I think people in the music industry miss something very important. Most people simply don’t care very much about music. They may want to listen to a few of the latest hits, and they will do so on the radio, or with an ad-supported streaming service such as Spotify, or on YouTube. For the most part, these people use music as wallpaper. They are not music fans. The percentage of people who care enough about music to want to pay even $10 a month is clearly very small.
There’s also plenty of users who consider themselves to be music lovers, but don’t find new music at a rapid enough pace to warrant spending $10 a month on an all-you-can-eat service. I absolutely love the bands and musicians that I listen to, but only find myself listening to something new a few times a year. Most of the time I’m just cycling through the same 4-5 albums.
The biggest hurdle for me is that my musical taste is very narrow. I’ve tried branching out by browsing the For You tab in Apple Music, but I always found myself gravitating towards albums I already owned. I suppose the last decade of album purchasing isn’t helping much, though, the vast majority of music I’ve found myself enjoying I’ve bought already.
Teenagers today might not be so inclined to buy all the music they love, though. The proliferation of mobile devices with an always-on internet connection changes things — its much easier (and cheaper) to stream the music you want from free services rather than pay money for it.
The value proposition is where things get interesting. As long as free services like YouTube and Spotify exist, why would anyone growing up today pay for music at all — purchases, subscriptions, or otherwise? Sure, there’s plenty of people who don’t care enough about music to pay for streaming services. But the problem gets worse when you consider that, even among those who care deeply about music, there might only be a small group of listeners who are willing to pay for music when its so easy to listen to anything you want for free.