I was intrigued by Benedict Evans’ article about Apple and Beats and Music. In essence, his premise is music (movies and TV to a lesser extent) is legally available and prevalent for platforms and businesses to include in their offering, so the advantage of content exclusivity is vanishing. He puts it this way:
Content isn’t king anymore. Music has gone from a key strategic lever in the tech industry to an afterthought. The same is true for movie and TV libraries — media has gone from being a choke point to a checkbox, a commodity feature that every platform has to offer but where none has any particular advantage. So for a platform owner or device maker, the content you can offer is no longer a strategic asset. Content doesn’t sell devices — because they all have the same content (or, in the case of TV, have the same gap).
Beats Music, Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, Deezer, Google All Access, You Tube, Amazon (reportedly) — ultimately each are attempting to build a great streaming music listening experience. The content will be more-or-less the same, but how the apps look, operate, and enable music discovery (through human curation, machine learning, or a combination) are the differentiators these businesses embrace currently. The devices and platforms will continue to evolve. The context or experience around the music that we consumers have (within the music streaming services) will be the strategic advantage — not the music or the devices used.
Benedict Evans is a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm.