At the Xbox One Titanfall release party a few weeks ago at SXSW, Billboard had a chance to chance to sit down with Yusuf Mehdi, the chief marketing officer at Xbox. In an exclusive Q&A, he discusses what makes Xbox Music special, and how it stands to solidify Xbox’s position as the ultimate home entertainment system.
What’s your position at Xbox?
I’ve been the chief marketing officer at Xbox for the last couple of years. Recently, I took on all marketing for Microsoft’s consumer devices so that includes Surface, Xbox.
Is the Xbox One positioned to be an entertainment system?
We want Xbox One to be the best games and the best entertainment system for your home. What we’ve tried to do is make an all-in-one system. The benefits of this is that all of your entertainment is made simple and you can make it really interactive.
With Xbox One, for the first time, you can do everything on your TV. You can watch live TV, flip to a game instantly, snap two things at once on the television, do a Skype call, play epic games. And you can swap entertainment as fast as saying “Xbox, watch ESPN; Xbox, play music.”
Today what happens is you’re playing a great game and you want to watch TV, you have to pick up the remote, change inputs, then you have to wait for it to come up. You lose this world of seamlessness. An example is, let’s say you’re playing Titanfall and some of your friends are playing while you’re watching TV -- you’re going to miss it. Because we have one system that’s always running, you’ll get a popup that says, “Yusuf is about to play Titanfall” whether you’re watching TV or not. Conversely, you could snap your friend's list, see that your friend is watching the NFL, and jump to the game.
Can Xbox users use other services besides Xbox Music?
Right now, Xbox Music is the only music service available today on Xbox One. As an all-in-one music service, Xbox Music provides unlimited and ad-free streaming, radio for discovering new music, all your playlists, a collection that travels with you through the cloud, tens of thousands of music videos, and more. We have plans to open it up to anyone, but we want all applications to work as customers expect (this includes voice control, to either search or switch between apps). You can already see this happening right now with video.
Xbox Music is the premier music service on Xbox 360 as well, where other music services are also available. We’ve grown our entertainment library on Xbox 360 and have a managed portfolio of applications that we curate in our apps marketplace. Along with Xbox Music on Xbox 360, this includes iHeartRadio, Vevo, Rhapsody, Slacker, Muzu.TV, and 8tracks.
What makes Xbox music different from many of the other streaming services that are out there today?
One of the things that we do that’s very consistent with the Xbox brand is that it's very visual. We just released a bunch of music videos, so if you watch Xbox Music on your actual Xbox and through your actual TV, if we have a music video for a song that’s in your library, Xbox will seamlessly play the track’s music video along in place of the large cover artwork that’s normally displayed.
The voice commands, the ability to walk into a room and say “Xbox, play music,” are unlike anything offered today. Xbox Music has more to offer than any other music service. You can download and buy, just like you can on iTunes. You can also subscribe like you do on Spotify and Beats and have access to an even bigger catalog. So it’s a marketplace, and on-demand service, and it’s a free, ad-supported internet radio that you can play on a browser.
We’ve built the second largest music catalog, just behind iTunes (because we don’t have the Beatles, among a few others).
Most exciting thing looking forward to the future?
Just this fall we shipped the iPhone and Android clients for Xbox Music. All of your music on Xbox music lives in the cloud, where we beam it down to all of your devices making it easy for your music to go wherever you go.
We’re also doing a lot of work in programming, for music discovery. Part of what you can do with such a large catalog in so many markets is make it very easy for people to discover music. We have algorithms as well as human curators.