Paid Streaming…what will it take for music fans to adopt and lay down the cash?

For what seems like years now, the forward thinking pundits of the music industry have been awaiting the arrival of the “next big thing” that will carry the masses into adopting a paid streaming service.

Spotify claimed their ground within the space early on to grand effect, amassing over 20 million paid subscribers to date. Rdio snuck in early in the states with what some would argue is a better user experience but has yet to go much further beyond their early adopters. Tidal, relaunched after being purchased by Jay Z, beat Apple to the punch (after Apple’s purchase of Beats), but even with their higher quality streams, it’s been largely marred by an almost laughable launch event (Madonna humping the podium) and a revolving door of executives. And then Apple rolled out the anxiously awaited Apple Music, a final “Hail Mary” in the paid streaming services race, only to overshadow itself with the concurrent launch of Beats 1 within the app (which gathered more attention and was a better overall experience than the basic function of the service itself).

Alas, none of these ushered in this new era. Conflicting reports are abound as to just how many of the 15 million fans who have tried out Apple Music will remain as their free trial period expires soon. All this on the heels of recent reports that paid subscription sign ups are stalling.

It’s clear, at this point, that exclusives just aren’t enough to win fans over for the long haul. And price points (either going higher for better fidelity or lower with college rates) isn’t driving massive adoption, so what will help us make this turn in the end?

Is there a critical mass beyond the collective services subscription number at this point? What if the masses are content to play their older albums and CDs and not have every song ever recorded just a keystroke away. What’s the plan b folks?

Seriously, music industry, what’s our back up plan? Let’s roll up our sleeves, and dig back into the dirt as there’s gotta be a better way.

We can’t go backwards, so how do we take a step forwards when the hope of “scaling” an already inexpensive subscription model isn’t finding mass adoption?

Perhaps it’s as simple as this: If you’re an artist, keep your focus on your fans, not the industry. If you’re an avid music fan, support the artists you adore directly in whatever means you can.

Paid streaming services aren’t the issue when you shift the focus back to a place that is honest. There’s nothing wrong with paying $5–10 a month to listen to everything your hearts desire, and there’s equally nothing wrong with accessing music for free (when it’s supported by advertising, ala Spotify’s free service, or Pandora). Just be purposeful with supporting the artists you love, and over time, we’ll keep this baby we call the music industry on track and in the fast lane.