U.K. radio manufacturer Pure has unveiled a cloud-based music service that will enable users to purchase songs they hear on the set at the touch of a button.

The FlowSongs service was unveiled at a London launch today (Aug. 11) and attracted executives from the radio and music industries, as well as the licensing bodies such as PRS for Music and PPL. FlowSongs goes live on Monday (Aug. 16) in the U.K.

Colin Crawford, Pure's director of marketing, stressed that it is a beta service at present although he clearly believes it's an initiative that will capture the imagination of the U.K. public. As he pointed out, radio listening is higher than ever in Britain and the ability to purchase a track directly from the set is "the triumph of common sense over obstacles."

"FlowSongs is the service I wanted when I was 16," he added. As he suggested, even the advent of digital music and decent broadband speeds have still not made radio listening and consequent impulse purchase of a favored track a truly seamless experience.

There were questions about the licensing of a service that is a hybrid of streaming and downloading, and the main problem would appear to be the window between a track getting played on the radio and the on-sale date, which in some cases can be months apart.

But on the whole this was a convincing pitch for a new service which, as Crawford said, is not an attempt to become a dominant player in the download sector. Instead, this is about further boosting the radio industry in cooperation with the music industry, which could benefit in a big way if it takes off.

Crawford said the service can help drive radio set sales and "improve radio listening" as an experience for the user.

PRS for Music's chief economist Will Page appeared on a panel at the event and he praised the service, stating that FlowSongs is about "creating additional purchases" rather than cannibalizing sales from elsewhere.

There are also potential benefits, particularly for smaller artists, in terms of gathering data from sales. And new artists should see an upside as listeners who hear an unfamiliar act or song can immediately purchase a track if they like it.

Pure has also got partners on board that fit with their position as a global company that sells radios in Europe, Australia and the U.S. Digital entertainment company 7digital powers FlowSongs, alongside other clients' download sites (including joint venture partner HMV) and its own international download stores. Ben Drury, CEO of 7digital, said that his service is licensed in 16 territories including the U.S.

"From my perspective the [FlowSongs] service is equally compelling in whatever territory you live," he told the audience at the launch. Crawford confirmed plans for an international roll-out.

On the issue of lack of availability of a song for purchase, Drury said that if a song had not yet been released there was still potential for the listener to pre-order or tag it for future purchase. He said 7digital ingests new catalog close to airplay dates, adding that pre-ordering has been "extremely attractive" for consumers on 7digital's download stores.

The FlowSongs service is available on five Pure radios - although it looks particularly impressive on the top of the range touchscreen Sensia - and the user can identify and purchase a track whether they are listening via DAB, FM radio or Internet radio (the Internet-connected Pure models combine all functions). The track identification and tagging system is provided by Shazam.

To purchase a track, the user presses the 'Flow' button, which will then ID the song, and then chooses whether to confirm the purchase at 7digital's prices. Customers purchase credit via Pure's secure online portal, thelounge.com, and that is where they would then be able to stream the purchased track via the radio set or online device. Additionally, the user can download the track in MP3 format to a PC or Mac or portable device at no extra cost.

After 90 days, the user can continue to use the service for an annual subscription of £2.99 ($4.68), which presumably covers the costs of the Shazam partnership for tagging of tracks.

The hybrid streaming/download service prompted questions about the licensing structure. Pure executives were not very forthcoming with details but stressed their respect for rights holders.

Pete Downton, director of connected services at parent company Imagination Technologies (and a former Warner Music staffer), explained that Pure is working closely with music partners and that it was "new ground for the industry."

The FlowSongs service also has potential for an unlimited subscription model. There was no specific plan for such a development, although Downton added that Pure wants "to offer people who buy our devices lots of options."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print