March 19, 2014 at 11:17 am

Poll: Would You Pay for a Super-Premium Music Service?

super premium music service poll
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry released its annual global recorded music revenue report this week. Unlike the previous report, this one saw a decline in overall recorded music revenue by 3.9 percent, to $15 billion — mostly due to shrinking revenues in Japan that we totally saw coming.

Over a billion of that was due to the growth of on-demand music subscription services such as Deezer, Google Play All Access, Muve, Rdio, Rhapsody, and Spotify. Some people still mistakenly believe these services to be “cannibalizing” digital and physical sales, which is silly, because that is exactly what they are supposed to do. If artists, labels, publishers, and songwriters were paid every time someone played a song on a computer or smartphone, the recorded music industry would be bigger than ever.

One reason more people don’t pay for music subscriptions, according to Recode’s calculations, is that most people want to pay $45 to $65 per year for recorded music, and these subscriptions typically cost twice that, at $10 per month, the price of four bus rides or two lattes.

What about people in the other direction — more serious music people who would gladly pay more for an even better, more complete on-demand music service? Economists have a word for what these people are currently enjoying: consumer surplus. It means these people would pay more, but there’s nothing offered to them, so they get a better deal than necessary, from the businesses’ point of view. From their point of view, they are getting part of something for free — but they’re also missing out on what a more expensive option could offer.

The idea that underserved demand might exist for a super-premium music subscription surfaced during a conversation I had during SXSW last week. Granted, a music festival is where one might expect to find such people, but in my quick and dirty poll, 100 percent of the people in that conversation were willing to pony up $20-$25 per month for a super-premium music service.

What is a super-premium music service, anyway?

It’s a purely theoretical construct in my head, for now anyway, but one advantage could lie in its catalog. Some artists and labels like to “window” their releases, offering them, say, first as an NPR exclusive, then on CD, vinyl, and MP3, and only then to the on-demand music services. Others, such as the Beatles and Thom Yorke, prefer to keep their music off of the subscription services completely. I assume many of these artists would be open to offering their music to an on-demand service for serious music people willing to pay more, at least in terms of windowing to super-premium, and then to premium.

Increased sound quality (lossless or better when possible), the ability to cache more than the 3,333 songs currently allowed by the labels on a mobile device, the ability to telegraph to all of your Facebook and Twitter friends that you are awesome because you pay more for music (via the word “super-premium user” appearing when you share or scrobble what you’re listening to), early-released singles, guest DJs, rare and live releases, merch deals, exclusive, high-quality content (photos, blog posts, personal notes, etc.) from participating artists, and anything else worthy of serious music fans could be a part of a super-premium music service.

Now that we’ve explained the concept, let’s find out how many of you would pay $20-$25 per month for something like this (Update: It looks like PollDaddy no longer displays the results of polls, so we will update the results manually below the poll):

So far, 54 percent say yes and 46 percent say no.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/xomiele

  • Brad Hill

    Not as described. But I would pay super-premium prices for a specialized concert service that took me to venues around the world for live-streamed shows. Especially classical. The Vienna Philharmonic took residence in Carnegie Hall for a week? Why were virtual tickets not available for all the concerts (plus the whole Carnegie season)?

  • Anonymous

    Things I would pay a streaming service more for:

    - $2 for 100% correct metadata
    - $2 if it would host podcasts and offer a directory and discovery system for them
    - $1 if it would remember the point at which I stopped listening on my phone and picked up at that spot on my desktop and vice-versa
    - $6 for the ability to download studio masters, so I can hear the secrets of why my favorite songs work, hear isolated tracks, and remix everything at will
    - $1 for the ability to put my remixes, or my band’s cover songs, on the service for other fans
    - $2 for a mobile interface simple enough to operate in the car
    - $3 if I knew, for sure, that 100% of that $3 was going to the artist and songwriters I support
    - $2 to be able to find and listen to independent artists within 25 miles

    Things I would pay a streaming service LESS for:

    - $1 less for the ability of celebrities to play me their playlist
    - $1 less for giving artists the ability to sell me T-shirts
    - $1 less for the ability to send me notes because that is Twitter and it’s free
    - Drop service entirely: if it spams my friends that I’m using a premium service
    - Drop service entirely: for lossless audio. I’m not upgrading my data plan so I can be delivered something I can’t even hear in blind testing.

  • Eliot Van Buskirk

    Good points.

  • Anonymous

    Nothing can be “better” than lossless, I think you mean higher than CD fidelity (which is arguably a marginal increase in fidelity that’s not worth the pursuit) . Spotify’s 320 kbps really can’t be beat 99.999% of the time.

    I used to spend 500-1000+ on music a year, but $10/month is a deal. There’s nothing more that I need – in fact I’d be happy to spend more, but I’m not complaining.

    I’d pay a few extra dollars if my streaming didn’t count against my mobile carrier’s data plan. ALthough that’s theoretical – I listen in the car at standard quality and working in the road noise and amount my attention is on the road and not the music, I don’t have the brain cycles to ascertain that the music is 96/128/? kbps.

  • Jeff Benjamin 제프 벤자민

    I would think that price (or more?) would be fair if it was all the music from all over the world. America can’t get a lot of Asia and Europe’s music and I’d salivate for music that’s been uploaded onto any streaming service would automatically put it on to the premium, all-in-one service.

  • dan stenberg

    I am very happy with the Beats Family AT&T plan……….

  • Jeff

    People already are paying $20/month for lossless streaming in certain countries, you don’t have to look very far for that.

    I’d welcome that in the UK but more than the encrichment fluff like photos I just want more complete catalogues. I find I listen to what Spotify has rather than what I want.

  • Geir Nordby

    Already paying 30 dollars per month for lossless FLAC streaming, pdf artwork, etc. Check

  • Anonymous

    I hate streaming, subscription and all these so called “services”. I want to own the music I listen to, preferably on an LP, a CD or a HD file on a nice sounding stereo with big speakers, a real amp, a vintage turntable and so forth. For mobility, I use several beefed up ipod classics or the Astell & Kern 240. For streaming and the like I am content with youtube, which is free and more extensive than “crappify”, “deezease” and so forth and on my computer.
    3 different ways of listening.