Streaming music is too expensive, say a worrying number of consumers


We’re now eight years since Spotify’s launch changed music forever.

It’s been an eventful ride for Daniel Ek’s business and its ever-growing band of competitors, which now include Apple (Music), Google (Play Music), Microsoft (Groove) and Amazon (Prime Music).

But, for Spotify and most services like it, one thing has remained unchanged: a premium service which charges $9.99 a month.

There have been some interesting attempts to challenge this model.

Rdio, for example, launched a heavily-limited $3.99 per month option in May last year. It went bust six months later.

Back in 2013, arrived on the market – a platform from a London-based startup, which allowed consumers to ‘borrow’ 20 tracks a month for just £1. It went bust a year later.

Another UK startup, Psonar, has pioneered a pay-as-you-go model, with users handing over fractional amounts to listen on a song-by-song basis.

Last year, it turned to crowdfunding online to raise more cash.

As most of the industry recognises, Spotify’s economic model is already challenged by its attempts to secure comprehensive licensing deals (perhaps outside of US mechanical royalties…) from the music biz.

In 2014, the company brought in €1.08bn in revenue, but paid out €876.1m as cost of sales – mainly made up of expenditure on music royalties.

Clearly, any lessening of Spotify’s current premium pricing structure could have a devastating impact on its business.

Try telling that to the consumer.

According to Nielsen Music’s annual 360 report, which polls 3,000+ US music fans, the price of Spotify and other services remained a significant barrier to entry for millions of people in 2015.

The survey discovered that, despite the fact 75% of music fans listen online in the US each week, and 44% do so on a smartphone, they are very price conscious.

Of those who currently use streaming services, 83% said cost was their top reason for choosing a platform.

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Meanwhile, of those ‘not likely’ to subscribe to Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play or other services, 46% said they were ‘too expensive’.

It was the most common answer given when respondents were asked to name the top three obstacles stopping them from subscribing.

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To a significant degree, the evidence suggests that the music industry needs to listen to these people. For they are many.

Another outcome from Nielsen’s 360 Music report was that 78% of all respondents said they were ‘somewhat or very unlikely’ to pay for a streaming service in the next 6 months.

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Think about the potential scale of that for a second.

There are 319m people living in the US – 78% of that number works out at very close to 250m people.

And of those people, 46% – 115m, in the US alone – say they won’t pay for streaming simply because it’s too expensive.

It doesn’t stop there.

The second most common reason people non-subscribers said they wouldn’t pay for streaming?

‘I can stream music for free.’

Interestingly, MBW analysis last year discovered that Spotify’s actual average subscription price around the world amongst its active users was significantly lower than $9.99.

When mobile bundles, international price variation and promotional cost reductions were all factored in, we estimated, the average Spotify consumer is, in reality, paying €5.45 a month ($5.95) – or €65.50 ($71.30) per year.

Maybe someone should tell those 115m non-paying Americans.


[Download the full Nielsen Music 360 report through here.]Music Business Worldwide

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  • The monthly cost is a bargain. The problem is that the record labels have allowed music to become devalued, so $9.99 is perceived as being expensive.

  • Hakunamatata

    Expensive?! That is bullsh1t! For 9.99 € monthly, you can not buy 2 pack of cigarettes in France.

  • Respect The Music

    Perhaps also worth highlighting the 9% who are likely to pay in the next 6 months. That’s close to 30 million. Discount that by the % of popn. that don’t listen to music, and you still get a figure north of 20 million, times your further discounted subs rate of $71/yr = $1.5bn annualized new revenue. Not insignificant, and definitely helps close the gap.

  • Lutz Barz

    What happened to the better model of internet radio?

  • Juan Lauda

    If the pricing model was a penny a stream that would bring the pirce right down for all but the heaviest users

  • Craig M. Wales

    Why should i pay to stream music when the free version has everything you really need. So I have to listen to a few commercials, not big deal. Half the time I’m streaming music while i’m working to it ends up being white noise anyways.

  • Colin D

    The amount it costs outweighs what I would spend in a year on music that I would actually own a physical copy of, and with a subscription service it would never be mine. Whilst music is available from many sources to stream for free, the fact that it costs as much as, if not more than, tv streaming services is what really puts me off, ‘so what’ if a service provides access to 40m+ songs, most people will still limit themselves to their own much smaller circle of favourite artists.