufactures.  Here are some of the features I expect to be directly welded into every device:

Integrated Recognition and Tagging - Shazam-like recognition and tagging is central to music discovery, integrated playlist management, and (native) ad revenue generation.  Expect this feature to be universally accessible and baked into the highest level of the device UI.  Recognition, tagging, and playlist insertion/management should be a seamless, integrated experience.  

Speaking of Shazam…Shazam has missed so many opportunities to be a permanent part of the music ecosystem.  Unless they own rock solid IP (think acquisition), expect Shazam to slowly dissolve as sound recognition and tagging become ordinary device features.    

Song Cards - Songs will cease to be files; instead, they will resemble cards that can be easily manipulated, played, shared, turned, flipped, flicked, traded, shuffled, and stacked.  Files won’t be shared; instead, song cards will be instantly exchanged via audio recognition, messaging, email, and OTA technologies like airdrop.  Upon arrival, cards will be pushed, pulled, dragged, and dropped into playable stacks that can be shared, merged, and shuffled.  Since payment only happens upon full consumption, cards (decks and stacks) will zip between users like gossip at a slumber party.  

Central Command - Tagging, playlist management, playback control, and card sharing will be accessible from everywhere, overlay anything, and will be part of the top-level navigation on every device.  

Native Advertising & Music Preference-Based AD Targeting - Advertising will subsidize MAS, while ad-free will be a premium option.  Paid, relevant, and seamless song recommendations (native song advertising) will appear during tagging, and while managing playback and playlists.  Unfortunately, banner advertising will appear here also, but expect it to be highly targeted and based upon the music preferences of end-users.

Apps Become Features - As previously stated, music (as a service) is too important for device manufactures to ignore.  I expect lots of third-party app ideas (most are not businesses) to become MAS features.  Anything that is at the intersection of social, proximity, location, sharing, discovery, and/or recommendation will be become ordinary features.  

Interoperability and Lock-In - Rightsholders that are in a position to bargain with companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google have to avoid the scenario where one hundred million users (five years from now) can’t migrate their cards, decks, or stacks from one device ecosystem to another.  When migration is simple and seamless, rightsholders can preserve the threat of withdrawing from a service (for any reason).