Hey, Spotify Sceptics – International Is Hard To Do

Naysayers continue expressing suspicion Spotify will launch in the U.S.. But Spotify’s not alone in discovering the challenge of an overseas launch. Here’s a newsflash for the sceptics: the list of U.S. services which haven’t found their way out of America is also long…


And that’s just a few. Countless others from other countries, like France’s Deezer, remain operational only at home.

Mog.com, a Spotify competitor, told paidContent:UK back in February it would be launching in the UK. Eight months on, it’s still missing in action – yet no-one pulls Mog.com up with the same glee that many mock Spotify’s lengthening U.S. timetable.

Since Mog.com’s announcement, Rdio, a great subscription music offering, launched out of San Francisco – but there’s no hint of an international roll-out. And Rhapsody, the world’s most successful subscription music service, is also still just playing in its own back yard.

But, while American industry observers get caught up in an excitable anxiety – about both the prospect of using Spotify’s much-lauded product and the self-perpetuating meme that they may never get to do so – no-one in Europe or Scandinavia is getting hot-and-bothered banging the drum waiting for Rhapsody or its ilk.

Here’s the reality – launching internationally is hard; not just logistically but because the entertainment business, whether music or movies or TV, relies on content licenses, which are themselves highly territorial. Nevermind these online distributors; content owners still hold all the cards.

And that’s without even considering the actual challenges of a startup growing quickly to international scale. Two-year-old Spotify is nothing like “arrogant“, as one crazy recent assessment put it – more like brave and persistent…

Unlike the nine-year-old incumbent Rhapsody, Spotify is trying to go global early. The prize, if it manages it, is an opportunity to launch in one more market, the world’s biggest, and to usurp Rhapsody as the world’s most popular subscription music service (they have 500,000 and 675,000 customers at last published counts).

If it doesn’t go Stateside, it will continue building what appears to be a decent business at home, leaving us with the same curiosity about its sustainability that always existed. But it won’t limp home in shame, as some expect – it will merely be added to a long list of services whose ambitions have been thwarted by the still-dominant entertainment industries.