Spotify had its big event yesterday. No news on Lossless/hifi audio, unless you count this:
The new user interface, set to be released soon, promises CD-quality audio and will initially only be available in select regions. Spotify is also working on a HiFi feature that will bring higher fidelity audio to the service, further improving the listening experience for users
Look ar theverge.com, a long intervju with co-president Gustav Söderström.
The HiFi product is said to have been ready for a year, Spotify employees have access to it.
Here are most of the questions about HiFi …
Okay. Getting out of podcasting, I wanted to ask you about HiFi. I would say it’s actually unusual for a company to announce something and then just ignore it for two years. What happened to this premium HiFi tier that you all talked about in 2021?
We announced it, but then the industry changed for a bunch of reasons. We are going to do it, but we’re going to do it in a way where it makes sense for us and for our listeners. The industry changed and we had to adapt.
How did the industry change?
In various ways. We can go into more details later, but it changed.
Well, everyone knows that the labels charge more for these premium tiers. I mean, I feel like that is understood at this point in the industry.
Yes. It’s back to what we did today. There is a risk that you unnecessarily commoditize yourself if you just do what everyone else does, and just try to do it the cheapest or the fastest. We want to do something where we thought it through. I don’t want to say more right now.
You’re going to do it. Okay.
I don’t want to give it away because we want to try to do something that is our own and unique.
Are you a believer in spatial audio? Is Spotify going to do spatial?
I won’t comment on it right now. I want to save that for later.
Okay, so there’s a Spotify HiFi lossless-type experience coming at some point?
… but, as already observed, not really any different to hold others such as Naim do business.
I don’t really care what they do. They’ve questionable politics and I’ve Qobuz and Tidal. I find I don’t really concern myself with the resolution of something so much as it being available in the first place. With some exceptions I find the CD quality versions of music more than good enough, especially as they were exactly that for the preceding thirty years for me, so another seller of CD or better quality isn’t really a selling point for me. Sure podcasts can be interesting but when I’m indoors I have so many more interesting things to do and when I’m outdoors I don’t wear headphones as I like being connected to my environment.
Absolutely not the approach for many others but then I’ve a unique take on that having seen someone murdered by someone having a mental health episode who would likely be alive today had they not been wearing headphones. Obviously an outlier in this discussion but even if I’d not had thar experience it’s a no thanks for me because I really do like hearing my my environment.
In the meantime the bottom line for me is that they look as stupid and out of control as any organisation does when they announce something and then don’t deliver. I very much doubt at this point they’ll be able to produce any offering unique to them and I shall continue to be an amused/bemused bystander.
I agree with you on headphones even though I’ve not been part of something that terrible. As oldtimer I prefer a quiet room, a coffee and reading newsletters.
I’ve met the guys (no, I dont know them, more like said hello) out and about in the developer-scene here a long time ago, which is kind-of why I keep track of Spotify (the largest internet-company around here). There is a series on Netflix ”The playlist” which is surprisingly accurate on the startup and growth and people of Spotify. The Spotify leaders are not that happy about it but the series dont tell every little detail - so I think they should be a bit more relaxed
Right now the growth in the streaming business has started to slow a bit and this makes everyone nervous about valuations and start to look at how-to extract more money from the users/artists. And god knows these guys are no Steve Jobs. Spotify has been playing with audiobooks (US only I think) and trying to become a podcast distribution hub. Now they have high hopes with the new TikTok-style user-interface. I doubt it.
Personally I buy either CD:s or downloads from Qobuz, Bleep, Prestomusic, Cherry, HDTT and Bandcamp. I enjoy what I find on all of them.
The whole Spotify CD/hifi saga is beyond tedious now. The thing is, that the streaming services are waking up to the fact that the current model is simply not sustainable – not just for the artists, but also for the companies themselves. Spotify introducing a “premium SQ” tier isn’t going to cut it (most people who care about these things have already committed to the likes of Tidal, Qobuz and Apple) and nor, as Jan says above, is creating TikTok style interfaces, or podcasts and audiobooks. This is just tinkering with a business model that was broken at birth.
A news story that broke this morning concerns Deezer, which is working with Universal on “new models” (Tidal is also working with Universal, the world’s biggest music company, on “new approaches”).
To quote the press blurb: "an initiative to investigate potential new economic models for music streaming that more fully recognise the value artists create. Through this collaboration, UMG and Deezer aim to develop new methods that “holistically reward recording [artists and songwriters for the value they create and to reimagine and update the engagement model for Deezer’s users and the artists they love”.
It’s what lies behind this guff that’s interesting – nobody is making money from the current streaming model and they are all scrambling around to fix it. Whether they can, remains to be seen. Spotify, particularly, are in deep trouble as they are loaded with huge debts, make no money, and have, most importantly, completely failed to innovate – which in any kind of business is often fatal, even if you have a dominant market share – just look at Kodak, Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia and dear old Tower Records.
Thanks for the heads up about the Netflix series @jan - will definitely watch that. And you’re right. Daniel Ek is no Steve Jobs.
I think it is quite simple: Spotify prepared a HiFi (CD quality) subscription at a higher price. They announced the tier and then Apple and Amazon came in, offered high res for the same price and sucked the wind from below the wings of this Spotify plan. Business Case over.
I’m currently subscribing to both Apple Music (via their packaged Apple One Premier plan as the whole family use various elements of it) and Qobuz, I took out the annual Sublime plan to try it out, especially the purchase / download of high res albums at the discounted prices. So far, so good, I’m impressed with Qobuz quality for home listening but tend to use Apple Music when on the move. If Apple ever allowed high res purchases and also had a better route to get their higher quality streams directly into my Naim Atom I’d probably only use Apple, but neither of these things seem possible. Qobuz always sounds better on the Atom than Apple Music via Airplay, unsurprisingly.
On Spotify I trialled them a couple of times but Apple Music blew them out of my consideration when they offered CD quality lossless “HiFi” as part of their standard service, per your point. Spotify immediately became irrelevant to me as I was never a long term user so their user interface and recommendations never drew me in.