If you’re frustrated by the lack of social features in iTunes, Mflow might be just the app for you.
While Spotify has been getting all the hype for its streaming music solution, one UK-based start-up has been quietly working on its own vision for the future of online music. It wants to tap into the value of influential music fans – and pay them.
Mflow is a standalone app for Windows and Mac and at first glance it looks very much like an iTunes-esque, traditional online music store. You can browse the music library and listen to 30-second previews of tracks. Only by buying a track can you listen to it all the way through as a DRM-free MP3 file.
So far, so iTunes but here’s where it gets interesting…
Mflow is stealing the march on Apple by getting social. As you browse the site you can recommend tracks to other users with a ‘Share’ button. You have a user profile and can ‘follow’ other users. An ‘Inbox’ view allows you to see music recommendations from people you follow.
If someone has recommended a song to you, you get a full-length preview rather than the standard 30 seconds. What’s more if someone buys a track based on your recommendation you get 20% of the price of the track paid into your Mflow balance.
What’s smart about Mflow’s model is that it exploits the power of music recommendations from trusted friends. People are encouraged to recommend music they’re passionate about as they get a kickback when friends buy it, while their friends get to stream the track in the app for free.
As the service grows, the most influential users are likely to build up substantial bonuses from users buying their recommendations. As the money earned can only be spent at Mflow, it encourages them to stick around.
Currently in private beta, Mflow is still in development and the team behind it are still adding polish to the interface. It’s not as easy as it could be to browse the available music (currently made up of the PIAS, Beggar’s Banquet and Sony catalogues with more to be added soon), or to browse users.
At present you can only browse the most popular tracks and albums or search the full library. Improved music search is being worked on but for now you can browse the full current Mflow catalogue here. Easy exporting of purchased music to iTunes and a ‘Friend Finder’ to locate users you already know via Twitter, Facebook and email are all features in the works.
You can sign up for the Mflow beta by requesting an invite code at the Mflow website.