Brian Zisk’s annual SFMusicTech conference is always a good place to gauge the temperature of the music industry. And judging by the vitality of this year’s event, things are finally beginning to look up in an industry that has been decimated by the file-sharing revolution. As Jon Irwin, president of the on-demand streaming service Rhapsody, told me at SFMusicTech, smartphone technology – particularly the iOS and Android platforms – has enabled a radically new experience for music lovers.
As Irwin explained, this shifts the industry’s business model from the sale of product to what he calls “streaming as a platform,” noting the increasing dominance of subscription services like Rhapsody, Spotify and Pandora. The big new business opportunities, Irwin says, both lie with the collection of data about consumer behavior and with enabling artists to build much more intimate relationships with their fans. With their more than a million paid subscribers, the 11-year-old Rhapsody remains an important player in this new economy.
But why should we choose Rhapsody over newer and splashier services like Rdio, Spotify or Pandora? According to Irwin, it’s because Rhapsody really puts us in control of our music, allowing us to take it with us wherever we go. And for artists, Irwin insists, Rhapsody is a much better investment, proving greater revenue than either Spotify or Pandora.