Stephen Witt’s wrote a great book, ‘How Music Got Free’, tracing the history of digital music. His story arc mimics the career path of many of the executives here at Syntonic, and leads to our view today that the great hold back to truly ubiquitous digital entertainment is the cost, confusion, and challenges surrounding the last virtual mile from cell tower to cell phone.
Rewind the clock to late 1990’s when the Syntonic executive team were all working at digital entertainment companies. Saehan released a $300 device that could hold 4 songs in MP3 format. Yes, that’s 4 songs. But for us the future was clear – music could now be played on any device, anywhere and collecting music on a shiny disk would soon become the exception not the norm. Just a few details were left to be worked out.
Unfortunately, the future comes in slowly like a fog, not quickly like a lightning strike. The transition to all digital meant solving issues, one at a time – more efficient formats, better internet speeds, large cheap storage (first local, now cloud), 3G/4G/Wi-Fi wireless technology, smartphone apps and more. A decade or so later the paradigm has been reset: “collecting” music has been replaced with wireless phones connecting you to cloud-based free and paid music. But the problem, getting access anywhere you want, is a confusing mess at best, and wildly expensive at its worst.
For many people in the world, the concept of data is confusing. Those that can afford it would rather buy Unlimited Data just to not think about it. For the rest of us, there is an emerging model – entertainment services with data bundled in. Why is this useful to a consumer? Here is a test: quickly estimate the number of gigabytes you used on average last month on streaming music or streaming video? Most people answer “what the heck is a gigabyte?” And yet that is how you buy data from a carrier. No wonder people in the US want unlimited, even if they don’t need it.
Now ask yourself how many hours did you spend watching a movie or listening to music? Still a guess, but most people can make a reasonably good guess. Thinking about ‘How’ you spend your time on a phone is much easier to grok. Soon your choice will be between an additional $20 a month for unlimited data, or $5 a month more for a premium subscription plan with data included. Different people will want different choices, but uniformly they can easily and quickly understand the benefits and tradeoffs in that choice. Therein lies the power of the paradigm shift Syntonic is ushering into the world. Bits and bytes of data or access to content.
Syntonic knows that the last virtual mile from cell tower to cell phone is a marketing and pricing mess that confuses the consumer and blocks the content access revolution that started over a decade ago. When consumers across the world can buy their content access as part of their service, the promise of “your music anywhere, anytime” will be complete.