midemblog: Sony is back at midem, with streaming service Music Unlimited. How is the service faring?
Tim Schaaff: We’re available in 13 countries now and are continuing to expand. The service is available across a huge range of services, including tablets and Android; and it’ll be on iOS by the end of this quarter. We’ll also be launching offline cache soon; and essential feature for mobile devices.
> That’s a feature that other streaming services have already had for a while…
When we started, we were more focused on home devices than on mobile, and that’s still where the majority of our service’s usage comes from.
> How many users does your service have today?
We have more than a million active users, that’s a mixture of basic (free) and premium (paid) usage. The offering includes a ‘music sync’ service that synchronises your music across all your devices, and another feature where you can create your own radio stations. The premium service is at the $9.99 price point, depending on which country you’re in.
> There’s a lot of competition out there: what are your USPs?
There is indeed a lot of competition. Universal Music Group was saying recently they’ve licensed to 250 different services around the world last year. Our unique selling points are firstly the strong retail capacity we already have in place. Don’t forget the (mass) marketplace has yet to wake up to this; on a global scale, streaming is a very small part of the consumer base’s activity. Secondly, we bring an entire entertainment network, including film and games too, which is all unlocked with a common ID.
> The PlayStation Network was infamously hacked last year: is that all properly fixed now?
It’s worked itself out. We’ve made big investments to improve security, and we’re now seeing our best numbers ever. The consumers have come back.
> There’s a lot of talk about streaming cannibalising download sales at the moment. Where do you stand on that?
The labels tell me there’s none of it taking place. There are plenty of reasons for people to do both.
> What about artists claiming they don’t get paid enough by streaming services?
Service providers like us are spending lots of money to create a completely licensed system. There’s still some mystery at this early stage; but ultimately, it won’t work out if artists aren’t properly paid. Artists are going to learn that the payments are good, and that there’s great potential to grow the market.
> So should they see streaming as an alternative to radio, rather than to downloads?
It’s not an alternative to anything: it’s new. And it will provide great opportunities for both new and established artists to give access to their music. Ultimately, streaming is a chance to monetise engagement. So we’re very optimistic: there’s a dynamic quality about the industry right now.