Business Matters: Cricket's Muve Music Surpasses 250,000 Subscribers
Business Matters: Cricket's Muve Music Surpasses 250,000 Subscribers

In just six months, the Muve mobile music service from pre-paid wireless operator Cricket has done what year-old music services like MOG and Rdio have yet to do: reach 100,000 users. The company released the data today.

That's quite a feat, especially considering that the service has only been active in Cricket's full nationwide footprint for just over two months. The service went live in January in a handful of markets, rolling out slowly to cover all markets by early May. As Billboard previously noted, Muve's 100,000 subscribers are more than what both MOG and Rdio combined have generated, according to sources familiar with their progress.

"Not a lot of new services have launched that have reached that number of subscribers so quickly," says David Ring, Universal Music Group eLabs executive TV of business development and business affairs. "That's phenomenal."

What's more, Cricket also released usage data for the service that is raising eyebrows. On average, Muve customers download more than 400 songs per month, and in total have downloaded more than 100 million songs since the service launched. They also listen to music on their phones 2-3 hours a day, on average. In the month of June alone, the Muve service streamed more than 100 million songs. And internal surveys report a 90% customer satisfaction rate.

"A lot of services launch well, but if you don't see that much engagement, you know there's something wrong," Ring says. "They really have a highly engaged and highly focused audience, and they're very, very invested in this."

These are shocking figures, particularly when you consider that Muve operates completely differently than any other mobile music service available today. For starters, it's the first mobile operator to hard bundle a music service into its data plan. The Muve plan is all-inclusive: bundling unlimited voice, texting, Web browsing and music downloads on a specific phone designed just for the service, all for a flat fee of $55 a month. (See Billboard's initial coverage for more details.)

Secondly, this isn't a streaming service. All songs are downloaded in full to the phone, where they stay. There's no ability to transfer the songs to other device, which was a point of contention with some critics. Third, it only featured music from the major labels. Cricket is just now getting around to ingesting content from its various deals with independent labels and digital aggregators, with a goal of six million tracks available by the end of the year. And, it's available only on one phone: the Samsung Suede. There's no smartphone app or iPhone integration.

So what's the secret? Simple, it's an easy-to-use service that's priced properly. That's it. Muve was built from the ground up as a mobile music service, embedded directly into the operating system of the phone. Songs download in a matter of seconds. Users can share tracks, use Shazam to ID and buy songs. It all just works and it's cheap. The strength of these features, at that price, far outweigh the relatively minor negative of not being able to access the music on other devices.

The question going forward of course is whether Cricket can maintain both these growth rates and engagement stats. More than half of Muve's customers are new to Cricket, which suggests there is an interest in these kinds of bundled deals. But the mobile music space is heating up; Apple's iCloud set to go live this fall and Spotify expected to launch a U.S.-based version of its popular service next week.

Muve GM Jeff Toig remains confident. "This has the potential to be a big growth story for Cricket and a growth story for the digital music business," he says. "We're trying to run the biggest digital music service in the country."