The United States is about to get a new on-demand music service. Set for a July 4th launch, ROK Mobile is the creation of John Paul DeJoria, the billionaire behind Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron Tequila, and British mobile entrepreneur Jonathan Kendrick.
The founders saw an opening for a music streaming service in the growing prepaid, no-contract segment of the mobile market. "Our primary goal is to compel subscribers to come to our service from preexisting services because, frankly, our value proposition and offer are much more affordable and gives them a higher value," says chief operating officer Gabriel Rene.
The trick is creating a great music experience. Knowing a "me, too" music service probably wouldn't lure customers from existing mobile companies, ROK Mobile executives have aimed to deliver a different kind of personalized user experience. They confidently call it "music streaming 2.0." "Pandora was the forerunner," says Rene. "Spotify and Beats are sort of music streaming 1.0 services."
ROK Mobile is the first service to use a new Gracenote product, the Rhythm API, which allows for highly personalized streaming radio and powers the Mood Grid, a feature that allows the listener to fine-tune a station based on mood. Its executives are optimistic the feature will resonate with customers and believes it has advantages to the kind of curated, playlist content of Beats Music. "Music is ultimately about mood," says Rene.
ROK Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, a mobile service that doesn't own the wireless infrastructure that provides services to its customers. ROK Mobile will launch on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks.
Subscribers pay $49.99 per month for unlimited voice, text and data, with the music service added at no extra charge. It's an approach first seen with Cricket and the Muve Music on-demand service it created to attract and retain subscribers. "They're very difficult to get right unless you have something special to offer that's different than the host network," Kendrick, chairman and cofounder, says of MVNOs.
But unlike Muve Music, which does not stream music and restricts downloads to highly compressed files to save bandwidth, ROK Mobile is an on-demand service in the vein of Spotify and Rhapsody. In addition to a catalog of 20 million songs, ROK Mobile has the ability to both stream and download, as well as playlist creation and access via multiple devices. 7digital handles content management and distribution, rights management and other backend functions.
ROK Mobile's debut will mark the fourth major mobile music event of 2014. T-Mobile recently plunged into digital music by offering unlimited high-speed data for seven -- and counting -- music apps. Earlier in the year, AT&T partnered with Beats Music and Sprint joined with Spotify. Customers can get discounts and pay the monthly fees within their monthly mobile bill. Such partnerships are new to the U.S. but have helped drive subscriptions in Europe.
Participation of mobile carriers could give greater momentum to an already growing segment of the digital music market. Last year, on-demand music services grew 57% to $628 million, according to the RIAA.