Czeching Out the Digital Music Scene: A Comparison Between Czech and American Digital Trends

Guest post by Tara Muoio (UG ’17) who is currently studying at NYU Prague. We encourage feedback and commentary on all Student Outlook contributions. Leave a comment below or tweet us at @NYUMusicBiz.

In my time studying abroad in Prague, I’ve really enjoyed doing research on the
Czech music industry for my Global Music Trends Analysis course. Out of all of the things I noticed many differences and similarities between the Czech and American music
industries, particularly in the streaming and digital music sector. It’s not exactly that the Czech Republic is behind in the realm of technology – it’s just different technology. After taking a second look, the Czechs might even be too immersed in the digital age for their own good.

Since the fall of communism in 1989, the Czech Republic has strived to be
relatively on the same level as much of the rest of the world, whether it be in their government or their everyday lives. Becoming a free country at the beginning of the digital age practically threw the Czech Republic into the realm of technology without warning. Today, the average Czech is tech-savvy, however, they seem to prefer different devices from those that Americans do. Most smartphones that people use in the Czech Republic are either Android or Windows based – not Apple. Even computers predominant computer choice are PC’s running Windows operating systems. In fact, Apple stores are nowhere to be found in the Czech Republic; all Apple products are sold by certified resellers. Many Czechs prefer to buy computer parts that they can take apart and put back together, creating their own device rather than buying one that comes all together. This is commonly the most cost-effective option, which is something that a lot of Czechs prefer. To Czechs, an Apple product is akin to that of a Marc Jacobs. Each of these elements directly impacts the market for digital music and streaming, which is where the main differences between the Czech and American music industries lie.

 

Sure, PC users can load iTunes on their desktop if they have an iPhone or iPod to use, but this isn’t truly mobile unless you have either of those devices. Streaming has become a huge part of the Czech music market with the wide usage of Android and Windows based smartphones because music on these devices is not exactly the most accessible. Music on these devices are only available if you preload songs in mp3 format or use a streaming service–streaming usually being the easier of the two. Top subscription and ad-based streaming services in the Czech Republic include well-known global services like Spotify, Google Play, Tidal, Rdio, and Deezer, but also smaller companies like Mixér.cz, Koule, and Musicjet. All of these services allow access to a wide array of music with of course, the opportunity to listen on the go. It’s worth noting that in the Czech Republic specifically, cell phone companies like O2 are listed as music streaming service providers on www.pro-music.org. O2 has a separate venture for streaming and downloading music, audiobooks, games, and more called O2 Active. This allows users to access their entertainment on the go while connected to their data network or Wi-Fi.

An interesting thing to note is that a Spotify subscription in the Czech Republic is measured in Euros (€5.99/month) instead of the local currency, the Koruna. €5.99 is equivalent to about 165Kc, or about $7 USD. This is less than the price of a Spotify subscription in the United States ($9.99/month). The price of Spotify depends on the region and the demand that specific region presents. In the Czech Republic, the demand is higher because many more people use – and will pay for – streaming at a low price.

In my opinion, I don’t think that the music consumption habits of the Czechs will ever be picked up by Americans, or vice versa. People in general are known to choose whatever option is easiest for them. For Americans, that’s having their music directly on their iPhones via iTunes. For Czechs, it’s much easier and affordable to get their music on their Android and Windows devices via a streaming service. In the end, it all boils down to convenience, affordability, and choice of hardware.