Back in October I wrote about the emergence of a new wave of music services: ‘Listen Services’. Namely music services that sit at the opposite end of the sophistication spectrum to ‘Access Services’ like Spotify and Deezer. While the on-demand Access Services are focused on immersive discovery experiences for the engaged music aficionado, Listen Services are aimed at the mainstream music fan that does not have the time nor appetite for searching out what to play from a catalogue of 30 million tracks. Listen Services, and their addressable audience, are a key priority for the music industry as it is becoming increasingly clear that Access Services, while fantastic at monetizing the top tier of fans, are not the right fit for the mainstream. To date the main focus for this segment has been ad supported personalized radio from the likes of Pandora and Slacker. New entrants have started trying to drive digital spending from these consumers with cheap subscriptions, players like MusicQubed, Bloom.fm, Blinkbox Music and Nokia Mix Radio (interestingly there is a distinctly European company bias in this sector). MusicQubed has released some figures to illustrate how this emerging segment is developing.
To celebrate the first anniversary of its launch into market, MusicQubed last week released a combination of performance metrics for its services and some related statistics:
- 85% of UK radio play comes from the top 120 tracks
- The Forgotten Fan (above average listening but below average spend) accounts for 30% of consumers
- Daily listening time of MusicQubed users = 30 minutes
- 30% of all active users are subscribers
- 1.5 million consumers have used MusicQubed services to date
- O2 Tracks (O2’s UK music service powered by MusicQubed) has 60% female users and an average lifetime value of £33, while 20% buy at least one download a month after having discovered it in the service
While MusicQubed is a long way yet from challenging Spotify in terms of total users and paying subscribers, the numbers do hint at a validation of this too easily neglected consumer segment. Of course everything starts small and it is worth remembering that a year after launch (i.e. by end August 2009) Spotify only had in the region of 100,000 paying subscribers.
Will Listen Services Define the Next Phase of Digital Music?
The history of digital music has evolved in roughly 5 year chapters, each defined by a key service and the problem it solved:
- Phase 1: Napster gave consumers frictionless access to all the music in the world
- Phase 2: iTunes made the paid download make sense
- Phase 3: Spotify fixed buffering and gave frictionless (legal) access to all the music in the world (well most of it anyway)
- Phase 4: Beats, Blinkbox, Bloom.FM, MusicQubed are all candidates for defining the next phase. Spotify gave access to 25 million songs and now these services are each doing at least one of a) trying to make sense of that 25 million via curation and b) making music subscriptions affordable for the mainstream
Once we have another 12 months or so of market activity we should be in a position to make a more definitive conclusion on which service, or services, will emerge as the defining reference point for the next era of digital music.
Listen Services, affordable subscriptions and curation-centred services are only just getting going, but they will be key to long term sustainability. As subscriptions eat into the spending of the most valuable download buyers, it is clear that a ‘digital plan B’ is required. This new generation of services are part of that plan.