It’s 2011, Where Is Spotify?
— 2011 is here and Spotify has not yet launched in the U.S. At the onset of 2011, writers are reviewing their January 2010 predictions that Spotify would soon launch in the U.S. They are thinking back to the many times the company said it planned for a launch before the end of 2010. And some of them are feeling like they were taken for a ride.
If there’s any problem here it is the way Spotify managed expectations. TechCrunch, for example, doesn’t fault the company for failing to secure the licenses for a U.S. launch but it does takes issue with the way the Spotify “won’t admit they have no clue” when the service will launch in the States and that “[Daniel] Ek constantly talks up the service’s imminent launch, and scoffs at those who doubt him.”
Because co-founder Daniel Ek stayed on message until early December, his constant media presence always seemed to foretell an impending launch. Take, for example, his keynote speech at SXSW Interactive in March. At the time his appearance seemed like a pre-launch embrace of the tech-savvy early adopters who would eventually catapult the service to mainstream popularity. In hindsight it seems more than a bit strange that such a grand stage was given to a company so far away from its U.S. launch.
Have the missed deadlines killed all the goodwill? Probably not. Some people may be frustrated that one of their 2010 predictions failed to come true, but when Spotify does launch on these shores it is almost certain to receive the fanfare of a near-mythical startup that wasn’t a year late to its own party. It will help that there will be no surprises since many people have already used the service and fallen in love with the design and user experience — myself included.
And when will this U.S. launch happen? At this point it’s difficult — and foolish — to hazard an exact guess. A month ago Billboard reported that a deal with Sony is “basically done” while Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group are nowhere near completed agreements. Since it’s unlikely that a major music service would launch without one or more of the four majors, it’s safe to say the launch will not happen in the early weeks of the new year.
But will Spotify launch in 2011? It would be difficult to imagine it arriving in America after this year. The longer it waits, the greater the chance other cloud-based services will steal its thunder. Apple and Google have music projects in the works. Sony just launched its Qriocity subscription service in the U.K. and Ireland. Startups ranging from MOG to Thumbplay are hard at work trying to warm American music fans to the idea of putting their collections in the cloud. In other words, there’s no time like the present.
iTunes iCloud All But Certain in 2011
— Apple is 90% likely to launch an iTunes cloud service in 2011 and 95% likely to launch a Verizon iPhone, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. He thinks it’s 80% likely that carriers will start offering subsidies for iPads.
Jaffray is perhaps the leading Apple equity analyst. When he speaks, people listen. Given the media reports about a cloud service and Apple’s obvious need to innovate its seven-and-a-half-year-old iTunes Music Store, putting the odds at 90% seems about right. Apple wants a cloud music service and tends to get what it wants. But strange things can happen on the way to launching a service with licensed content, so setting aside 10% for failure or a change of plans is prudent.