Samsung's Milk Music Spills Into Australia, Merlin 'Disappointed' With Indies Deals

Samsung has launched Milk Music to compete in Australia's nascent -- and already crowded -- streaming music marketplace. The incoming radio streaming service, however, has been given an early thumbs-down from the independents' digital rights agency Merlin. 

Milk Music opened for business on compatible Samsung devices last week in Australia, its third market, and it arrives just weeks after the Korea-based tech-firm retired its Music Hub business Down Under. Its newly-launched free-to-download customizable app currently offers Australians more than 150 genre-based and curated stations.

Australia's Music Streaming Market Is Jam-Packed – But Likely Not for Long

Milk Music launched its streaming radio service in the U.S. last March exclusively on Galaxy devices. By early July, the app had been downloaded 2 million times in the U.S., Billboard reported, up from the 380,000 downloads Samsung reported by late April. By July of 2014, Milk Music had activated a premium tier, Milk Premium, which added offline listening and unlimited song skipping to the regular offering of 200 stations and a personalization features. Also, Milk Premium doesn't carry advertising. 

According to Gizmodo, Milk Premium will also arrive in Australia in due course. 

The Australian rollout missed an opportunity, explains Charles Caldas, CEO of Merlin, who wasn't satisfied with Milk Music's initial range of content. "Samsung did not bother to license the world's major independents via Merlin before they launched in Australia," he tells Billboard.biz. "Given the success our labels have enjoyed in the Australian market, I'm sure Australian consumers will notice that, and be disappointed at their absence."

A spokesperson for Samsung didn't respond to requests for comment on the service's licensed catalog or Caldas' comment.

Australia's Record Biz Recedes in 2014, Subscription Services Surge Ahead

Milk Music will jostle for position with dozens of established businesses. Australia is the only country other than the United States with streaming services by three digital music leaders, Spotify, Pandora and iTunes Radio, while subscription services Deezer, Rdio, Xbox Music, Sony Music Unlimited and Google Play Music All Access and Internet radio service iHeartRadio all operate in this super-competitive market. Indeed, the industry-supported Digital Content Guide lists 36 legal digital music players competing for the attention of Australia's 23 million consumers. 

Many observers predict the herd will thin out. It's already happening. Spotify is going to replace Sony Music Unlimited this spring, while the major-label backed Songl closed its on-demand music subscription service last September.

Streaming and subscription services provided a lone bright spot for an otherwise gloomy year in Australia's recorded music business last year, according to data published by ARIA. The streaming sector in 2014 more than doubled its income to A$23 million ($18 million), while the overall market contracted by 9.62% to A$317.7 million ($253 million).