Spotify Family Highlights a Lingering Issue with Xbox Music

Spotify Family Highlights a Lingering Issue with Xbox Music

Subscription services should offer group discounts

There is an understanding with digital subscription services, whether they're for books, music, TV shows and movies, or whatever, that you'll be sharing that subscription with your family. And these services can either embrace that reality, as so many are doing, or they can pretend it's not happening and put up some artificial roadblocks. Today, Spotify, the world's leading music subscription, announced a family-oriented versions of the service. And it's an idea that Microsoft should quickly appropriate and improve on for Xbox Music.

According to Spotify, the new Spotify Family plan will help you separate your music from the music other family members listen to. After all, I'd rather scratch my eyes out with a fork than listen to my kid's music. And vice versa.

But here's the thing. Spotify isn't actually offering the type of discount that I think makes sense for a family. So a rival music service—cough, Microsoft, seriously, wake up—could and should improve on this offering.

It won't be hard.

With Spotify Family, you don't just get access to different users with their own collections, as you do with, say, Netflix. Instead, you can add up to four Spotify Premium accounts—normally $9.99 per month—to your account at a 50 percent discount. So a family of four would pay about $25 a month instead of $40 or so if everyone had their own account.

That's too much money. And what family of four would ever pay for four separate Spotify Premium accounts anyway? That's insanity.

And on that note, I don't personally understand why Spotify is so popular. It's really just a streaming Internet radio service, where users can basically add and play curated playlists but not add artists, albums or songs to a cloud-based collection and then arbitrarily play them. (Not easily.) Xbox Music, by comparison, does it all, and it's not any more expensive with an Xbox Music Pass than is Spotify Premium. And it already works with four devices for a single user, which is like asking the person to share it. Spotify Premium, by comparison, supports three devices.

(Note: I've slightly edited the above paragraph because people are missing the forest for the trees here. On Android/iOS, yes, you can add an album to your cloud collection. But you can't just play the album or any song in that album straight through. You can only shuffle play it, or add it to a playlist. Spotify approaches everything like it's Internet radio. That was my point about the service. But my real point is that Xbox Music needs a family plan.)

But here's how Microsoft can make Xbox Music plus Xbox Music Pass right-priced for a family: Extend the device availability to six devices, spread over up to four accounts, for $15 per month. And let each account have its own cloud collection. Simple. Affordable.

Maybe to logical, though. Microsoft doesn't seem able to market Xbox Music at all. And of course it's Android and iOS implementations are curiously limited when it comes to making music available offline. (You can only select playlists, not songs or albums.)

Wake up, Microsoft. The music subscription market is happening without you.

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