Posted May 15th, 2015 (1:40 pm) by Matt Felten
Beats Music
Music Player: 

A new bully is on the block in the land of music streaming, and it's underhandedly trying to destroy the free tier.

It has recently come to light that tech monolith Apple has been pressing record labels to force streaming services such as Spotify to do away with their unpaid streaming options by only licensing music for paid consumption. The end game? Clear the way for their own recently purchased and soon to be launched streaming service Beats Music, expected to be renamed Apple Music once it is fully integrated and relaunched.

Sorry Apple, it already exists.

Killing free streaming would give Beats Music a huge leg up upon its release, as currently only 15 Million of Spotify's 60 million users pay for the premium service. If they achieve their goal, a huge market segment of listeners would open up to Apple, as the new service is expected to have not only exclusive content but multiple free trial months followed by a $5 subscription, lower than Spotify's and most other streaming services price points. Apparently Apple is also going after YouTube, offering to match the licensing fee to Universal Music Group if they pull all their music from the site.

While this cutthroat business strategy may be beneficial to the success of Beats Music, it would be at the cost of the consumer, many of whom have no problem hearing ads in return for free music streaming and might not be able to afford the $10 per month for premium. This blatant disregard for the consumer in pursuit of profit is all too reminiscent of other monopoly corporations in other industries who simply have too much power over a marketplace and will utilize any means necessary to maximize profit. Take Comcast for example, who in the past has relentlessly throttled Netflix's video streaming in order to extort them into paying an unfounded “interconnection fee.”

This type of behavior is not only anti-competitive, but it is an insult to an already injured industry. The music business is in an undeniably unstable state, as it continues to struggle to adapt to the internet era of music. Apple is clearly taking advantage of their chokehold on music sales and distribution to try and dictate the way this relatively new system operates before the government has a chance to. It should not be up to the strong arm of one of the largest corporations in the world acting on private interests and in an aggressive, potentially criminal manner to decide how music can or cannot be sold, distributed, or consumed. Yes, the system is broken, but what we really need is transparent legislation that takes into account consumers, producers, and corporations alike.

Fortunately, suspicion has been aroused by The Department of Justice and the FTC, who are currently looking into the recent business activity surrounding the lobbying of record labels by Apple. We can only hope that a full investigation takes place and these business practices are condemned and punished to prevent this monopolistically immoral behavior from continuing. If Apple really wants to steal customers away that badly from Spotify and Youtube, they should put their energy in to making the streaming service better than it's competitors, not trying to sabotage them through shady, closed-door dealings.

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