What 2014 will bring for digital music

From Beats Music to YouTube’s music subscription service and a startling change for Gracenote, 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for digital music.

Next year will bring new digital services for artists and listeners, as the appetite for streaming and on-demand music continues to soar, and mobile technology advances to supply us with more apps to deliver auditory bliss.

First, a look back on 2013, a year when tech giants as Apple and Twitter launched new music services: Apple unveiled iTunes Radio, the company’s first music streaming service, in September, and Twitter in April launched a music discovery and sharing platform.

Spotify fought back against the big guys by announcing a free, ad-supported mobile app this month. The app used to require a subscription and previously only desktop offered the free version.

Bay Area startups including Emeryville-based DeliRadio, a platform for bands and music venues to make Internet radio stations, and Patreon, the brainchild of musician Jack Conte, have made respectable ripples in the music world.

Now all eyes are on Google, which is working on a music-streaming service that would be available on YouTube and was expected to launch this summer. The latest speculation is that the service will make its debut in the early part of next year.  This head-turning part of the service will be the music videos included in the subscription services.

Next month, Beats Music will launch, and the new music player aims to compete with Spotify, Rdio and Rhapsody. The company recently announced a carrier partnership with AT&T.

“Beats Music is real. We’re in an internal, private beta with people who know and love music (including a few of my personal heroes). We’re providing a few artists and other influencers access to familiarize them with the service and get their early feedback. We’re making improvements based on that feedback. We can’t wait to share it with the world, and are set to launch in the US in January,” Beats Music CEO Ian Rogers wrote in a blog post.

Today, Gracenote, a music data and entertainment technology company headquartered in Emeryville, announced it has been acquired by the Tribune Company. The Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times,  will combine Gracenote with Tribune Media Services to create one of the largest entertainment metadata companies in the world, according to a news release. Gracenote technology used in mobile apps and cars, and the company provides data for about one million movies and TV shows.

We may also see more digital music services launched through crowdfunding, online peer-to-peer fundraising, which has opened the door for entrepreneurs without VC backing to raise seed funding for projects. Such sites will likely see more digital music projects such as DISTRO.fm, a New York-based nonprofit organization based that used Kickstarter to crowdfund a digital music subscription service. The Kickstarter fell way short of DISTRO.fm’s goal, but the service is still seeking donations for the project.

And 2014 may bring bad news for some services: Twitter may be planning to kill #music, as AllThingsD reported, since the app has had low download and usage numbers. And Oakland-based Pandora will continue to struggle with licensing and finances in the coming year since the Internet radio company lost a music rights case against the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. The company has long grappled with the cost of royalties, which eats up about 70 percent of its revenue. Come Jan.1, Pandora may have to pay even more for some songs and risks losing part of its music library.


Image from Apple iTunes


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  • Josh Jenkins

    The Pandora thing make me sad. It would be such a tragedy to have so much hard work and vision go to waste over record company greed. At the same time, it is a wonderful time for streaming, and I am so glad for all the services available (and the ones coming) from the big names like spotify and pandora to the little guys like torch music. I think a lot of good things will happen in 2014.

  • Ishkabbible

    I walked away from crap the record companies are selling a few years ago and listen to strictly indie music now. Haven’t missed it a bit, and I have discovered TONS of awesome new music. Now that the cost of recording and publishing music has fallen to zero, there is really no excuse for the labels to continue to exist IMHO.