Amazon's Cloud Drive is Not a Camel
-- Two common themes underlie Tuesday's chatter about the launch of Amazon's Cloud Drive, its cloud-based storage service, and Cloud Player, the music player that's integrated with Cloud Drive. It seems the pundits want camels and products with unknown market potential.
You know that saying about a camel being a horse designed by committee? Digital music is filled with camels and short on category killers. Pundits love camels -- they love to see features galore -- but consumers tend to be better served by services that focus on doing one thing really well.
And so it was no surprise that many people failed to appreciate Cloud Drive for what it is: a storage space for the album-oriented MP3 buyers. Cloud Drive is not a feature-rich subscription service filled with bells and whistles. It was never intended to convert cash-strapped tweens into paying customers. It does not integrate social media, discovery or editorial. It doesn't scrobble to Last.fm and it doesn't have personalized artist radio stations. Instead, Cloud Drive does one thing and it seems to do it pretty well.
In creating Cloud Drive, Amazon stuck to an idea born from feedback. "We're doing this in response to customer feedback," Amazon's Craig Pape told Billboard. In other words, Amazon's customers were not asking for a music subscription service. They were not asking for a something akin to Rhapsody or Rdio. Instead of entering a market with unknown potential and a reputation for devouring well-meaning companies, Amazon created a service with a more defined market potential based on actual customer feedback.
Another topic of conversation is the level of innovation in Cloud Drive. Did Amazon beat Google and Apple in the race for a cloud-based music service? Billboard's Antony Bruno points out that Amazon did not acquire licenses and, as a result, Cloud Drive and Cloud Player will lack the features of a licensed service. ReadWriteWeb asks if Cloud Drive is really an innovation and points to a bevy of music services that offer unlimited access to millions of tracks. "To be impressed with Amazon's offering, you have to ignore the numerous startups already serving this space," wrote Sarah Perez. MediaMemo Peter Kafka noted that Cloud Drive "isn't earth-shaking" but admitted it's "quite useful."
And there are some good reviews, too. One came from the influential blog Mashable which said that Amazon did not launch a half-baked product. "Cloud Player is a fully functional, very usable streaming music player that could even make iTunes obsolete for many people, and its ability to play on-device and cloud-based music could quickly make it Android's killer app."
How Roomy Is Amazon's Cloud?
-- How far will Cloud Drive's free 5GB of storage space go for the average person? It should do the trick for most people. A clue can be found in some results of a survey on music recommendation by Orpheus Media. Orpheus found that 40% of consumers surveyed have more than 1,000 tracks in their personal music library. Amazon estimates 1,000 will completely fill its 5GB storage limit. (The 638 songs I uploaded took up 4.9GB.)
Keep in mind the people being surveyed were fairly typical in terms of music consumption. Thirty-five percent consider themselves as either music enthusiasts or savants while 4% are indifferent to music. Only 59% said music plays a key role in their social life. And only 40% are interested in finding new ways to discovering new music. So judging from this survey, only music enthusiasts and savants have over 1,000 files in their collection.
On a side note, the purpose of that study was gauge the performance of recommendation tools. While 77% of those surveyed have discovered new music through a recommendation tool and 92% continue to listen to that discovered music, 40% said recommendation tools are accurate half the time at best.
Fans To Get Protected From Paperless Ticketing
-- One of the next great music industry battles will be about paperless ticketing. And one term you might hear a lot is "Fan Protected Paperless Ticketing." The term was used by Live Nation spokeswoman Linda Bandov in an email to Reuters. She wrote:
We can only succeed when fans are happy, and that's why we support Fan Protected Paperless Ticketing. The facts are that fans, artists, teams, venues and promoters love Fan Protected Paperless Ticketing. Satisfaction is off the charts, and almost every fan says they would rather have access to a good ticket if it means giving up the right to scalp or transfer the ticket."
Ticketmaster clearly thinks its paperless ticketing solution does a good job in serving the customers. But it doesn't appear that Reuters agrees. The headline to the post asks, "Is Ticketmaster hurting consumers?" And the writer appears sympathetic to the opposing Fan Freedom Project being headed by Jon Potter, the former head of the Digital Media Association. The inclusion of the Live Nation statement comes off as an afterthought that doesn't bring much balance to the article.
In any case, both sides will have their chances to duke it out in the arena of public opinion. And Ticketmaster will have ample opportunity to prove itself in a market with other paperless solutions. Let the games begin.