From Last.fm to Spotify and We7 to Rdio, there are plenty of mobile music streaming offerings out there, but none of them are yet to become truly ubiquitous – locally stored files are still a far more popular way of listening to music on the move.
One thing all mobile music services have in common is that on-demand, ‘choose whatever you want’ music is a premium offering. While services like Spotify and We7 opt for a monthly subscription fee, UK startup Psonar is set to take a different approach by charging one Cent per play.
Aiming largely at the youth market, Psonar will use carrier billing to allow users on both contract and pre-pay phone deals to easily purchase credit to then spend on playing songs. So, buying $10 of credit would allow you 1000 plays, for example. That could be 1000 plays of the same song, 1000 songs listened to once each or anywhere in-between.
Additionally, friends will be able to “gift” a playlist and an amount of credit to others. So, a ten song playlist and 50 cents’ credit will allow the recipient to play the entire playlist five times through. Gifts can be sent via email, SMS or in a Facebook message, helping add a viral element to marketing for the service.
A recent Forrester Research report described young “digital natives” as “The Generation That Music Product Strategy Forgot”. Could Psonar target them with a product they’re willing to pay for? CEO Martin Rigby believes so after the company commissioned independent research and also found support for the idea from the 17000 users of the startup’s existing digital music locker service.
Although Cambridge, UK-based Psonar has secured a deal with independent music distributor The Orchard, it is yet to finalise agreements with the major labels, something that will be key to its success. Psonar plans to launch first in Ireland and Canada. “Ireland and Canada are close proxies for the two largest digital music markets, UK and USA,” explains Rigby, meaning that these countries can be seen as ‘dry runs’ for an assault on the big markets later. Psonar is also building a close relationship with RIM in Canada.
Psonar expects to launch to Irish and Canadian mobile users in June, with apps planned for most smartphone platforms.