It’s all but confirmed that mobile phone company HTC will purchase on-demand streaming service MOG via their Beats Electronics high end headphone brand. Which is a very interesting play for the folks at MOG. That service, while interesting, might have been dismissed not very long ago as one that was getting sidelined by other on-demand services like Spotify and even long timer Rhapsody, which recently reinvigorated itself with the purchase of the legal remainder of Napster.
Following in the footsteps of the mobile phone/streaming service pairing between Muve and Cricket, this deal looks like a good one for MOG, which was founded by David Hyman in 2005 and had raised $33 million. MOG reportedly has about half a million users.
HTC, the fifth largest smartphone maker in the world, took a controlling stake in Beats last year. That company is tied in tightly with Universal Music, the largest of the big record labels, which adds yet another interesting twist to this deal.
So MOG, or whatever it becomes, will become an on-demand music source built into a large number of smartphones. Sure – those folks can still subscribe to Spotify or Rhapsody, but if HTC comes with a free service that offers the same thing why would they?
Michael Robertson thinks people should be able to listen to their digital music anywhere on any device. That’s exactly what MP3tunes sets out to do.
Robertson, the founder of MP3tunes, is a huge advocate of cloud based music services. He’s no stranger to the vengeance that record labels have when it comes to protecting digital song copyright law (as they define it.) In fact, he’s actually taken it on the chin before against the record companies – in the late 90’s he founded MP3.com, which he eventually sold to CNET after losing an expensive legal battle with Universal. His new service MP3tunes is currently involved in a lawsuit with EMI over copyright infringement issues.
“I think ownership is critical important in the digital age and worth fighting for.” said Robertson. “I think consumers should be able to choose where they want to use their digital property as they can with their physical property. I don’t want a corporation to be able revoke or limit access – as we’ve seen happening with Apple and Amazon.”
MP3tunes currently has over 500,000 registered users who upload their entire music collection to servers and access it from wherever they want. MP3tunes works on multiple smartphones platforms: Android, iPhone/iTouch, (iPad version waiting for approval) and many Internet radio devices (it’s compatible with devices that use vTuner and Reciva firmware.) This week they’ll introduce a deal with Roku that will enable access to music lockers on televisions.
Currently, the business model is a freemium model that offers listeners smaller sized lockers for free and charge a subscription fee for more storage space. But additional revenue sources like e-commerce and advertising may be in the cards as well.
Guvera, the on-demand service that recently launched here in the US, has gotten some early traction with big national advertisers who like the streaming services idea of building streaming channels of music around a brand.
According to a report last week, advertisers in the US include Victoria’s Secret, Microsoft, Sprint, Mastercard, Geico and H&M, all of whom have dedicated channels. Guvera Founder Claes Loberg explains that listeners are “brand loyal, taking the time to select a brand and interact with the individual channels to download their free music.” They are logging long periods of sponsor engagement double digit click through rates as well.
Guvera hails from Australia, started streaming in the US in March and is still working out licensing deals with some of the record companies. Their song library currently includes EMI Music Group’s labels; EMI, Virgin, Capitol Music, Bluenote, Mute and Domino. The website informs us that they’re hoping to add Universal Music Group, IODA and several independent labels in June and July. They are reporting 75,000 users across Australia and the US, with roughly 40,000 coming from Down Under. About 3-5,000 are joining weekly.
I like the approach this station is taking. They set out to distinguish their ad model from the beginning, emphasizing that they weren’t selling impressions but were focused on brand engagement by working with brands to create channel sponsorships. Apparently, some big brands think it sounds like a good idea as well.
While big online music services like Pandora, Spotify and others (Last.fm, Guvera, MOG…) are getting a lot of attention these days, Rhapsody is often overlooked. Rhapsody has been around longer than the others – they launched in 2001 as the first music service to offer streaming on-demand access to a large library of digital music. Prior to 2001 they were a service called Listen.com.
In 2007 Rhapsody America became a joint venture between RealNetworks and Viacom. In February 2010, Rhapsody’s owners announced their intention to restructure the company into a fully independent corporation, a move that took place last week with Viacom and RealNetworks, as well as Universal Music Group, maintaining positions in the new company.
Over the years, Rhapsody has tried lots of things, from offering songs that had to be played in their player to DRM free all-you-can-eat offerings. They’ve partnered with Verizon, Yahoo, and iLike/Facebook. The service has over 9 million songs in its library, and for a monthly fee of ten bucks they’re available for unlimited on-demand streaming. Yet, according to the LA Times, its paying subscriber base dwindled from 800,000 in early 2009 to 675,000 by the end of the year.
This week, on the heels of their reorg, Rhapsody launched a new iPhone app that should spur a bunch of new subscriptions. In addition to unlimited on-demand streaming for ten bucks, subscribers can download their favorite Rhapsody playlists to their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad so they can listen anytime — even when they’re not connected to the Internet. From their blog: “Simply launch your Rhapsody app, open the playlist and click the Download icon. You’ll need either a 3G or WiFi connection to do this initially, but once the songs are saved to your device, you can rappel into the deepest crevices of the Grand Canyon and still be able to play them back.” For ten bucks you get to do this on one device, for $14.99 you can download your playlists to up to 3 devices.
Access to 9 million tunes, streaming on demand plus untethered downloads of my favorite songs onto a mobile device. It’s the kind of thing that could make listeners trade in their ipods. (And there’s talk that Apple bought Lala to launch something similar). It really puts Rhapsody in a whole new category, but will the listeners follow? Only their history makes me wonder..