Written by Music, Radio, Technology


UBC today announced that it was closing down the phone service Cliq while it continues to look towards “connected” radios which will become available later in the year for its future business model.
Cliq worked by installing a JAVA app on your mobile that used the data network. The service monitored the output of 28 partner stations (including Heart and Galaxy networks), and allowed you to buy and download the music you heard for a price of £1.25.
Allowing your listeners to buy the songs that they’ve just heard is a perfectly sensible thing to be doing. So why has the service failed?
Well the takeup was low, and they had technical difficulties that they found hard to overcome. I know one person who simply couldn’t get the service to work. I did have it running on my previous Windows Mobile device, but never actually used the service.
The fact that the music was encrypted with DRM, meaning that I had a limited number of devices to playback the music was the main reason, but the £1.25 price point is unattractive when iTunes is selling the same songs for 79p. That’s a 58% premium! I believe that un-encrypted downloads are the only longterm solution that’s going to be accepted by the public. We’re already seeing that with iTunes beginning to unlock some of its inventory. Play.com is already up and running selling mp3s in the UK, with EMI the first of the big four record companies working with them. Amazon has announced it’ll be selling downloads later this year, and it’ll undoubtedly have done deals with all the majors, and Napster in the US has gone down the mp3 route for its sold tracks (subscriptions obviously work differently).
As a consumer I want to be able to listen to my music on my iPod, my mobile, my PSP, my Xbox, my PC and even my SatNav if I want!
But price is important as well. The music industry has undoubtedly taken a hit in recent years with albums seemingly as cheap now as they were when I was growing up. I read reports that Coldplay’s new album, supposedly the saviour of EMI this year, is going to be sold for just £7 in Asda (and no doubt other supermarkets) tomorrow when it’s released. But record companies lost control of the market when they left it to Apple to launch the iTunes store and didn’t offer the service their consumers were crying out for themselves.
Linking your music sales offering with a radio station still makes sense. I’m concerned about developing hardware around a specific sales offering though. Requiring me to buy a new device in order that I can purchase your product is a brave move to make.
That said, wi-fi radios have yet to reach a significant level in the UK, and if they have DAB chips in them too, and are offered at a reasonable price point, then there’s certainly a possibility. I believe that wi-fi is still a bit of a black art for many people. How many subscribers who have a BT Home Hub realise that they also have a wi-fi base station I wonder?
Anyway, I’ll look forward to seeing the devices when they’re released later in the year. But your product has to be priced in line with the rest of the industry, and when Amazon opens its mp3 store, we’re all going to hear about it.