Major Label Backed Songl Service Launches In Australia

Australia has another major player in the streaming music space in Songl -- a service jointly-owned by the local affiliates of Universal Music, Sony Music and the radio network Southern Cross Austereo.

Songl’s “premium” tier is priced at Australian $12.99 ($13.50) per month – comparable with its rivals – with the offer of a free one-month trial. There’s also an ad-funded “Songl Free” tier.

According to Songl, its music catalog exceeds "100,000” artists and the number of available tracks is in the “millions,” and growing. The service boasts music from artists signed to Universal Music, EMI Music and Sony Music. According to Mark Shaw, CEO of Songl parent Digital Music Distribution (DMD), Warner Music content has also been licensed.

Songl features automatic syncing across online, social media, mobile and iPads devices, and a video-streaming function.

There’s also representation with various independent labels, though this subject is a sore point with the wider indie community.

Songl has been a long time in coming. It soft-launched in October 2011 and until recently had been in closed beta. In the 18 months since, the streaming market here has truly taken off.

JB Hi Fi’s “Now” service opened for business in late 2011, triggering an avalanche of newcomers. Currently, some 30 digital music services operate Down Under including international brands Spotify, Deezer, Rdio, Rara and Pandora.

Australia’s nascent streaming space “requires a bit of time, the numbers around streaming are pretty small at the moment,” Shaw tells Billboard.biz, “but with the firepower we have behind us and the product we’re bringing to market, and the way we’re approaching it, we’re really enthusiastic about the growth potential. We think we can get some really good traction sooner rather than later.” Shaw says Songl will make a big play to “educate” Australians on the streaming music market.

Songl Owners DMD Appoint Mark Shaw as CEO Ahead of Australian Launch

Merlin, however, is not impressed with Thursday's commercial launch. The global rights agency for independents hasn’t reached a licensing deal with Songl for its members.

"Merlin tried to have a discussion with the major label proprietors of Songl to license our music, but they simply haven't bothered to do so,” Charles Caldas, CEO of Merlin, tells Billboard.biz.

“As a result," notes the London-based exec, "Australian consumers are seeing the launch today of an inherently inferior product to the subscription services in the market that have worked with us to make sure their subscribers have a properly comprehensive music offering; including Rdio, Spotify, JB Now and Deezer.

Merlin has equity in Spotify alongside its major label competitors, but no such arrangement with Songl.  Some independent label reps who spoke to Billboard.biz are concerned about the major labels behaving as competitors in the retail space.

“Why anyone would pay good money to subscribe to a service that doesn't include some of the leading artists in the world, including Adele, Nick Cave, The Lumineers, the XX, Grizzly Bear and hundreds of thousands of other tracks by independent artists, which are available on the existing digital services, is beyond me,” Caldas says of Songl. “In other words....spending anything on this service is a simple waste of money.”

Songl was presented at a function today in central Sydney, a week after going live.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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