Apple Music and the ghost of being too early
We previously talked about the phenomenon we baptized the Ghost of being too early, or as it is known in the entrepreneur world: Timing.
History is plenty of failed products that were introduce too early, later to be introduce successfully by another party, in many cases a similar or the same product. The latest of these examples of possibly successful product is Apple Music.
The idea of a offering a music streaming services goes back to the growing of the internet, in the late 90’s. This idea was materialized by services like music.net and Rhapsody. By that time, Rhapsody was the hot kid on the block, which seduced one of the players of the era, Realnetworks. Real bought Rhapsody in the year 2003. Rhapsody is a service which charges a monthly fee in exchange for listening to music unlimited.
So why these services didn’t caught up with people?
As always there were several factors that are easy to pinpoint now, almost impossible to see during the era. These factors were not exclusively from one domain, like:
- The concept for paying for music on the internet was still not established. It took the iTunes music store to be the first formally accepted music store on the internet. By the time, the concept of owning your music was still relevant, instead of paying a monthly fee of unlimited music you didn’t own. So, it took around a decade for people to change the mindset of caring to own, to not caring at all. Of course, in that decade other changes happened that helped that mentality to change.
- Broadband was starting to become widely available, however the speeds were still slow to listening to music without affecting other chores (avg speeds of ~500 Kbps at the time, that’s half a megabit).
- All these services needed a PC to work, which meant only one person at a time could enjoy the streaming service.
So, lets put forward those causes and see what changed! This time in reverse order.
- PC costs went down to a level that many household started to have more than one PC, however more importantly, the fact that these costs were down allowed many innovations to flourished like smartphones and tablets, which meant you didn’t need to be in front of a PC to enjoy many internet services.
- It is safe to say broadband is widely available cheaper (in some countries) and faster than in 2001, the year of the initial launch of the music streaming services.
- However, all these changes also meant that music piracy was rampant, until one player came along to change that: Spotify. Spotify was able to convince record companies to allow free streaming of music to anyone, record labels received compensation for each time the music got played, something they have being doing all along since the radio days, thus the business model is not new at tall. Granted, the way this model is based, doesn’t please all the artists.
- The cloud! oh the cloud! The cloud has forced everybody to release the mindset of owning something, and change it to have it safe in third parties storage servers… somewhere. Therefor, owning music (among many things), is just a thing of the past. Besides, one very important factor is that the new generations (millennia) also grew up without the importance of a music CD. What’s an album? Since that concept isn’t embedded in their minds, is just natural that streaming is the way to go.
Even so, record companies are not that happy with Spotify. The free tier in Spotify it’s ads based, which doesn’t bring as much money as a paid tier. As such, this is when Apple Music comes into play. Because all the flexibility currently available, it’s not that crazy to offer paid streaming services.
So, as you can see Apple Music is certainly not innovative, while Apple products have been a big part that caused the shift of a service such as Apple Music to have reasonable chances of success. Kudos to Apple to continue playing the innovators dilemma, and being aware that the iTunes music store concept works today, but it’s slowly decaying. And as for Rhapsody, the service is still available today, but it was definitely ahead of its time (like many others) and for a time, it was a ghost that was too early.