As the world’s largest retail media store, Apple’s iTunes is and has been my go to place for new music, as well as some over priced movies and TV shows. Yet, every week there’s another headline which says online music stores are dying, and streaming music is about to destroy iTunes. Really? There’s a fly in that ointment, folks.
Streaming Isn’t Free
Way back in the day, let’s say, about a dozen years ago, before the iPhone, before Pandora Radio or Spotify, back when the iPod held all your music, I owned what I listened to, and it played on only two devices; Mac and iPod.
iTunes on my Mac allowed me to organize music playlists and sync up new music, freshly ripped from CDs to my Mac, then synchronized from time to time to my iPod.
The iPod’s battery lasted forever and a week, was easily synced to Mac or Windows, or charged while driving, and mostly replaced radio listening while in the car. Those days are gone, the iPod is but a footnote in music history, and somehow iTunes eroded into insignificance at the hands of Pandora, Spotify, Amazon, and Google Play music services. Or, has it?
Nobody sells more music online than iTunes Music Store. That’s a fact not in dispute. iTunes Music Store sells more music online than every other music service combined; download or streaming.
Google Play will let me store up to 50,000 songs online and stream them free to my iPhone or iPad. Spotify claims to have about 30-million songs available for streaming online, subscription priced at $10 per month. While Pandora and Spotify count their paying customers, their subscribers, at a dozen million or so, iTunes has hundreds of millions of paying customers who own the music they buy.
Here’s another news flash, streaming music aficionados, streaming is not free. Seriously. It’s not. Verizon is my cell phone carrier and they charge for the bandwidth I use, so, unlike my iPod which was limited to playing music only by battery life, streaming is limited by how much money I’m willing to pay to Verizon. Ditto for AT&T. T-Mobile lets you stream for free, so when my Verizon contract is up I’ll have little trouble checking out the competition for features I want and need and don’t want to pay for.
I know plenty of folks who stream Pandora Radio to their office cubicle farm (someone is paying for that bandwidth, too, not to mention the distraction of an employee listening to music while getting paid), and Spotify has a following, but, honestly, their numbers are anemic to those of us who buy our music and manage our playlists the old fashioned way.
Streaming music has a clever and attractive angle. Who wouldn’t want access to 30-million songs for a nominal monthly fee? I just can’t afford to stream them for hours over a cell phone company’s very expensive wireless pipes. Maybe that’s why Apple can count iTunes customers in the hundreds of millions, while the likes of Pandora and Spotify count their customers (not users) by the millions, and while Amazon and Google don’t even bother to tell anyone about how many customers buy music from their respective services.
Streaming music sounds like a great idea. Maybe one day I’ll be able to afford it.