Listening to music is a strong habit of most people, that’s why music apps have seen some great traction since smartphones became a choice of a world customer and the demand on music app developers has increased. We have covered before how to enable music / video streaming in your app with a review of the music / video players available on iOS and Android platforms. You can use those solutions for any type of app that has audio or video features. But what about music player app development with a special focus on music streaming, discovery and search? Given our expertise in music application development, we decided to take a look at the audio apps market and their technology.
Music apps market overview
As practically anything else consumed on the Internet, music is quickly moving to on-the-go intake on mobile devices.
The report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) shows that streaming and subscription are the mainstream models for music apps business. This assumption is supported by a huge growth of popularity of the music streaming solutions among customers - paying subscribers to subscription services grew from 8M in 2011 to 28M in 2014.
Record companies are experiencing increase of income from music streaming and subscription, which prompted them to license the expansion of global services, such as Deezer and Spotify (both stream audio content from Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group record labels).
Record companies also backed services like Muve Music, Napster (acquired by Rhapsody), Rdio and WiMP. Muve Music, one of the most successful music subscription service, which is an audio download service, not a music streaming app, was reported to have been put on sale by AT&T, an American multinational telecommunications corporation, in May this year.
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Warner Music has signed a deal with Shazam, a mobile application that recognizes music and media playing around you, to boost its marketing and A&R (Artists and Repertoire) activity. The deal lets Warner access Shazam’s proprietary musical data and help find promising, unsigned artists.
AT&T and Beats are currently in a partnership together. Beats Music is a serious competitor of Spotify, Rhapsody and a bunch of other music streaming apps out there. The service relies on a $10-a-month subscription model. However, as long as Beats has licensing deals with the same record labels as its competitors, the audio all those streaming guys provide is essentially the same. Therefore, Spotify and Pandora, for example, have an advantage with their free ad-supported memberships, which allow to listen to playlists and full albums but with adverts between tracks.
Soundcloud, a social sharing platform for audio, allows users to upload, record, promote and share their originally-created sounds. The platform offers their API to other music applications, including yours, if you ever decide to develop a music app. The Soundcloud API allows to upload or download music and sound files. Because of the rows with artists and labels around the problem of broadcasting Soundcloud’s licensed audio through their API for free, Soundcloud launched a partner program for music creators - on SoundCloud. Revenues from advertising will go some way towards paying these professional artists and their labels.
Music mobile app developers should consider the audio streaming and subscription models listed above, as well as the social sharing features and building connections with artists.
In order to better understand the trends and tendencies of the music app development, let’s see what the kings of mobile have on their minds.
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Apple music deals
In May Apple acquired Beats Electronics, the headphones and online music company, for $3 billion which was the biggest and very un-Apple-like deal, according to Re/code. One reason for this might be that Apple iTunes download sales have stalled.
With Beats Music Apple must have attempted to catch up with the subscription trend. However, the other day TechCrunch reported that Apple plans to shut down Beats Music. They actually call it “changing the Beats Music brand”, but it still remains unclear what Apple is going to do next in streaming music. Presumably, they might roll streaming into iTunes. But we’ll soon see where it all goes. It is likely that Apple bought Beats for the sake of headphones in the first place.
At WWDC 2014 Apple has announced a free ad-supported offering iTunes Radio with a “buy” button to make song purchases in the iTunes store. iTunes Match subscription lets users access music without any ads. iTunes Radio resembles Pandora radio service. In order to differentiate its services in the face of strong competition, Apple added a news station from National Public Radio (NPR). NPR has been freely available via Web browsers and mobile apps for some time, and already attracts 30 million visitors a month, Re/code says.
Update. At WWDC 2015 Apple has announced Apple Music, a service which combines radio streaming, music streaming and music downloads. The monthly Apple Music subscription will cost $9.99 for sole user and $14.99 for an up to six members family that uses iCloud Family Sharing. Subscribers will be able to download albums and playlists to listen to them offline, while for free users only streaming radio with limited skipping will be avaliable.
The company also reimagened iTunes radio, having backed by marquee artists as DJs and introduced a brend new Connect feature that allows artists to share their music, photos and messages with their fans.
Google Play Music deals
Google Play Music now has three components - the Play Music Store, Scan & Match and All Access. The Play Music Store is a-la-carte download service, that sells individual songs for $0,99 - $1.29. The download services include iTunes Store, a leading provider, Amazon, 7digital, EMusic and others.
Scan-and-Match (locker) is a "song matching" feature that would scan a user's music library on their computer and add to their online library any songs present on Google's servers without the need to upload them.
All Access is a subscription-based service available for $9.99 per month. It is designed to work seamlessly alongside the existing Google Play free scan-and-match locker service. This means that users can store their existing music library in the cloud and stream it remotely or access it offline from any Android or iOS device. Google Play Music All Access was the fastest-growing subscription service in 2013, according to IFPI report.
Google Play Music All Access is still far behind the industry leaders, which might be the reason why Google acquired the audio streaming service Songza. Forbes says, Google wants a similar music curation feature Beats has, the type of a thing Songza specializes in. The secret of this music curation is a human generated algorithm.
Update. So Google actually outran Apple, first adding Songza's curated playlists feature, and then launching free, ad-supported Play Music service. Users now can pick a station, created by the company's music experts, depending on their mood, activity and music preferences. However, the free service has a limitations: users can skip tracks only six times, can pause, but not rewind nor even see the name of the next track. In the same time, All Access users have full access to playlist controls, being able to rearrange, rename and download them.
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Even though streaming services are experiencing success and are likely to keep to this level in future, it doesn’t mean that streaming tracks will lead customers to carry through purchases. Just because you happen to be listening to the song, you will not necessarily want to buy anything from this artist.
Media Insights and Discussions in Action (MIDiA), a company that provides research and consulting for media and technology companies with a core focus on music, suggests that music industry should think less about Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) and more about how many people are actually engaging with digital music services. According to the Global Music Forecasts research, we are entering the fourth phase of digital music, one that will be defined by curation, programming and affordable subscription pricing.
Francis Keeling, global head of digital business of the Universal Music Group, says: “To fully engage users, services need to provide a well-curated experience. Music fans love to discover new music, and digital services need to be experts at music recommendation.”
The jukebox can solve the short time need, but in order to be able to survive in a highly competitive digital music industry, your app has to be a go-to service that cracks the traditional discovery process and offers something valuable to a user, something that can emphasize their music identity best of all.
Today, with major services offering up to 37 million tracks, competition has shifted to recommendation and discovery. Beats Music claims to be an expert at music recommendation. This be the reason why Apple felt attracted to the company. Ian Rogers, the chief executive of Beats Music, argued that the systems, that heavily rely on computer algorithms for music discovery will inevitably fail because the people behind them just misunderstand music.
Internet radio sites like TagWorld, Last.fm and Pandora let you type in a song or artist you like and instantly find other music that might fit your taste. But Pandora works very differently. It is based on the Music Genome Project, an automated musicological analysis that ignores genres, user connections or ratings. The idea is to figure what you like and not what a market might like by analyzing the musical structures present in the songs you like, and then playing other songs that possess similar musical traits. This approach is definitely interesting, says NYTimes, but on the other hand, it distances users of the cultural audio information, meaning the tastes of your friends, peers, music critics.
Spotify Premium service subscribers get access to “discover” feature that offers enhanced recommendations as well as playlisting. Spotify also has the Browse editorial pages, which curates playlists by mood, genre or news item.
You know what they all lack? A global spread. Neither Spotify, nor Pandora functions in Ukraine, for example. So there is a big potential for local music services.
Our experience in music application development
We have some experience in music streaming app development. One company we have been working with on iPhone / iPad and Android music apps development is called iBroadcast.
The app allows the playback of audio data from the local files from any device or the Internet. In other words, it plays the music owned by the user. iBroadcast has integration with Dropbox and Google Drive accounts, which allows to seamlessly import the songs into iBroadcast library.
This is a great solution that enables you to listen to your music or any other audio offline without having to download the tracks on a mobile device. iBroadcast doesn’t sell music, nor it offers a subscription.
Music streaming apps should be licensed
People mainly choose subscription services because of the music discovery, the ability to listen, without having to buy each song, and a “legitimate environment”. The study shows that 61% of Internet users use licensed digital music services. Licensed audio services establish trust relationships with music consumers, even if your music app works on a premium subscription only. This is what happened to Beats Music.
In order to stream music you need to have the performance rights license. This can be handled by companies like ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) or BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated). Read more about this here.
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If you want to develop something related to music, but not necessarily a music streaming service, you can have a look at the stuff I wrote about event planner apps (Songkick is a good example of a music concerts' tickets sales app) and my interviews with the founder of brokenmusic, a service that connects recording studios with music artists and the founder of Blicko, a Swedish social playlist solution for public ventures.
Hope this article was useful! In case you have questions, suggestions or propositions referring to music app development, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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