Australian startup, Guvera, will launch its much hyped ad-supported free music download and streaming service tomorrow.
The site has been running a serious international marketing campaign leading up to the launch, using big words like “revolution” and tying themselves implicitly by name to Che Guevara.
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The only problem is that, despite their vehement claims that they’re about to shake up the world, there’s been a healthy amount of skepticism about the company itself and the chances of success for the service.
Before we get into that though, let me explain how the service works because it’s quite simple.
As part of the profile building process after signup you get asked a bunch of questions about you and the things you like. The point of this is to make sure you get targeted by the right advertisers but also to acquire credits.
The more details you put in your profile, the more credits you get.
Once you’re ready you search for an artist (there aren’t that many at the moment but they claim they’ll have more after launch) you get routed to a branded page to stream or download songs.
Downloading/streaming uses up the aforementioned credits.
But a deeper poke around the net shows that what could be an interesting idea is leaving many people uncertain.
For instance, feedback on leading Australian Internet forum Whirlpool seems to be generally harsh. There’s been some conjecture about whether the company itself is a scam. I don’t think it is, but it’s not a good start when that’s the first impression some people have.
I mention Whirlpool because the startup is Australian and the Australian tech community seems to have some better insight into the team members, the company (and its attempts to get funded) and the service, which makes their comments a little more pertinent.
Well regarded Australian blogger and creative guy, Nic Hodges, was not that glowing in his review of the site either saying, amongst other things, “I don’t see the point”.
Admittedly he did go back on and have a play after speaking with a member of the Guvera team, but the long and the short of it is that he thinks the site still has a long way to go, an opinion I also share.
On their side, the team has done well to try and create a new business model for music that maintains the free-ness that many Internet users expect these days while still finding a way to pass revenue onto the artists.
They’ve also done well to get buy in from leading record companies Universal and EMI as well as publishing companies BMI, the Harry Fox Agency and SESAC. In addition to that they’ve got some blue-chip advertisers on board and have reportedly managed to raise up to $30 Million in financing from AMMA Private Investment, a consortium of private angel investors locate don the Gold Coast in Australia.
Despite all this, playing with the site leaves you generally underwhelmed.
Maybe its the whole expectation thing – I’ve always appreciated companies that under-promise and over-deliver – but Guvera seems to have done the opposite. Then again maybe what’s missing is that killer feature, something like We Are Hunted have, that makes you want to stay and play on the site rather than pop in for a visit.
I guess I’m trying to say that the current options of either downloading your music for free or using a relatively cheap service like iTunes are so ingrained in people that changing consumer behaviour requires the addition of something more than just free – and I don’t think Guvera has that “thing”.
It doesn’t mean they won’t get there, but for now signing up is more about testing a new service with potential and hoping they iterate quickly than expecting to be blown away at launch.