Music Business

Five Factors That Will Influence the Growth of Streaming Music in 2012

We all know that in December of 2012, the Mayan calendar ends as will the world, but before that fateful day, I've got a lot of music to listen to and, like many, I seem to be doing that increasingly on my computer and via streaming music services.

Whether it is Pandora or Grooveshark or Last.FM or Spotify, there are plenty of choices available. None of them seem to be turning any sort of substantial profits and there are still all sorts of hurdles to be negotiated, but it seems quite clear that streaming via subscription, something many thought would never catch on, is the wave of the future, but is the future now? Maybe.

When it comes to streaming music, there are five key factors that will impact its growth in the coming year.

5. Learning Curve

My mom told me over Christmas that she has been using Spotify with regularity lately and has been on Pandora for well over a year. That bodes well for those services and for streaming in general. The easier these services are to use, the more the average person will try them out. And, as much as music snobs want to believe that this is purely their domain, without the general public listening, none of them have a legitimate shot at survival.

4. Legal Issues

Grooveshark and others are facing challenges from the music industry and, if the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) manages to pass, potentially from Congress. In order for start ups to have a shot a success, they will need to spend their time improving their offerings, not wrangling in court. At some point, the legal system will need to address, in more broad terms, the legality of these services and find a way to make them profitable while compensating artists. I'm afraid we are still a ways off from that.

3. Bandwidth

As more music is streamed, more space will need to be made available for all that music. Fortunately, cloud services like iCloud and others are beginning to make access to all your music -- and the music of others -- a much easier process. The further development of cloud storage of music will have a huge impact on streaming in 2012.

2. Consolidation

As much as many people hate the consolidation of power -- and as much as it can ruin very good things -- there needs to be some coming together in the new year to ensure protection from even larger entities. Small companies like Jango or Pandora could greatly benefit from the support of Google, AOL and Apple in the fight to make more music available online, even as they compete with them.

1. Access and Integration

The day that streaming music is easily accessible in the car is the day that it becomes a modern day version of the radio. The car literally spawned the radio boom and getting streaming services integrated into modern automobile technology could spark a similar explosion among streaming services. Finally, someone has got to find a way to break the logjam with Facebook. The first service that truly adds music to the Facebook experience will change the game for everyone else.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke