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Spotlight: MusicQubed

Alex Spencer

Mobile music streaming services seem to be big business at the moment. Just yesterday Twitter launched its #music service, and we reported that their combined revenues will rise 40 per cent this year to $1.7bn, according to Juniper.

The current big players – like Deezer, Spotify, Pandora – take two main approaches to the consumption of music. They either give the user an enormous library of tracks they can browse and listen to at their leisure, or provide a personalised radio-style service, which chooses the music for the user, based on their preferences.

 But these aren't the only options, as MusicQubed goes to show.

Automatic for the people

MusicQubed offers its player to brands on a white-label basis – its first release was a tie in with Now! That's What I Call Music in January 2011. Since then, it's partnered with Samsung for a Top 40 app, which was available exclusively on the OEM's handsets, and most recently it's powering O2 Tracks, currently receiving a big £9m marketing push from the operator.

Its main point of difference is that users aren't offered 'all-u-can-eat' libraries, or a random stream of tracks, but rather a small selection of pre-set playlists. 

“It's aimed at the mass market, the casual listener who wants something that's simple to use and gives them the music that's most popular on radio,” says MusicQubed CEO Chris Gorman. “Our apps deliver curated  playlists and charts, which are cached on the device, so that users can download all of the content overnight and listen to it the next day.”

Different class

The apps are monetised through a subscription of £1 per week. In the case of O2 Tracks, the network's subscribers are offered eight weeks of free access, while for non-O2 customers the trial period is just two weeks.

“I think its been quite a refreshing strategy to offer the service out to non-customers as well as existing subscribers,” says Gorman. “The marketing has targeted both markets, and while there are additional benefits for O2 customers – and we've seen more of a weighting towards take-up from these users – I think it's a smart move to use it as an acquistion tool.”

The idea is that O2 Tracks could give a sneak preview of the value-added services the operator offers, and possibly convert them.

That's the key to MusicQubed – it's offering operators and manufacturers a point of differentiation, in an increasingly crowded and homogenised market.

“A brand like O2 wants to offer these services under their own brand, rather than the traditional OTT partnerships with an established music brand,” Gorman says. “We're exploring now how we can tie all of their different music propositions together into one mobile music offering, linking up their Priority Tickets and O2-branded venues in a holistic way.”

O2 Tracks has already proved successful – when we spoke last week, the app has surpassed half a million downloads, hitting the top spot of the App Store's Music Category, and #6 overall – but this close-knit branding is possibly the best selling point MusicQubed has to offer. 

As all handsets start to look the same, and network tarriffs get more complicated, it's these little differences that can be the tipping point in the decision to buy Samsung over HTC, or O2 over Orange.


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