Over the past few months in selling the key ideas behind Psonar to labels and music industry pundits I’ve often been pushed back with the argument ‘what’s so different about Psonar – it’s just Spotify with a different payment model’. At first glance, Psonar does offer the same as Spotify – on-demand per track music streaming – but with Pay-Per-Play as the basis of charging rather than a limited amount of free, ad-supported use or a range of monthly subscriptions. But that misses the point – it’s all about being truly social.
From the music fan perspective, Psonar has a simple payment model that’s available to teenagers (tagged as ‘Digital Natives’ by Mark Mulligan in this Forrester Report in January 2011) and other people without credit cards. It can revolutionise streaming music access in the same way that ‘Pay As You Go’ revolutionised mobile phone access. More importantly, Psonar empowers peoples’ desire to share music – create a playlist in the Psonar app and gift it to anyone else to listen. The recipient only has to click on a link and the Psonar web app will immediately play on their smartphone, tablet or computer with no need to sign-up or sign-in. The donor pays 1p / 1c / 1 eurocent for each track gifted – so 10p for a 10 track playlist – and can pay through their phone bill (contract or pre-pay), credit card or PayPal.
For artists and labels, Psonar opens up a whole new world of viral and social marketing. By gifting plays to their fans, artists encourage them to spread the music on to their friends in turn. And fans are rewarded for sharing: 1 free play for every 10 Pay-Per-Play tracks played as a result of their gifting or sharing activity. Psonar play links can be embedded in tweets, Facebook updates, emails, texts, IM messages, blog posts and on artists’ and labels’ websites or Facebook pages. Psonar play links can be configured to allow different fan behaviour, such as play once or many times or allow gifting to one person or many people. This flexibility gives artists and labels, especially independents, the power to create a viral marketing campaign that’s tailored to the demographics and behaviour of their fans. Importantly, they can limit the number of plays that are free – knowing that any further spread monetizes on a Pay-Per-Play basis.
No-one can doubt the challenge we face in launching and growing Psonar. We’ve been lucky that some important players in the global music industry (The Orchard, INgrooves, Essential Music, Virtual Label, Skint/Loaded, Stealth Records to name a few), especially in the independent music sector, appreciate our vision and have partnered with us. At the start of the year when Congress will decide whether to pass the most draconian anti-piracy measure yet contemplated to protect copyright, SOPA, Psonar is about liberating the potential of the web to spread music and encourage listening in a way that rewards creators: to misquote Bill Cinton “it’s all about being social, stupid”.