Business Matters: Cricket's Muve Music Surpasses 250,000 Subscribers
Business Matters: Cricket's Muve Music Surpasses 250,000 Subscribers

Muve Music by Cricket Wireless has quietly become the second-biggest subscription service in the U.S. Soon, it will be the biggest in the country.

On Wednesday, prepaid mobile carrier Cricket announced its Muve Music subscription service will be included in all new Android plans -- at no extra cost -- starting September 2. "This is the first time any carrier has put music in all their plans the way voicemail is in all their plans," Jeff Toig, Senior Vice President, Muve Music, tells Billboard.biz. "We think this is a huge step in the story, a huge innovation."

Cricket is making music a basic feature and charging different rates for data usage. Also on September 2, Cricket will introduce three rate plans for all Android devices that include unlimited talk, text and music. The plans vary according to data usage and will start at $50 per month. When it originally launched in January 2011, Muve Music was available as part of a $55 bundle with unlimited talk, text, data and music.

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Internal expectations are high. Muve will become the biggest music subscription service in the U.S. "in a few months," predicts Toig. Muve will certainly acquire an unprecedented number of subscribers. According to Toig, 60% of new Cricket customers acquire Android devices. Based on the 2.99 million customer additions last year (from the 2011 annual report of Cricket Wireless parent company Leap Wireless), Muve Music could add about 450,000 subscribers by the end of 2012 and add subscribers at a rate of 1.8 million per 12 months. If Cricket Wireless signs up more new customers or improves the rate of Android as new devices, it would obviously add subscribers at greater rates.

The unknown variable is how many new subscribers Muve Music will keep afterward. It appears Muve Music was an excellent retention tool in 2011. Cricket ended 2012 with more Muve subscribers (500,000) than net customer additions (415,834). If Muve Music can have a similar affect on net customer additions in 2012, Cricket should see a good improvement in net customer additions.

Muve Music publicly states it has around 600,000 subscribers, although that figure seems extremely conservative - and stale - considering that Leap Wireless financial statements indicate there were 500,000 at the end of 2012. Nevertheless, given the rate of new-customer acquisition, Muve Music can expect to add hundreds of thousands of new subscribers by the end year and should exceed 2 million subscribers by the summer of 2013.

Rhapsody is currently the largest subscription service in the U.S. with over 1 million subscribers (another out-of-date figure). Spotify has 4 million subscribers around the world. Deezer has 1.5 million paying subscribers in numerous countries. Aspiro Music's WiMP has 350,000 subscribers and many more users through its partnerships with ISPs and telecoms in Europe.

The kicker is that Muve Music appears to be planning an international expansion that would grow its subscriber figures even more. Although Cricket Wireless is a U.S.-based wireless carrier, Muve Music can license its service to firms in foreign markets.

"We're not prepared to announce international deals at this point," Toig tells Billboard.biz "but we are active in discussions with carriers outside the U.S. on international opportunities pertaining to the Muve platform and work with others around the world on similar things Cricket has done in the U.S."