The news that Google has launched its own all-you-can-eat music steaming service, catchily named ‘Google Play Music All Access‘, didn’t come as a surprise. There had been rumours that the search giant was planning to create a Spotify/Rdio/Deezer competitor for some time. Why has it done so? Apparently it had to. Music is at the centre of the mobile computing experience, which is where Google wants to remain.
And yet — and yet — it appears to have brought nothing new to the music streaming table. Certainly from a consumer proposition, Google Play Music All Access looks just like Spotify et al, right down to the business model and pricing. This from the company that’s bringing us self-driving cars.
It’s therefore nice to see a startup trying something different and garnering some promising traction along the way. The UK’s Bloom.fm is a mobile-first music streaming service — it currently exists as an iOS app only — that launched four months ago out of the ashes of the deadpooled music social network mflow. Since then the service, which offers an innovative mix of free and paid tiers that start from just £1 per-month (~$1.5), has amassed 150,000 subscribers, growing 50% in the last month — though, tellingly, it isn’t saying how many are free versus paid users.
Offering a catalog of 18 million tracks, the app can be used entirely for free in internet radio mode. There are over 150 curated stations and many more based on artist. However, these are streaming only and therefore don’t support offline playback, a fairly important feature for a mobile music service. But it also serves as a natural dividing line. You want total control over the tracks you listen to and how, then you need to pay.
For many users, however, particularly the younger teen demographic, going from free to the £9.99 per month ($9.99 in the U.S.) that Spotify et al charge for mobile usage is a step too far. Bloom.fm thinks that this is holding back true mass adoption of mobile music services.
Its solution is a paid subscription that employs what it’s calling a “borrow, enjoy, return” model. Starting at £1 per month (or £1.50p as an in-app purchase thanks to Cupertino taking a cut), users can temporarily download 20 tracks at any one time. That’s roughly two album’s worth of music, which doesn’t sound like much, but these can be refreshed at any time. Besides, teens are a fickle bunch.
Need more? Bloom.fm also offers £5 and £10 plans for 200 tracks and unlimited respectively. Obviously, the latter plan is just like those of its competitors and it will be interesting to see how many users Bloom.fm can eventually up-sell to that tier. My guess is that the middle tier may well be the sweet spot. Either way, it’s nice to see some innovation in what is fast becoming the streaming music as a commodity space.