Though I don’t completely share his view of who stands to benefit, I enjoyed Perpetual Motion’s thoughtful take on the SpiralFrog debate. He says the issue isn’t one of rent versus own:
I believe that consumers want to “control” their music, while “ownership” of the music is not that significant. This may seem like a subtle distinction, but I see it as critically important to charting future business models in the digital music arena. As music consumers, we want to listen to the right music, on the right device, at the right time. In a market increasingly dominated by consumers seeking instant gratification and endless diversity of choice, I believe that models favoring selection over ownership will gain traction. In many areas, I believe that consumers are becoming less attached to owning physical content, yet even more attached to owning their preferences.
In this context, he continues, the hurdles presented by SpiralFrog’s not-quite-free model will ultimately doom it. He goes on to say that this problem will benefit Pandora, but I disagree with him on that point. Though Pandora’s “Oracle of Music” concept is appealing, its’ endless free stream is still tethered to the desktop. My qualified endorsement of SpiralFrog is mostly centered on the fact that their free content can be played on a portable device.
Pandora is intriguing, but still requires spending a buck before a track can be moved to an iPod. Most of the songs on the average iPod weren’t bought at digital music stores, and probably never will be.
I think PM and I mostly agree on the value of subscription services like Rhapsody (To Go) and AOL Music Now Premium. While fans love music, they tend to move quickly from one fad to the next, particularly with hip hop, the most popular (and pirated) genre. With a good subscription service, we can fill our players with whatever we want and never pay more that the monthly fee.
Ultimately, SpiralFrog’s success will come down to whether or not it’s worth 15 bucks a month to bypass the adverts and have greater control over the listening experience.