The list doesn’t include broadcast apps, or Sirius, but it lists most of the Internet pure-plays and music sources, both past and present.
Scroll down to see how many you recognize, how many have disappeared, and how many you actually use. To download the entire list as a JPG, click here.
Technological innovations follow a predictable cycle. At first there are just a few innovators. Then, as the technology takes off, the number of providers explodes.
As the technology matures, the numbers begin to dwindle. Companies merge and consolidate. The struggling companies quietly disappear.
IBM created the first desktop PC in 1981. Twenty years later, dozens of companies were manufacturing 125 million computers each year.
But the business has matured, and it has become difficult to make money selling desktop computers. Hewlett Packard, still one of the top producing computer manufacturers has already decided to get out of the business. More companies will follow.
Today we have fewer auto manufacturers, fewer Internet providers, fewer airlines, fewer record companies, fewer soft drinks, fewer banks, and fewer radio groups.
Regardless of the business, if it has been around for a while, there are fewer companies in it.
Internet music streaming is approaching two decades. Most technologies begin to go through some sort of shake-out about two decades into the business.
So the question is, where are we in the Internet music business cycle? Will Internet radio continue to grow? Will more companies join the dozens already providing audio products?
Or are we near a peak?
Venture capitalists are still pouring money into music services and Internet radio providers. Pandora’s successful IPO seems to have fueled even greater interest in the space.
VC money doesn’t continue indefinitely, however. At some point, investors want to see a return on their investment, generally through an IPO. And there aren’t any more Internet music IPOs in the pipeline.
That means these services are going to have to become profitable soon. That may be difficult.
Pandora’s tremendous publicly funded lead is going to make it hard for other advertising-based services to gain much traction.
There’s also a limit to the number of companies that can offer essentially the same $10 a month “all you can eat” subscription music plan.
Both business approaches face serious hurdles, with too many companies chasing a small (but growing) body of users.
Then there’s the two gorillas in the room, Google and Apple, both exploring cloud-based music options.
Taken all together, it means we may be reaching an inflection point, a thinning of the herd.
If there is a shake-out, radio will benefit in one regard, but also face greater pressure.
Fewer Internet competitors helps clarify the playing field. Radio will be able to deploy its resources more selectively.
On the other hand, fewer competitors means they will have greater resources. Subscription and advertising dollars will not be as thinly spread.
The bottom line is that radio needs to continue to develop music discovery strategies while at the same time watch to see which way Internet radio is breaking, if consolidation begins.