mflow wants to be "iTunes meets Twitter", but with influencers getting paid

[UK] West London-based mflow is pitching itself as “iTunes meets Twitter” — and as convenient as that sounds, the concept is actually quite compelling, especially as users get paid for the music sales they help generate.

Just like Twitter, users follow one another but instead of sending out tweets, they share links to tracks available in the mflow music store – called ‘flows’ – that include a one-off full streaming preview, and any comments that the user adds. Each flow also has an option to purchase an MP3 of the track and it’s here where users get paid in the form of mflow store credit – 20% of the download price.

Crucially, users don’t need to have purchased the track from mflow to share it with their followers, it just needs to be available in the mflow store, so it could be something they’ve heard on radio or bought or ‘acquired’ elsewhere.

Of course, not all users are equal in terms of influence as they can include the artists or record labels themselves or established DJs or music media. Magazines NME, Clash and Classic Rock already have profiles on the site, as well as artists such as The Temper Trap and Lauren Pritchard who get to talk directly to their fan base and can offer exclusive tracks and remixes.

In this sense, mfow plays to many emotions: the social nature of music in the form of sharing and recommendations, the desire to connect directly with artists, or be in the know and become an influencer in your own right. Then there’s the small matter of getting a kick-back for doing so.

That said, we think mflow may have made a critical mistake: the desktop version requires a download rather than running in a web browser. That might be fine for the likes of Spotify but the heavy social nature of mflow suggests a download could be a barrier too high – although a mobile version is said to be in the works.

mflow’s funding is particularly noteworthy. Unlike Spotify and a raft of online music services, it has no record label funding (i.e. none of the record labels have any equity stake in the business). Instead, the company has secured what is being described as three rounds of funding from Russian media company, TNT. The second and third rounds of funding are in fact only being released if certain agreed targets are hit, TechCrunch Europe has learned. These largely relate to mflow expanding beyond the UK market, and over four years could amount to just under £30 million.

The service, which is available in the UK-only and currently in private beta, launches to the wider public on the 15th of this month. It will have a catalogue of 1 million tracks, representing around 70% of all the music bought in the UK on a weekly basis, says the company.

If you can’t wait till Thursday, however, use the invite code TECHC13 to get in early.