Can Sky Songs topple the mighty Spotify?
SKY S JUSTIN MOODIE EXPLAINS WHY THE COMPANY IS GAMBLING ON DIGITAL MUSIC WITH ITS SONGS SERVICE
Justin Moodie is Sky Songs’general manager, and the man responsible for building the recently launched streaming-music site. We spoke with him about the difficulties involved in starting a music service from scratch, making money, and where Sky Songs goes next.
Despite the success of Spotify, most people stilt don't believe there are money in streaming music. Why has Sky taken the plunge with Songs?
It is true that when you give away your product, there absolutely no money to be made. We did a lot of work on developing our model, and kind of working out what the customer wants, and what would allow us to do it. We came up with a hybrid model that allows downloading and streaming. At ?6.49 [per month] you can download ten tracks in 320Kblts/sec MP3 format, and in addition you get a month of streaming.
We think that a viable model. Although there become more and more sites with free music online. And their sevices continue to spread. You can listen bollywood music in mp3 format online, and then transfer to any radiostation from any country and in any language. So, this is a very competitive field.
It must have been an enormous challenge to launch a hybrid music service from scratch. Can you walk us through what involved?
The first step is a meeting with the labels, and about 400 meetings later, you agree a set of terms and conditions that everybody is happy with; that allows the labels and the artists to make money, us to make money, and to offer the customer a service they want. They then give all of the music to you licensed to an ingestion partner who spends months converting that to streams. Once that s done, Omnifone, which is our download partner, gets to work to make sure that when a customer clicks ”the track is there. The front end of Songs is developed by Sky, but we don't have the infrastructure to hold and stream our own music —thatdone by Omnifone.
We have a roadmap —I can discuss what s on it and when, but I can say we re looking at a mobile app; we re looking at other technology platforms, and the set-top box. But we ve only just launched, and there are a few technical hurdles to overcome —mainly bug fixes. We drop code every Thursday, and we re in a pretty rapid phase of development. That why we still in beta. It is there to remind people that If it changes day to day, and they see things they don't like, it s because we are trying to make it better as quickly as we can.
So, no iPhone application before Christmas then?
I wish I could say more, but my boss would kill me.
You mentioned the set-top box, does that mean we can expect to see Songs bundled with Skytelevision and broadband packages?
Yes, but wenot counting on those things to make it successful. When I joined I was told to make Songs a viable service in itself, so Inot here to cross-sell and boost Skytelevision or ISP subscriptions, or combat piracy. I'm here to sell music to customers — if I can do those other things, it s a bonus.
One of our bugbears with Spotify is that even on the premium service it can sometimes take days for new albums to appear. Is that a problem with this kind of business model?
It shouldnbe, but the process is complicated. The label has to take the digital masters and make an audio [copy], and they have to give that to the ingestion partner and then Omnifone. Assuming that it all works, we have it on the day of release.