I answered the question in the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan the other day. My answer was shorted quite a bit, so I thought it might be a good idea to present my full answer here. (Thanks to Google translate.)
Will Spotify be available in 2020?
Well, I’m not that sure. Spotify is a great service and has in many ways changed the way I, and many others with me, are listening to music – but it’s far from the perfect music service.
Why? First of all, Spotify is to static. They must let the users, the music fans, participate more in the listening experience. We want to interact, we want to know what our friends are listening to, we want to discuss what we are listening to, we want to tell our friends what they should be listening to. Etcetera. The music catalogue is huge, but I still end up listening to all the same artists over and over again. I want to be get inspired into new music, find new acts I can learn to love – and it needs to be done in a much more studied way than of today. The pretty lame feature ’similar artist’ needs a totally new thinking.
It’s just not enough with the music and a and a few lines of biography of the bands. Especially when it’s presented as it is. We need more. And soon we will demand more. Or change to another service that handles all these things better. Simply said; we want to interact with each other and our listening experiences – on a much higher level than of today.
But even if they get the user experience on the right course, It will not guarantee Spotify to live forever. Because the the biggest problem for Spotify and similar (mainly streaming) services is that users expect all music to be available there. Yes, all music. And as soon as a track is not there, the users get disappointed and will start look for other ways to get the songs they could not find on Spotify.
The Spotify crew are probably working day and night over this, to get more music in the catalogue, but it seems to be hard when the record/music industry still is so far behind reallity as they are. The music industry will probably never make it easy for technology partners to get the rights and the trust to handle the entire catalogues for a global market. And unfortunately, I think that will be a never ending discussion between the music industry and the streaming services. Why? Because if the streaming companies can’t generate large sums of money to the major record labels / publishers, and that needs to happen quite fast, the music industry will be even more protective of their music catalogues - which will make the situation even worse for the streaming services. And this continues and continues..
I think we have seen some limits of the catalogues all ready in Spotify in some territories, and more songs will probably be limited in the future.
But the thing is, the streaming services, or any other way to distribute music on the internet, will probably never generate as much profit as disc sales once did. At least not compared record by record. And at least not in a near future. But the Major record companies has not yet figured this out, not accepted this, as of today – and the situation and the mind set will probably take a longer that to year 2020 to change. If ever.
So what will be more interesting than Spotify year 2020? Well, streaming services will of course still be around. And a whole bunch would probably be really good. But they will all, sooner or later, experience the same problems as Spotify is with the content I’m afraid…
But! There is this completely different ’solution’, that is much nicer to fantasize about if you love music… What I’m talking about is the fact that in ten years or so, there will be hard drives affordable for consumers (you, me, and most important; the kids), which has the capasity to store all songs from the complete music history, ever recorded. All music. Ever recorded. On one hard drive.
Isn’t that a much more appealing, comparing to a streaming service limited by the ‘doesn’t-know-better’ music industry? I sertanly think so.
So, here’s an idea for you: Stop talking about file sharing as a good or a bad thing for music. Think of it as a reality. Think of it as a evolution that never will go away, never can be stopped. Just accept it, so we can talk about much more interesting stuff. Like the single iPod filled with the complete history. Like how to find ways of make money from recorded music when all this is reality.
And as soon as all music is at anyones’s iPod, it will easily (and quickly) be copied to everyone’s iPod. (”Hi, I have all the music ever recorded, from 1950-2019 on this little disc, do you want to copy?)
Let’s talk about how will that change music and culture? Let’s talk about how that will change the music industry? How that will change our listening habits? Etcetera, etcetera..
I have no final answers, but at least I have the sense and will to discuss it, and lift these ‘issues’ to the table. Because this is soon a reality, and by then, the music industry need products, packages and contexts that the fans are willing to actually pay for. Or else the future of the music industry as we know it is nothing but dark - if it’s not all ready.