Around seven or eight years ago, I started getting into music very heavily. I was mesmerised by the wide variety of genres and artists I could explore, and so exploring new music and sharing the things I had come across with my friends became a major passion of mine very quickly. At the time, I had one of the iPod touch 3’s (having saved up for one for months), and my father was kind enough to give me the green light regarding purchasing music through Apple’s iTunes store.
I was very surprised when I found out that most of the albums I purchased online were around one third of the price of an album I would buy from my local music and book store. I remember very vividly being surprised about how convenient it was to just tap on a few buttons and download an entire album for a very reasonable price, and them being organised into my music library on their own. It was an interesting topic back then too, since after digital purchases/media hit the scene, the whole world was talking about how everything was “going digital”, and what it could mean. I can recall thinking to myself: “How far can they push this?”
As of today, the last time I bought an album from iTunes goes back to around the end of December 2014, the exact month that I got my Spotify subscription for the first time.
By offering a convenient, instant, and saturated service, streaming services are currently taking the world by storm. Companies such as Spotify, Twitch.tv, and Netflix are pioneering a new wave of digital media, and they’re building their images as popular culture icons. They have gone as far as covering up close to 40% of viewing content around the world.
At first, I was very stubborn about the streaming craze. By the time music and film streaming services like Spotify and Netflix started becoming popular, I was already too financially and practically invested in the idea of buying physical music or searching for Blu-ray discs for my favorite movies, and I was disinterested in the idea of buying subscriptions.
I felt similar things towards live streaming services like Twitch, where you can livestream anything you want to — from video games to cooking. A lot of people I know were spending hours on their computers or phones watching people play video games, write songs, perform sketch comedy, and — for very specific instances — even watch others clean up their houses on camera.
One thing that sparked an interest in me regarding streaming was the pricing of these services. Twitch, for example, is a completely free service that actually requires a lot of server maintenance because of the heavy requirements that simultaneous video streaming brings. Spotify’s pricing stands at a mere 9.99 euros, and offers a wide variety of discounts for users who would like to purchase the service together.
Prior to doing my research for this article, I was confident that most of the streaming services that are reaching mainstream appeal were making favourable profits, as the monetisation agendas that they follow are actually quite impressive. I was especially really interested to see where Spotify currently stands, as they have been in altercations with popular artists regarding their services, and kept on adding countless artists to the database, ranging from very popular to heavily underground.
Out of most streaming services, it can be said that Twitch is the crown jewel. With its broad audience and monetisation plan formed by microtransactions and advertisements, Twitch is valued at around 3.3 billion dollars, and it’s one of the fastest growing websites of 2017. Being backed by Amazon.com, Twitch is the star of the livestream media industry, and has the flexibility to grow into something even bigger in the future.
With this, the largest music streaming service in the world — Spotify — also seems to be in a good state. Even though Spotify’s losses more than doubled in 2017, their revenue increased by 54% at the same time. Spotify’s revolutionary approach to music service was one of the main wake up calls for their industry rivals, including Apple, which opted for a streaming-based service in the summer of 2015 as well.
With their major business level success and out-of-the-box approach to catering for their users, it seems that everything is just newly starting for the reign of streaming services worldwide. While there seems to be enough evidence all around us regarding their growing influence, I don’t think anybody should stop asking themselves the question regarding the future of media and technology:
“How far can they push this?”