The Musical Race To Dominate Digital Wellness


iTunes once dominated the digital music distribution space. Its advent disrupted traditional music distributors and created a brand-new digital entertainment economy, proving to be one of Apple’s most successful differentiation and engagement strategies. First, they dominated the Mp3 player market with iPods. Next, they leveraged those music features in their smartphones, propelling them to the top of the mobile-device market.

Several years later, Spotify turned the music market on its head again, firmly establishing and soon dominating the music streaming business, eventually undermining iTunes’ download model and forcing Apple and other competitors to join them in the music streaming and subscription race. 

Today, the three largest players in the digital music landscape are Apple Music, Spotify and newcomer Amazon Music. As of March 2020: Spotify had 130 million subscribers, Apple Music had an estimated 70 million and Amazon Music had over 55 million. Although Google’s YouTube Music boasts up to 1 billion monthly music fan visits, their paid subscriber count trailed behind the leaders at just over 20 million.

Each service has moved to a subscription model that gives the consumer instant access to over 30 million songs across more than 2,000 genres. Because each of the companies have depended on deals with nearly identical music content providers, they will need new and more feature-rich differentiators to win the subscriber race in a rapidly transforming and increasingly demanding marketplace.

The Next Music Business: Health and Happiness 

The industry is primed to witness yet another disruption: the growth of and demand for music that, beyond entertainment, addresses specific needs in our lives — like meditation, stress relief, motivation, focus, and improved health and well-being. Although sometimes classified as functional music, I will refer to the broader class of music designed to benefit the well-being and optimal performance of the listener as wellness music

While the “Big 3” have plenty of wellness music in their libraries, and have designated hundreds of playlists to fulfill these aforementioned needs, their offerings often get lost in over-saturated interfaces focused on entertainment, celebrity artists and advertising. 

Granted, it is impossible to please every music stakeholder on a 3-inch-by-6-inch screen. You might think of it as a limited shelf-space issue. Thereby, their ability and efforts to focus on the well-being of the listener and the exploding value of music in the digital wellness market has been secondary at best.

Expect that to change. While music for entertainment will likely always dominate the market share, we will soon see major shifts as priorities change and new technologies allow our music-listening experience to more effectively produce desired outcomes. 

With the heightened health concerns from COVID-19 and the overwhelming levels of stress and distraction people are experiencing in a world of information overload and accelerating disruption, the value of health and happiness are at an all-time premium.

If they can successfully deliver on this growing need, the “Big 3” digital music companies will have hatched a golden egg born out of the marriage of tech, wellness and music. This is especially true for Apple and Amazon, who, unlike Spotify, are already deeply invested in health, wellness and integrated lifestyle solutions.

Taking Healthy Steps Forward

They are making some advances, however. Back in April, Spotify launched its Daily Wellness program to assist people with their self-care. The No. 1 music streaming service started providing subscribers with recommended morning motivation and evening wind-down playlists filled with music, podcast snippets and mindfulness exercises.

Apple made a major move in digital fitness last month with Apple Fitness+, incorporating music as one of the key features of the premium-priced digital subscription service. Their new Head of Strategic Music Initiatives, Jeff Bronikowski, is also exploring new developments in enhancing functional music and hearables technologies, talking to a number of startups in the space.

Amazon is making bold moves into the wellness sector and positioning to disrupt the healthcare industry, forming alliances with Berkshire Hathaway, JP Morgan, Haven, John Hancock and a number of other healthcare organizations. Earlier this year they formed a new “Health and Wellness” team in the Alexa division led by Rachel Jiang, and introduced the Amazon Halo brand of sensor and AI-powered wearables and wellness services.

Amidst the race to dominate the digital health market, Jeff Bezos is accelerating the growth of Amazon Music in an effort to overtake Apple 2nd place position in the streaming music market. It is still not clear, however, what Bezos’ intentions are for integrating these two high-growth verticals. 

What are the next groundbreaking health and wellness initiatives coming from the Amazon Music leads? 

Maybe we should ask Alexa.

Connecting the Dots

Who will connect the dots first? 

Will it be Apple, Amazon, or Spotify that creates the best user experience for music-based wellness and optimal living solutions?

Which company will be the first to integrate the full potential of hearables and biometrics to more effectively personalize music for optimal well-being? 

Maybe the best next step would be to put a captain at the helm of that ship – to navigate boldly through the waves of opportunities emerging at the intersection of music, tech and wellness.

Just as Steve Jobs took that bold move years ago to fly the music flag in route to dominating the mobile device market, and digital wellness leaders Calm and Headspace recently brought on heads of music to stay ahead of their competition, the winning team would benefit from a visionary guide on their music-accompanied journey to deliver consumer health and happiness. 

Tune in the next segment to learn the 7 Reasons Why Apple Music Should Hire a Head of Health and Happiness.

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