If you follow all the latest developments in digital music, from gadgets to apps to social media, then you've probably already heard of Spotify — an exciting new music service that might just be the application that makes on-demand streaming "click" with fans hungry for more ways to legally access music. So we're thrilled to announce that Spotify founder Daniel Ek is confirmed for FMC's Policy Summit 2009, which takes place at Georgetown University in Washington, DC on October 4-6.
If you're unfamiliar with Spotify, chances are you won't be for long. Currently all the rage in Europe, the service is set to appear Stateside sometime this year. Even though Spotify has yet to launch in the US, it's already garnered enthusiastic reviews and press mentions in everything from the New York Times to Bob Lefsetz's music biz rants.
So why all the hubbub? Well, as we mentioned in a previous FutureBlog entry, Spotify employs a robust desktop client with zero lag and uses the superior Ogg Vorbis format for its streams, which means it actually sounds good. The graphic interface is highly intuitive and responsive. But what about the catalog? Well, Wired's Eliot Van Buskirk says the service is "like a magical version of iTunes in which you've already bought every song in the world." Spotify already contains more than six million tunes available and adds more every day. The service is free to use, if you don't mind hearing an audio ad every 15 minutes or so, or you can purchase an ad-free subscription for around ten pounds. (Remember, the Swedish-based service is not available yet in the States.)
So when might Spotify grace our shores? According to Buskirk, pretty soon:
Spotify. . . needs to extend its music licensing deals to America (unlike other startups, Spotify has always paid to license its music). The upstart powerhouse has one big advantage: Unlike the breakthrough P2P service the music industry killed in 2002, the labels actually want Spotify to succeed, co-founder Daniel Ek told Wired.com.
"We feel very comfortable, in that the labels want to see Spotify in the U.S.," said Ek. "Our hope is to get something up and running before the end of the year. We get around a thousand e-mails a week from people in the U.S. who want access to Spotify, so we know that there's a demand for the product. It is important for us, though, to figure out the best execution, as we are very serious about being able to monetize the content that we license."
Also on deck for Spotify is a possible iPhone app, which could help expand the market for on-demand, streaming music services. (A similar app for the Google Android platform has already been publicly demoed.) But although a Spotify app has been submitted to Apple, there's no guarantee of approval, particularly if the American company feels it's a threat to the iTunes download model. Yet some see Spotify as being an opportunity for Apple to sell more of its handheld devices, like the iPhone and iPod touch, which have taken off in the mobile marketplace partly due to an ever-growing selection of applications. Given Spotify's remarkable word-of-mouth, it might be difficult for Apple to resist taking a bite.
It's important to remember that Spotify is on-demand listening, not "predictive radio" like Pandora (which is also gaining popularity, largely due to mobile applications). And subscription based, on-demand services have existed in the U.S. for some time — Rhapsody and Lala are two prominent examples. Still, Spotify's track record across the pond shows that it's got plenty of potential as far as attracting the volume of users that could make subscription part of a new revenue portfolio for artists and labels. It's also clear that Daniel Ek isn't rushing things — he seems to want to "get it right" as far as his offerings are concerned. We can't wait to hear what he has to say at Policy Summit.
Head to the Policy Summit 2009 page to make sure you don't miss out on all of the amazing presentations and discussions. And stay tuned for more breaking Summit news!