News dribbled out this week that Spotify’s new streaming tier is imminent. Reportedly dubbed Spotify Supremium by crackpot branding experts, it’ll set you back $19.99 per month. For that you’ll get 24-bit lossless audio, AI playlist generation tools, listening stats to satisfy even the most demanding music wonk, and 20-30 hours of audiobook access.
Meanwhile, Disney+ outside the US is tinkering with tiers too. In the UK, Disney won’t force everyone to pay extra for the ad-free version. Which means the £7.99 tier survives – but in downgraded form. Instead of four simultaneous streams, you’ll have two – and in 1080p rather than 4K. Sadly, rather than being dubbed Disney+ Good Enough or Disney+ Shrinkflation, the company went for the duller Disney+ Standard. Tsk.
All this tier-faffing got me wondering what’s next. Perhaps Disney+ Free, in 360p and with ads every five minutes that pause when a mandatory DisnEYE sensor realises you’re trying to block them. Or Spotify Superdupermium, at $999.99 per hour. But when you select an album, the artist or band will wake from slumber in their SpotiCube cell to play for you over a live feed.
Make it personal
Perhaps services will instead offer personalised streaming tiers tailored to your budget. Your bank will be linked to a service’s accounts department AI, which will reconfigure billing on the fly.
“This month, your favourite band’s releasing a new album that you’ll tediously play on repeat until everyone demands you stop,” it’ll burble. “And so we’re increasing your payment to $39.99 – and you’ll like it.” The following month: “It looks like you’re running low on cash. So we’ve dropped your TV streaming tier to just $0.50. But you can only choose between Never Gonna Give You Up and an experimental 17-hour slice of Lithuanian cinema mainly featuring furiously angry wasps.” (Still better than Secret Invasion…)
The thing is, more tiers means choice paralysis. So savvy streaming services might instead stick with current offerings but sneakily raise prices when you’re not looking. Before long, Spotify Supremium will cost more than your monthly grocery shop, while its AI algorithms go rogue and ironically force every playlist on the planet to be Another Day In Paradise, on repeat, forever.
And where does Apple fit into all this? Flipping a coin, deciding whether to kick Spotify in the throat by flicking a switch to turn on high-res audio at no extra cost, or mulling over a swift copy/paste of Spotify Supremium’s features and unleashing the result under the inevitable banner of Apple Music+.
I’ve had enough. Most of these changes aren’t about making things better for you. They’re about squeezing more money out of a strained business model. Plus, I’m at that age where eyes and ears aren’t what they once were. Hence I’ve decided the way forward is a ‘good enough’ subscription approach. Stick with what does the job. Avoid anything hideous. Ignore shiny baubles of temptation when new streaming tiers are announced.
I’m already doing this with Netflix. I pay for a legacy Basic account – no longer offered to newcomers. It pipes 720p footage to a single device at any one time. It’s… fine. But I’m not forking out four bucks extra for better quality and multiple streams, since Netflix in this house is solely used by our nine-year-old to pipe cartoons into her eyes.
Likewise, 1080p Disney+ might be in our future – but no high-res audio unless it doesn’t come with a price increase attached. That means I won’t get the best possible experience in TV and music, but… it’ll do. Which, having watched many disappointing streaming shows of late, and suffered through dire streaming music interfaces, appears to increasingly be the mantra of streaming services anyway.