As the music industry circles the drain, Netflix tops torrents in traffic. When is the music industry going to catch up?

Categories: Music News

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Earlier this year, a report surfaced detailing current BitTorrent usage, with porn being the number one most torrented media and music sinking to a miserable 2.9 percent. Now, Sandvine company has detailed the biggest data hogs of the past year, and Netflix's streaming is on the top. When is the music industry going to catch up?

It's important to start with one key distinguishing factor: An album, even a high-quality file, isn't going to top a couple hundred megabytes; whereas a movie, even a streaming one, is going to usually hit at least a couple gigabytes. That means you'd have to stream at least ten albums before you'd reach a single movies worth of data. Which is to say, video will always be higher on the scale.

Still, Netflix taking up 22.2 percent of bandwidth with streaming is a big deal with wider implications. It means consumers are starting to embrace the on-demand mentality in earnest, one that has tried and failed to take hold of the music industry for the past few years.

We have a lot of different streaming options here in the U.S.: Rhapsody, Qriocity, even Amazon's new cloud service offers streaming, but none of these options have taken hold the same way Netflix has.

That's partially because nobody has really figured out how to integrate these services into the devices we already own. The reason Netflix streaming works is because you can do it on nearly anything with an Internet connection that's connected to a screen -- game systems, tablets, phones, computers, even internet-enabled TVs. If you somehow don't own any of those things, you can buy a box just for streaming for around fifty bucks.

But none of the music streaming services have that mentality. As consumers, we want our media to be on-demand, but we also want to be able to use it anywhere. We see "value" in cross-platform integration. Qriocity, which has a ridiculously massive library, doesn't work on mobile devices -- and chances are, the majority of people listen to music on the go, not when they're sitting around with a broadband connection at their computer -- where their music is already stored.

Still, Netflix's big appeal is giving people access to thousands of films without having to get off the couch, and that approach could work with music, provided it's possible to utilize the service on all devices. But the hurdles aren't the same. Where movies are generally watched once or twice in a lifetime, albums are listened to over and over again. When things disappear on Netflix, the usual reaction is a soft, "Damn, I guess I'll get it on disc," but if Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde suddenly disappeared from streaming, it'd be a much bigger letdown.

It's certainly a good sign for the entertainment industry as a whole to see BitTorrent usage on the decline, but as Netflix has proven, it's not about suing people, or warrantless raids of disc duplication plants; it's about providing a service that gives people what they want immediately.

With Amazon's Cloud Player, the recently announced Music Beta and the inevitable Apple announcement in June of a similar service, it seems like the music industry is more comfortable with using online storage lockers for already purchased music. But, if Netflix has proven anything it's that a giant repository of every single thing ever recorded, streamable to anything with a screen -- that's what people really want, even if they don't know it yet.

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Great article.  Definitely digging thoughtful articles like this over some of Backbeat's more "fluffy" fare. 

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