The sharp and fabulous Zahavah Levine, VP of Global Music Partnerships at Google Play, shared a number of insights in discussion with Ted Cohen of TAG Strategic at today's SF MusicTech Summit. One thread that stood out for me: much ado has been made on the death of downloads. But is instead of streaming being a downloads killer, is it really the music industry's gateway drug? Is Taylor Swift making a horrible mistake?
According to Levine, Google Play is investing the massive resources at its disposal upon streaming consumers:
'Subscription is by far the fastest-growing revenue segment of the industry. We'll [Google Play] extract more dollars per person, and in exchange, we'll give them access to any music, any time, from anywhere in the world.'
At the same time, Levine notes that her average Google Play subscriber spends $120/year, and 67% of music revenue comes from download sales. This compares to a mere $40-50 spent per year by pre-digital-era consumers.
'We are still in a world where more listeners are buying music than subscribing to it. There is room for both models for many years to come.'
Levine noted that streaming is Google's most effective tool for download conversions, though it wasn't clear that this was important to the company's Play strategy. Rather, we still see a strategic focus on the streaming experience:
'Google Play has the opportunity to be profitable, at scale...the question is, how do we grow subscriptions into a mass product?'
If Google's experience with streaming-to-download conversion is a reasonable proxy for the industry, it bodes well for artists. (Google pays artists the same percentage on either a download or a stream, so the artist makes more from downloads.)
UPDATE: Josh Constine of TechCrunch authored a more detailed article on Levine's talk, and Google's miraculous ability to grow download sales. If streaming is Play's secret weapon for selling downloads, music publishers and artists (Taylor Swift, I'm looking at you) should take a hard look at their attitude towards streaming.