13. March 2012–
Streamer in mouth, bottle in hand, Spotify finally rocked up to the German online music party today, and while this has caused much fanfare with the expat/hacker community in Berlin who have sampled the music service previously or though proxies, we wonder if it's missed the action?
Could delays in securing the right partnership deals and wranglings with the notoriously prickly GEMA mean that Spotify won’t be a key player in the revolutionary scene that it helped to kickstart?
Why so late to Germany?
Spotify was officially launched in October 2008 by Swedish startup Spotify AB before a UK launch in 2009. By last year, the service had approximately ten million users worldwide, with three million paying subscribers in territories across Europe, and a US launch in 2011.
So why has it taken so long for a rollout in Germany? It’s certainly not the quoted issues with perfecting a translated service, as Austria has had a German-language Spotify for two years.
The elephant in the German party room (standing next to the snacks) has to be GEMA – the German performance rights group who charge notoriously high rates for song playback (with recent guidelines pointing to a whopping 1.3 cents per play) and has put paid to services such as Grooveshark and hobbled others such as YouTube in Germany.
Spotify refused to be drawn into discussions on rights, telling us that “Spotify believes that if you’re going to roll out a music service in a country like Germany, where the music fans rightfully demand excellence, you want to be sure everything is perfectly in place for launch”.
But just how much more exacting are consumers in Germany that it takes three years longer than the UK to launch a polished product?”
(more after the dog in headphones...)
Have the homegrowns overtaken?
Whatever the real reasons for the delay, it left a wide-open playing field for other music services to fill the Spotify void for a number of years.
Simfy, the Cologne-based Spotify clone is probably the biggest threat, having just landed €30m in additional funding to bolster its user-base (which is already at two million). Created by Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, Rdio is another key player, moving Spotify’s social sharing model to its core.
Privacy is paramount in Germany
There’s also some annoyance at the compulsory Facebook sign-on that Spotify users in Germany were faced with today. German consumers take privacy issues seriously and will mobilise when there's a problem.
When we took this to Spotify they tried to placate users by maintaining is was part of a “seamless social experience”, urging us to think of the single login as a “virtual passport, designed to make the experience smoother and easier”. Hmm.
Given the fact that German consumer rights groups are willing to take on behemoths such as Facebook over issues of privacy, strongarm Facebook tactics are not something that the German audience warms to.
The proof is in the (really lovely) product
But, despite all these initial consumer misgivings and market challenges, at the end of the day, Spotify is a really great product. IMO, the useability has yet to be matched by any of its competitors, the catalogue is great, and the ability to share is seamless.
It’s a totally compelling feature-set that has made it a favourite in nearly every territory its launched in. Today felt like being reunited with an old friend with a massive record collection – albeit one who is annoying late to the party... but you still welcome them in to spin some tunes.
Image credit: flickr user Jitter Buffer