Gone are the days when the best way to come across new music was on the radio. Also gone are the days when you were most likely to hear about a new band or musician from a dedicated music television show. Live music performances on TV are rare these days, and even MTV doesn’t spend much of its time airing music videos anymore. If you want to see the latest video from your favorite performer, the best place to find it is generally YouTube. That, however, might be about to change. As the music streaming wars continue to heat up, and companies continue to seek advantages over each other, music videos are about to become the latest tool in the battle – and Amazon Music is embracing it.
Finding a niche is essential for any music streaming platform to survive. Because most songs and artists – especially the most popular ones – are available across the full spectrum of streaming services, companies have to find things other than song selection to define themselves with. It’s a situation familiar to anyone who knows anything about online slots websites. The internet casino industry exists only to make money, but the difficulty they often face is that the biggest and best online slots developers make their games available to almost everybody. Signing an exclusive deal would be against the financial interests of those companies, and so the slots you’ll find on one website are likely to be very similar to those you’ll find on another. Unable to compete in terms of games, online slots websites like UKslotgames.com try to win customers from each other through discounts, incentives, promotional offers, and additional products. That same tactic is now being used by music streaming companies.
Before existing Amazon Music customers get too excited, this offer isn’t available to everybody. Only those who pay for their subscription will get to see video content. The free-tier, supported by adverts, isn’t likely to see any changes any time soon. The premium “Amazon Music Unlimited” service, though, has started hosting videos with immediate effect. If you’re a subscriber to the $10-per-month service (which is marginally cheaper for Amazon Prime customers), you should start seeing videos spotlighted and automatically offered to you the next time you log in to the app or website. It used the same software as the “X-Ray” feature that debuted on Amazon Music last month.
While the introduction of any new feature to a streaming service is generally welcomed, this move doesn’t necessarily give Amazon a major advantage in the battle against its rivals. Tidal has featured videos for a long time, and that hasn’t helped the platform improve its disappointingly low subscription numbers. The most obvious place to look for music videos is still YouTube Music, which has been so dominant in the music video category for such a long time that it’s doubtful that anybody – not even Amazon with their enormous financial resources – can take a significant bite out of their market share. Apple Music, which is one of Amazon’s closest head-to-head rivals, offers music videos, too. Amazon does offer ‘lossless,’ high-resolution HD streaming, which is an advantage it holds over both Apple Music and Spotify, but that alone isn’t likely to attract significant numbers of new subscribers.
With Amazon hooking itself up with music videos, Spotify remains the one significant streaming platform that doesn’t yet offer listeners the chance to watch music videos while they’re listening and doesn’t appear to have any plans to change in the near future. It’s likely that they don’t have to. Even with so much change and innovation happening within their rival companies, Spotify remains the world’s most popular music streaming platform by a significant margin. Instead of getting involved with videos, Spotify has recently been spending its time and money making headway into the podcast market. The platform has signed up huge names like Joe Rogan and Michelle Obama on exclusive contracts and plans to add more in 2021. Some of the podcasts that are on the platform already can be watched as videos, but the same courtesy hasn’t been extended to musicians. From their approach, it’s clear to see that Spotify thinks that its podcasts, not video content, that will be the next major battleground in the streaming wars. If they’re right, they’ve probably won that race before any of their competitors have even put their running shoes on.
If more platforms add music videos to their offering, we might begin to see musicians and artists spend more time and money on creating them. While the world’s biggest acts still invest significantly in videos, they’re becoming far less common sights from small-to-medium-sized acts. With so few outlets on television willing to show music videos or making space for them, the costs of creating a quality music video are often higher than any benefit that could be obtained from doing so. There are obvious exceptions – we all remember “Gangnam Style” and the “Harlem Shake,” and many of us are still trying to persuade our children to stop watching and signing “Baby Shark,” but they’re the exception rather than the rule. Videos that do ‘break through’ into the public’s mainstream consciousness tend to be novelties rather than serious compositions. Just as video killed the radio star, streaming may now be killing the video star.
The costs involved in Amazon implementing this new service are unknown, so it will be impossible to tell whether it’s worked out well for the company or not, even if viewing figures are high. It never hurts to have something new to offer, though, and it will be interesting to see whether Spotify does eventually respond by reluctantly adding videos to its own service. It’s dominant in the market now, but it can’t afford to take that dominance for granted. Not everybody will survive the streaming wars, and those platforms that fall by the wayside (Pandora, for example) will be the ones that failed to take note of what their competitors were doing and failed to respond to critical changes at critical times. Spotify, Amazon, and Apple probably count as ‘too big to fail,’ and YouTube has Google’s backing, so it’s never going to disappear either, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more of the ‘big four’ back away from music in the years to come if their subscriber numbers take a hit.