Can “music as a service” really work? While Rhapsody and Napster, and to a lesser degree Nokia’s Comes with Music offering, have built audiences, to be sure, in terms of revenue generated and user accounts, they’ve lived in the shadow of the Apple’s iTunes store.
Now comes MOG, purveyors of an active music-blogging platform reaching about 10 million visitors a month, launched its MOG All Access online music subscription service earlier this week. For $5 a month, users can log into MOG and start streaming immediately any of 6-plus-million tracks. The service provides fully interactive streams (an important licensing achievement for All Access), meaning consumers can repeat or skip at will. Playlist creation and publishing to the All Access community is straightforward and provides a decent environment for encouraging social browsing and discovery, and there are also links to Amazon’s MP3 store are available for most songs. All Access also contains lyrics for most of the content they have.
The “cool” feature on MOG? The recommendation slider-bar on MOG Radio. Most slider bars on web media players increase/decrease the volume. On MOG, it increases the breadth of different artists that will be included in the playlist the user first selected. You might start with the Mars Volta, but slide the bar to the right and you’ll get Pink Floyd, a little further and The Fall of Troy shows up on the list. Move it back to the left, all Mars Volta all the time. That’s a neat UI feature. And it’s one that definitely adds to the lean-forward usage model of the dedicated music explorer.
One item MOG does have to get running sooner rather than later and that’s a client for mobile phones such as iPhones, Android and Blackberry devices. (The company says they’re looking to have a mobile version – which platform is not known at this time – by early next year.) Pandora’s proven that if you have a very good online streaming service, a fair number of folks are going to want to use that on a consumer smartphone.
Can consumption of music be turned into a service? Will $5/month be the magic price point for consumers given the alternatives out there? I think for fair number of online consumers, streaming is increasingly the favored method of consuming music, especially if there’s a mobile extension of the service. But subscription services – even at $5/month – always face the same challenge: delivering perceivable value to the consumer, month in and month out. And there is plenty of competition or the online subscription dollar from the previously mentioned Rhapsody and Napster, as well as iLike (now owned by MySpace Music) and Lala (as of Friday rumored to be acquired by Apple) and Pandora.
As with any online content business — a la carte sales, subscriptions and hybrids – it comes down to the consumer experience. It will be interesting to see whether MOG’s mix of discovery tools and licensing deals can be translated into a sustainable advantage.
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