Communications giant Telstra has waded into Australia's music streaming battlefield with their new MOG service. Their ace in the hole? Unmetered streaming and downloading, meaning Telstra customers can listen to as much music as they want without racking up additional data charges.
Following the high profile Australian launches of similar subscription music services Rdio, Spotify and JB Hi-Fi NOW, MOG will offer unlimited, on-demand access to more than 15 million songs (slightly less than Spotify, and considerably more than Rdio and NOW), streamed to their mobile, tablet, computer and select Smart TVs.
A 14-day free trial will be offered, as well as two levels of paid service ($6.99 for desktop/web access and $11.99 for additional mobile access). Unlike Spotify, which offers a free service supported by advertising (ads are removed for subscribers), MOG will be ad-free at all levels.
MOG — which streams at an impressive 320kbps — employs a HTML5 browser-based player, and allows users to download and store music on their phones so it can be accessed even when a data connection is unavailable. The service also includes endless, intuitive playlists based on your listening habits and which artists you 'like' on Facebook. Curated content is also provided via Editor's Picks and Featured Playlists.
While those features will impress, its the removal of data charges — a major downside of other subscription music services — that Telstra thinks will give them a competitive edge. The Age
has speculated the deal (which mimics those in place between Spotify and Telia in Sweden, WiMP and Telenor in Norway and Deezer and Orange in France, all of which have led to dominant market share for the streaming providers) could be responsible for a large-scale movement towards the music subscription model in Australia.
MOG has been operating in the US for two years. Reports circulated earlier this year that HTC's Beats Electronics division (run by Dr Dre) was in talks to buy the company. As it stands, MOG's board includes hirsute producer Rick Rubin (of Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Slayer and System Of A Down fame).
The HTC deal hasn't been confirmed, but it could certainly have played a part in Telstra choosing to team with MOG, given the HTC Velocity was the first handset on Telstra's 4G LTE network. The new HTC One XL is exclusive to Telstra in Australia.
It's unclear how much money will flow to the artists whose work is streamed. MOG CEO David Hyman stated last year that royalties paid to artists are "like a black hole" once telcos and record labels take their cut, while Spotify have yet to specify how much of their revenue goes to individual artists (but have confirmed that 70 per cent of it goes to record labels).
In a recent interview with The Global Mail
, Kate Miller-Heidke commented that music subscription services are "better than BitTorrent". Artist rights activist David Lowery, however, rightly notes
that these services don't exist in a vacuum, and are only able to offer significantly lower royalty rates than iTunes because the true alternative is piracy.
Regardless, streaming looks to be the only way for the music industry to future-proof itself against the tech industry, and it's certainly the best deal for consumers. For Australian consumers, MOG looks to be the best deal of all.