Microsoft Opens Xbox Music API, Affiliate Program to Third-Party Developers

Patricio Robles
Jul. 09 2014, 11:12AM EDT

Earlier this year, Microsoft unveiled an API for its Xbox Music service at the company's Build developer conference. Last week, Microsoft announced that the API is now open to third-party developers.

Using the Xbox Music API, developers gain access to the service's music catalog, which includes 38 million tracks in 23 countries. Developers can perform searches across the catalog and retrieve artist, album, and track metadata and media, as well as deep links into Microsoft's Xbox Music apps. Developers also have access to 30-second MP3 music previews, which are delivered as HTTP progressive downloads. Full songs can be streamed in their entirety to Xbox Music Pass subscribers.

In addition to the Xbox Music's catalog, developers participating in Microsoft's ongoing pilot program have access to authenticated users' accounts, enabling them to read and modify a user's music collection. This functionality can be used to create playlists, for instance, which will be available to the user in all Xbox Music-based apps the user uses, including those offered by Microsoft.

The Xbox Music API is RESTful and provides for single sign-on functionality through Microsoft Account. To speed integration, Microsoft has created a .NET SDK.

Turning Developers Into Affiliates

With digital download sales on the decline and streaming growing in popularity, streaming music has become a battleground for some of the biggest names in tech and digital media. Not surprisingly, most of these companies are pursuing platform strategies that aim to expand the footprint of their streaming music services into third-party apps and hardware.

This means developers looking to build music-centric applications have a growing number of APIs to choose from. Last month, for instance, Spotify launched a new version of its web API, and earlier this year Beats, which is now owned by Apple, unveiled an API for its streaming music service.

To get developers to build on top of Xbox Music, which is less popular than some of the services offered by Microsoft's competitors, Microsoft has created an affiliate program that developers are being encouraged to participate in. Microsoft will share 5% of the music purchase revenue a developer's app drives, and ups that to 10% on Music Pass subscription revenue for the lifetime of a user's subscription. According to Microsoft, the latter would equate to a dollar per user per month in the United States.

Will that be compelling enough to attract a strong developer base? Time will tell, but with monetization remaining a nagging challenge for many developers who build on top of other companies' platforms, Microsoft's affiliate strategy seems like a pragmatic one that competitors in the space might eventually look to follow.

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