Better Late Than Never: Deezer Releases APIs To Court Developers In Latest Bid To Catch Up To Spotify

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Music streaming provider Deezer is one of the bigger (and older — it’s been around since 2006) services of its kind, with some 20 million registered users in 48 territories, and 15 million tracks in its catalog — but it has failed to capture mindshare in quite the same way as rival Spotify; and some might argue that this will make it harder in the long run for Deezer to keep up and grow.

Today sees the launch of the company’s latest attempt to turn that situation around: “Open Deezer,” a new set of APIs for iOS, Android and Java-based web apps, which it hopes will help it bring on a new raft of developers to create music services around its platform.

The move underscores Deezer’s need to ramp up its offering to make it more dynamic, specifically in the face of competition from Spotify, which has been offering APIs since last year and now has a few dozen apps available on its platform.

“We know we don’t have a monopoly on great ideas,” Daniel Marhely, the founder and CTO of Deezer, said in a statement. “There is still so much we can create to enhance people’s music experience.”

The APIs give developers not only access to the Deezer catalog of 15 million tracks and related metadata, but also Deezer’s HTML5-based music streaming technology, which can be used without downloading a desktop client (unlike Spotify, until recently).

Developers also get “user data” access but it’s unclear whether that’s simply a case of user profiles or a wider look at analytics around what that user has consumed.

While today’s announcement opens the APIs up to independents, Deezer says that “early partners” have already been working on apps with Open Deezer. These partners include social networks Facebook, Twitter and last.fm; carriers Orange, Belgacom and T-Mobile; hi-fi makers Sonos and Logitech; and car companies Nissan and Parrot.

And — just as later entrants to the mobile “platform wars” have used financial incentives to attract app developers to their operating systems — so, too, will Deezer. They will get £9.99 ($16) — or one month of a premium subscription — for every new user that they bring to Deezer through their app. It seems like that reward comes regardless of whether the subscriber is taking Deezer’s free or premium service.

Deezer’s also running two Hackathons in Berlin and Paris to drum up some buzz.

Will this be enough to lure in the magic app makers?

“I think it’s exiting that there are more tools in place for developers to drive innovation, but we have not decided yet whether we’ll develop for Deezer,” says Inge Andre Sandvik, one of the founders of Soundrop, one of the more popular apps for Spotify, in which a Turntable-style app lets users enter “rooms” where they can listen to the same music together and create/add to others’ playlists off the Spotify catalog.

“For now our small team very busy making the best possible way to discover music in Spotify,” he says. “I would like to be very opportunistic about taking Soundrop to more platforms, but we have a very good relationship with Spotify that we invested a lot in.”

He also points out that for developers that are targeting web apps the new Deezer development platform “looks very interesting” and at least may have an advantage over another player, if not Spotify itself:

“I would assume Deezer will get a lot of interest. Both Deezer and Rdio seem to be well positioned now for web apps, but Deezer’s strength is that they have a head start on the global reach.”

Update: As it was pointed out below, APIs are not only the preserve of Spotify and Deezer; others like Grooveshark also offer them as a way for developers to tap into their music platforms.

Also: just to answer another couple of questions below: Deezer tells me that currently it has “no plans” to offer its service in the U.S. — which, given that this is Spotify’s fastest growing market, may be seen as a missed opportunity for more users for Deezer, too.