I’ve been covering the digital music space for over a decade now and in that time I’ve seen a lot of services and devices come and go. I’ve also seen a lot of lessons learned and there is clearly more choice of high-quality music services and products now than at any stage before. And yet there is one major Achilles' heel which continues to cripple the market: poor service-to-device journeys. We have great services and we have great devices. But we have very few great service and device combinations. Pitifully few companies put anything like enough focus on the service-to-device journey (or if they do, they execute poorly). Just as much effort needs to be invested in ensuring services are fully integrated and optimized for supported devices as in building the services and devices themselves. Otherwise: great device + great service = poor experience. 

So, in the Consumer Product Strategy team at Forrester, we decided to do something about this problem and created a new methodology that will help product strategists build winning service/device combinations.  We call it the Convenience Quotient of Music Experience. For those not familiar with Forrester’s Convenience Quotient, it is based on a very simple equation:

Convenience = benefits – barriers.

We’ve launched the methodology in a new report entitled ‘Which Device Offers The Best Music Experience?’ (And I’ll answer that question in just a moment).

In total, we applied 35 scores across a series of barriers and benefits, all of which were designed to assess the quality of the music experience across the service and device. Our benefits ranged from a good out-of-the-box experience, through music access, to device functionality. Barriers captured issues such as intrusive rights protection, interruptions to service availability, and technology challenges.

We scored 12 device-service combinations across the US and Europe, including mobile phones, dedicated portable media players, set-top boxes, countertop network music players, games consoles, and whole home audio solutions, scoring each one for a featured music service.

The scores speak volumes about the state of digital music experiences. The majority of the landscape is clustered around undifferentiated middling experiences that either spoil great services or devices or that simply combine mediocrity. Only a few music experiences stand out at either end of the spectrum. Interestingly, one of the poorest performers actually had among the highest number of benefits and one of the best devices, but the barriers were so high that the overall score was negative.

What the podium finishes all have in common is an overriding focus on deeply integrated, high-quality experiences that use the device as a genuine value-add extension of the service. Catalogue and functionality count for little if the user experience is poor.

And the winners? 3rd and 2nd place, respectively, go to Sonos with Napster, and to the iPod touch with iTunes. But the clear winner was Spotify on the HTC with the 3 network. This experience works because each of the three parties’ contributions truly complements the others.

The key takeaway for music product strategists is that filling a music offering with benefits counts for naught if the barriers of poor integration and implementation render a music experience inert.

You can see some of the top-level scores for a number of the featured music experiences below. For comprehensive scores and analysis check out the report. If you’re interested in having the CQ of Music Experience applied to your digital music offering, drop us a line.