Spotify launches today in Australia and New Zealand, delivering 16 million songs to its members. To succeed, the company believes it has to be better — and not just better than its direct competitors.
"When we launched, we launched with a free service. We wanted to come up with a service that was better than piracy, and in order to get people away from the Bit Torrent sites you can't just offer them a subscription service," Spotify's Jim Butcher told CNET Australia.
"You've got kids out there who have never paid for music in their life, they're not going to jump from not paying for anything, downloading from Bit Torrent sites or listening to it on YouTube, straight into a $10 per month service. You need to give them something that's better than piracy, something that is legal and free and still pays the artists."
Spotify's free version, supported by advertising, not only offers an alternative to piracy, but is also one of the key differentiators for Spotify as it attempts to secure a foothold in a market already flooded with comparable services. The launch of Spotify brings the total to 11 music-streaming services currently operating in Australia, with MOG to launch with its partner Telstra in the coming months. All of the available services are priced at under AU$15 per month (Spotify is AU$11.99 for a Premium account), most have apps for the major mobile platforms and a number of them offer comparable catalogues of music.
Spotify is also hoping that its built-in apps platform will sway Aussies to take up the service. At its Aussie launch, there are 29 apps available, including services like TuneWiki for song lyrics, and SongKick Concerts for helping fans to discover concerts nearby. Spotify also worked with youth music radio station Triple J to create an app for the network. This app catalogues the station's Feature Albums over the past several months, as well as its popular annual Hottest 100 list, dating back to 1993.
The service will have several more partners in Australia, too. Virgin Mobile will be helping to promote the new service through a how-to guide for its subscribers, and Western Digital has announced that Spotify will be available for its customers using the WD Live media streamer. This, according to Butcher, is just the beginning.
"We want your music to be available wherever you go. In the future, we want to be in TVs, we want to be everywhere in cars, we want to be wherever you need your music. We are absolutely looking into new, different devices," Butcher said.
This is one area where its competitors have a head start. Sony's Music Unlimited service, for example, can be used beyond just PCs and mobiles on the company's compatible TVs and the PlayStation 3 gaming console. Songl is another service that's streaming to home audio equipment, being compatible with Sonos-branded audio devices. Spotify has brand power, though, with over 10 million subscribers in the Northern Hemisphere, compared with just 1 million for Sony's service. Naturally, Butcher expects these figures to grow, especially once the advantages of streaming music spread beyond the early adopters.
"We are going to have to work to educate everyone about the power and potential of music streaming, the fact that you don't have to buy every single track, the fact that you can just access. The difference between access over ownership is going to be interesting; it's going to come, and people are coming to understand it with the likes of YouTube, but now its moved on even further; you have music in super high quality, and it's instantaneous."