Quick Hits: Rescuing radio; Deezer vs. Spotify

Monday, December 2, 2013 - 12:15pm

Worthy of note:

  • Doc Searls, author and one of the first cognescenti bloggers (since 1999), has published a prescription for radio in the Internet era called “How to rescue radio.” In it, Searls seems taken aback by the changing definition of “radio,” and particularly offended by Apple’s iTunes Radio, which he calls, “...a body-snatch on all of radio, as well as a straight-up knock-off of Pandora.” He’s late to the game with that objection, and not exactly correct about the knock-off part. But the substance comes down the page when Searls lays out a multi-part plan for keeping broadcast radio prominent as users shift to digital and mobile. His suggestions are provocative, but not gratuitously so. Searls has clearly brought years of experience to his perspective of old media navigating new-media waters.
  • Music subscription services Spotify and Deezer are head-to-head competitors, but American listeners don’t feel the competitive tension since Deezer is not (yet) available in the U.S. (Many reports indicate that Deezer will migrate to the states early in 2014, perhaps on the wings of a telecom partnership.) For our European readers, Deezer and Spotify are both important pureplay platforms with large audiences across many countries. In that context, Liam Boogar’s comparative review in Rude Baguette (“France’s Startup Blog”) is interesting and well-done. Cut to the end: Boogar started out this piece of work as a Spotify subscriber, but ended up ditching Spotify for Deezer for what he perceives as better music-discovery tools.


Soundrop moves fast; expands to Deezer

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 12:25pm

Group-listening app Soundrop announced an extension of its platform to Deezer, as a built-in app in the Paris-based music service. Soundrop has been associated with Spotify since 2011, operating within Spotify’s app ecosystem. It also works independently as a mobile app.

Soundrop’s distribution maneuver is timely in two ways. First, announced last week that it is closing its music listening virtual rooms, which provide a similar experience to Soundrop’s shared listening function. Second, Deezer will expand to the potentially huge U.S. market sometime in 2014. Soundrop is now positioned as the reigning group-listening app in the two leading European music services, and will enjoy the same positioning in the U.S.

Deezer reportedly headed to the U.S.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 1:10pm

If you visit the Deezer website ( on a computer in the U.S., you see this notice: “Deezer’s music services are not yet available in your country.” That will reportedly change soon, as Digital Music News posts that the Paris-based streaming music subscription service will expand to the U.S. in January.

Though blacked out in the U.S., Deezer has rolled out an aggressive global expansion, serving users throughout Europe and in nearly 200 countries altogether. Geographic footprint is one measure of success, and usage footprint is another. On the second point, Deezer recently announced that its paid-subscriber base reached five-million users. 

Deezer has attracted several funding rounds, and is currently capitalized at $149-million

Can Deezer cut through the noise?

Streaming music has become a crowded segment in the last six years. Deezer, which started in 2007, preposterously claims to be “the world’s first music streaming service,” ignoring many pre-existing subscription and Internet-radio outlets, some of which were operating as early as 2001. Historical whoppers aside, the Deezer platform is robust, with 30-million tracks in the library and a strong reputation.

The U.S. market has been slower than parts of Europe to recognize the value of online jukeboxes such as Deezer. Swedish-based Spotify is Deezer’s most head-to-head competitor in non-U.S. territories, and it was Spotify’s U.S. launch in July, 2011 which helped whet American taste for on-demand streaming music. Other music services had been operating in the U.S. before Spotify’s invasion, but Spotify’s ad-supported free listening was the on-ramp to the experience for many uninitiated users. 

Deezer might not make a U.S. splash similar to Spotify’s impact in 2011. It is tough to differentiate in this market. Territorial accessibility is a waning claim to specialness, and the basic features of subscription services (random access to tracks, downloading for offline listening, artist-based stations, personalization via preference tools, social sharing) have become nearly indistinguishable from one platform to the next.

In this light, future business success might depend on distribution avenues that push brands in front of users on unavoidable, often-used screens. Car dashboards represent one such environment, which is why the “connected car” has become such an important and combative arena in the streaming music business.

Another must-own screen is the smartphone. Most music services deploy custom app experiences, but uptake depends on the user’s initiative to download and use them. A more forceful solution is to partner with a telecom company, as Rhapsody has recently done with its major Telefonica deal.

There are two major advantages to telecom distribution of music. First, pre-installation of the app and placement of the brand on the smartphone home screen. Second, the phone company owns a billing relationship with its users, making sign-up to a built-in music service easy and seamless. 

Deezer is executing the telecom tactic already, having partnered with Deutsche Telekom and several others. There is some speculation that Deezer will coast into the U.S. on a telecom backbone (Verizon is mentioned, but not substantiated). Doing so would have less free-market impact than an unaffiliated launch, but might make business sense.

However this plays out, it will be good for U.S. streaming fans to finally break through that “not yet available” Deezer roadblock.

Two non-U.S. music services make gains

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 12:15pm, a British subscription music service that launched almost exactly a year ago, reached 500,000 registered users. Bloom operates a freemium model with a no-charge service supported by three subscription levels, the least expensive of which costs one British pound per month. Users pay more for additional “borrowing” (downloading for offline listening) privileges, up to 10 pounds a month. houses a music library of 22-million tracks. It is a mobile-only service for now, with apps for Apple and Android devices, and a web app on the way according to the site FAQ. Bloom apps live up to the service name with music genres represented as flower petals.

Meanwhile, Paris-based service Deezer announced today having acquired five-million paying subscribers. Deezer’s music library has grown to 30-million tracks. Deezer is not available in the U.S. but competes with Spotify in Europe.

TechCrunch notes that Deezer was at the two-million subscriber level a year ago, so has more than doubled is paid usage. Spotify disclosed six-million paying subscribers in March of this year. Alongside the subscriber growth announcement, Deezer is releasing an app upgrade that includes a new music discovery feature that bears some similarity to Spotify. 

Deezer champions classical with new app

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 7:10am

Classical music listening online is an uneven experience, and now has a new champion in Deezer, the 2006-founded, French-based listening platform with 30-million users and 4-million subscribers.

Deezer has launched an app in cooperation with major classical labels Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Philips, L’Oiseau Lyre, and Accord. Those labels are placing their entire discographies into the Deezer catalog. Deezer reportedly surveyed its users about interest in classical, and 92 percent replied they would listen to classical if there were a better discovery environment. Surveys are all about how you ask the question, but you can’t blame Deezer for taking the bait.

In the larger market, classical is among the nichiest of the niche. Nielsen’s 2012 report of genre album sales shows classical (7.5-million physical albums) lower than every other category except for New Age, down 20 percent from 2011. On the digital side, 2.6-million albums were purchased, a gain of 14 percent. So, more reason for Deezer's optimism -- and the Nielsen numbers do not account for streaming.

The overall point is that classical music serves a marginal audience. A secondary point is that streaming platforms serve it poorly.

It wasn’t always the case. Rhapsody got its start in 2000 as a classical-only online jukebox, presenting exactly one label: Naxos, the adventurous purveyor of unusual repertoire across the centuries. It was an unexpected slice of heaven for classical lovers (those who were aware of it).

Rhapsody and the other services include classical, but typically in ways that are screwy to users who value classical listening the most. Streaming classical is confused by song-based conventions of the other genres, and by metadata that does not convey proper information. Symphonies are good examples. A single symphony is actually multiple pieces, strung together in so-called movements. Universally, classical streams rip apart multi-movement pieces illogically and irreverently, as if the movements were album songs.

Labeling is also a problem, even in Rhapsody, whose legacy should make it the best in this regard. In classical, the composer is as important (or more so, for many fans) than the performer. In song-based genres it's the opposite -- the composer (songwriter) is unimportant as a search term. The frequent result in classical is that you can’t tell exactly what is streaming, or what is included on an album that pops up in a search result.

If Deezer solves these presentation problems, it will perform a cultural service. Whether it will make any money doing so remains to be seen. (Deezer is not distributed in the U.S., and is unavailable to RAIN for review.)

Study says 70+% of top streaming services' registered users don't come back

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 11:50pm

New research indicates that for streaming music services, 70% or more of registrations are likely abandoned.

Digital Music News reports on research by Midia's Mark Mulligan on services Deezer and Spotify. Mulligan found that 73% and 70%, respectively, of these services' registered listeners sign up, and don't return.

"What the numbers show is that inactive users is a big problem for streaming services, which in actual fact means that churn is a bid problem for streaming services," Mulligan wrote in his blog. "The important point is... that streaming services as a whole have a problem with churn."

Yesterday Clear Channel announced that its iHeartRadio platform has reached 30 million registered users (more here), but gave no indication of what percentage use the service on a regular basis.

Spotify' Daniel Ek identifies that this affects all businesses with a free tier that requires registration. Mulligan indeed points out that this isn't unique to music services. Only roughly 25%-35% of registered users of social networks like Google+ and Twitter use those services regularly (see here). Mulligan's blog entry is here. Digital Music News covers it here.

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