South by Southwest

A 'Golden Age' for Music Dawns

Spotify house SXSW
Anthony Quintano | NBC News

It's a good time to be a music fan, but it may cost you.

"We're entering a Golden Age" for culture, music, and all forms of communication, said Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify, during a talk at the South By Southwest festival.

Spotify, a digital music service, announced just this week that it now has 24 million active users—six million of whom pay to use the service.

"What we're selling is access to music," said Ek.

Music fans are spending money on that access. According to a new report from Nielsen Entertainment, the most devoted fans spend more than $400 a year on music in the U.S. And 75 percent of all spending on music in the U.S. is done by the music "fan," Nielsen reports.

Competing for a piece of that fan base, Spotify and Pandora have been making a big splash at SXSW. Both The Spotify House and Pandora's "Discovery Den," served up a full week of live music appealing to festival-goers.

Now, Twitter is joining the race to sate the music fans' appetite. Going beyond tweets, Twitter is reportedly developing a music app that will allow users to stream via SoundCloud and share songs. Twitter has not returned our request for comment.

While much of the music discovery is happening online—and let's not forget other players like Rdio, MOG, and Rhapsody— fans want more engagement with their favorite bands and artists.

"This era is about getting away from the Internet," and spending more time in person, said Sam Valenti, co-founder of record label Ghostly and startup music service Drip.FM, during a SXSW music event.

This sentiment is echoed in the data. Nielsen's latest report finds that music fans not only want greater access, but they're willing to pay more for exclusive, premium content. Drip.FM provides precisely this; access to new music releases and content with a membership fee.

Not only do music fans want access, but they're willing to pay for quality sound too. Sonos, manufacturer of digital music systems, set up a hub at SXSW called the "Sonos Studio," where crowds flocked for live music and build your own speaker workshops.

In this "golden age" of music, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the many apps and options for discovering the latest bands. So, if you didn't make it to SXSW and you don't want to spend hours reading all of the blogs, go no further than The Hype Machine, which has done the work for you.