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Posted by Mark Mulligan on September 3, 2010
Yesterday Sonos and Spotify finally announced a partnership which has been long overdue. Sonos’ high quality all-home audio hardware and Spotify’s high quality streaming music service are natural bedfellows.
The partnership also comes at an interesting time for Spotify. Their meteoric momentum has slowed somewhat of late (both for reasons of their choosing and also due to factors out of their control such as the labels’ apparent distaste for a US launch). Spotify is also beginning to prioritize breaking free of the chains of the PC and CEO Daniel Ek is more than smart enough to understand that any sort of mass market future requires getting off the desktop and into people’s hands and into their living rooms. The various mobile apps were a first step, this Sonos partnership is another.
The Sonos partnership won’t dramatically transform Spotify’s fortunes but it is nonetheless a key move. As I said last year in my report ‘Brining Digital Music to the Mainstream’ the living room (blog post here) is the final frontier for digital music. If digital music doesn’t get into the living room it will never go mainstream, plain and simple.
Consumers simply aren’t spending money on hifi anymore. Look at how living room technology expenditure has changed. Once people changed their stereos because the manufacturers changed the colour. Now the average living room has a dusty old living midi system and an ever larger TV perched on top of a teetering pile of hardware. (And sure, many have iPod docking stations, but that’s an awkward and ultimately temporary attempt to make a personal device look like a household device.)
Consumers need to be persuaded to start spending money on music hardware and that requires a robust out of the box music experience. Sonos’ cool S5 with an iPod controller and a Spotify premium subscription is such a combination.
Regular readers will recall that last month we published our Convenience Quotient of Music Experience. In it we stressed that fixing the service-to-device journey is one of the biggest challenges that digital music must meet, and soon. Spotify totally get this and understand the crucial importance of deeply integrated functionality. Indeed they came out top with our analysis with their tie up with 3 and HTC. On the surface the Sonos offering looks like a similarly robust integration (though a few gaps remain such as seamless playlist transition from iPhone to Sonos). But these are relatively minor details which will get fixed.
Ultimately the S5 and Spotify are the sort of music product and services combination that record labels and publishers need to throw their full weight of support behind. If they don’t they’ll have to get used to the fact that music will become an increasingly rare visitor to the living room.