Sonos Cuts Staff, Focuses on Streaming Music

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Sonos CEO John MacFarlane refocusing on streaming musicSonos, the company known for its wireless speaker systems, is cutting back some staff and shifting its focus to the streaming music market. CEO John MacFarlane said Sonos is refocusing because the music industry is in transition, and his company needs to make changes to stay profitable.

Mr. MacFarlane isn't saying how many employees are losing their jobs, but he did note that some "played important roles getting us to this point," meaning they were instrumental in making the company's product lines successful in various ways.

He added,

Today, the entire music ecosystem is in transition – ultimately for the better – and so is Sonos. We have a good idea of how this will evolve over time, and we've never been more bullish on what it means for music fans. But we also know that to continue to innovate and bring compelling new experiences to market, we need to invest heavily against the opportunity.

In other words, Sonos is focusing now on customers who listen to streaming music over those who listen to their personal collections from CDs and ripped music. The company already offers streaming music support for services such as Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music, and several others.

The company is also taking an interest in voice recognition, and mentioned Amazon's Echo specifically. "Echo found a sweet spot in the home and will impact how we navigate music, weather, and many, many other things as developers bring new ideas and more content to the Alexa platform," Mr. MacFarlane said.

His comments are fairly vague, and that's most likely not an accident. Mr. MacFarlane doesn't want to tip his hand to potential competitors, nor does he want to commit to projects that could still get cut.

Mr. MacFarlane added, "We know the future is one where paid streaming and voice control play significant roles, and we're committed to running a sustainable, profitable business so that we can fund innovation in these and other areas for decades to come."

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It seems everyone sees streaming music as the future. That has to sting for the old school record label executives who are more comfortable with their physical media model for distributing music.

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Sonos hardware is superb. My house has it in four rooms to play from my personal music library, not for streaming: I don’t want streaming. With the redirection of Sonos’ focus, however, I feel a tinge of buyer’s remorse. There’s not much that I can do beyond not buying any more Sonos products.

Scott B in DC

“It seems everyone sees streaming music as the future. That has to sting for the old school record label executives who are more comfortable with their physical media model for distributing music.”

I forgot who were the two kvetches at the Grammys who complained how little they are being paid for streaming music, but I’m not sure they’re not happy either.

Either the music industry will adapt or those that won’t will go the way of nearly every other company that has failed to adapt. What’s Kodak up to these day? Xerox? Polaroid? American Motors? That’s business!


I would expect my Sonos speakers to continue to work just fine. The ability to play our own collections will still work. We just expect that Sonos will be bringing more subscription music services to their offerings.


In general I am against the subscription model. My media consumption is pretty low, so it works better for me to purchase a few things now and then but have them available for many years to come without a constant subscription fee to keep access to them. In the last year I paid about $5 for one album. That’s it. I pay more for various movies and TV shows, but still less than a Netflix or Hulu subscription (I think).


To me, Sonos products are high end speakers beyond my willingness to spend. There are probably many others who feel the same way. Also, my partner is very suspicious about the health risks of wireless technology, and only reluctantly accepts WiFi in our home. She would not like more wireless signals originating here.

Since higher prices generally reduce the number of possible buyers, I wonder if Sonos would generate a lot more revenue if they lowered prices. Perhaps they would not have to cut as many staffers.

BTW, John MacFarlane is also the founder of Sonos, and might not be a clueless CEO, with a sizable golden parachute, willing to ride the company down as he milks it for all he can. But I’m not convinced that streaming is going to save Sonos.

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