All posts tagged subscription

  • Introducing ‘Dispatches’: a weekly email newsletter, March 2014

    In March 2014 I started Dispatches, a weekly newsletter about my three passions: writing, music and reading. A screenshot of the first dispatch, Bikies, suicide contagion and drug wars, is included below.

    'Dispatches #1: Bikies, suicide contagion and drug wars', a weekly email newsletter by Australian freelance journalist Andrew McMillen

    I named it Dispatches after one of my favourite books: Michael Herr’s classic ‘new journalism’ narrative, first published in 1977, which placed the author near the centre of the Vietnam War while reporting for Esquire. I first read it in March 2012 and even writing about it here is almost enough to send me running to my bookshelf to tear through it again. Herr has a remarkable command of language. Clearly, the book comes highly recommended.

    The format will no doubt change over time, but for now I’ve split it into thirds:

    Words – highlighting my newly published writing, when applicable
    Sounds – music and podcast recommendations
    Reads – a selection of the best longform journalism and books I read in the past week

    If you like any of those three things, you might consider subscribing via TinyLetter here. If, like me, you spend too many hours each week immersed in your inbox, you can ‘try before you buy’ by viewing an archive of past mailouts here and deciding whether it’s worth your time. I hope it is.

    Besides offering a more regular way of keeping in touch with my readers than through this rather static blog or my cautious public engagement on social media, Dispatches is intended to be an interactive experiment-in-progress. At 26, I’ve done a reasonable amount of work of developing my own tastes, but I’m certainly open to your suggestions when it comes to reading and music.

    Finally: I’d like to note that Dispatches is inspired by Ryan Holiday’s fantastic monthly reading recommendation newsletter, and by the weekly emails sent by journalism hubs Longform and Longreads. I’m not aiming to compete with any of those mailouts – in part, because all three are so fucking good that I’d be setting myself up to fail. Instead, I’m offering a personalised take on the words and sounds that enter my skull each week and influence the way I interpret the world and write about it.

    Welcome to Dispatches.

  • A Conversation with Scott Bagby and Carter Adamson of streaming music service Rdio, February 2012

    The concept of paying month-by-month to stream music from your computer and smartphone remains a relatively new idea in Australia. In the last year or two, a number of contenders have emerged. Nokia has had their ‘Comes With Music’ service for a while now. Sony launched their ‘Music Unlimited’ product in February 2011. Hulking, canary-yellow retailer JB Hi-Fi launched their own streaming platform in December 2011, dubbed ‘NOW’. BlackBerry, Samsung and Microsoft all have proprietary systems operating in some capacity. Rumours abound of Spotify’s Australian launch. A site named Guvera offers a slight twist on the idea: ‘guilt-free’ mp3 downloads. None of these services have yet gained any real traction in the Australian market.

    Clearly, it’s becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace, as app developers and record companies alike cosy up to the assumption that most people don’t give a fuck about music ownership anymore. That whatever CDs, vinyl and cassettes they own gather dust on a shelf somewhere, immobile and largely useless in the era of interconnectivity. These companies believe that most music fans – ‘consumers’ – simply want the ability to take all the world’s music with them, wherever they go. For a monthly fee, of course.

    The newest contender on the Australian market is named Rdio [pictured above]. It’s web-based and also has apps for the main phone platforms (iOS, Android, BlackBerry… Windows Phone?). It was founded by a couple of the guys behind Skype, it’s been public in the States since August 2010, and it’s pronounced exactly like it’s written (‘radio’ minus the ‘a’). For AUD$13.90 per month, you get access to unlimited PC and mobile streaming of their library, which apparently consists of over 14 million songs. Ahead of a launch party at Bondi’s Beach Road Hotel in early February 2012, a couple of the Rdio guys flew me to Sydney, bought me lunch, and answered my questions as best they could.

    Andrew: How long has Rdio’s Australian launch been in the works?

    Scott [Bagby, VP Strategic & International Partnerships; pictured left]: I first came down to Australia to start the discussions at Easter 2011. We were pretty much sewn up by the end of the year. So not quite a year.

    There’s been a few streaming services available in Australia over the last few years, but none of them have had any real success in terms of market penetration. Is that fair to say?

    Scott: Streaming services on the whole, globally, are quite nascent. I was just hanging out with a bunch of labels. I can’t verify these numbers, but this label guy told me that worldwide, there’s only about 7 million subscribers, to any streaming service. It is very much in the early days of all streaming services. But the potential is huge. They’re planning on massive growth in the area, especially this year. I think you’ll find that here in Australia, as well. There’s still an education that needs to happen for the user to understand streaming services. [They need to] just learn about ‘em, and use ‘em, and get what I refer to as the ‘a-ha’ moment, of why streaming services are so much better than buying individual tracks.

    Carter [Adamson, co-founder; pictured right]: But seven million music subscribers in a world where everyone loves music? There’s a lot of room to grow. For ten years, we’ve had various fits and starts with digital music: DRM, tethered CDs, and that kind of stuff. We have services like Rhapsody in the US, who are stuck at around 600,000 subscribers. Now within the past year, you have more than a handful of services that have well over a million subscribers apiece. That only happened within the past year. You have markets like Australia, where 40% of all music revenue is digital music revenue. Korea’s over 50%. For the first time, digital music revenue globally is growing quicker [than physical sales]. I think we’re now at an inflection point with digital music subscription services.

    Scott: The timing’s also great, because of the iPhone and other smartphones. People want to take their music with them. Back in the old days, when I was travelling around I used to have a CD case [for a discman], but that’s just too much of a hassle now. With this streaming service, we have 14 million songs at your disposal, no matter where you are in the world. You can download songs to your phone, switch ‘em out; every Tuesday, there’s new releases [on Rdio]. These sort of things – that’s the education that has to happen, and that’s the ‘a-ha’ moment when you get all of that going. The perfect alignment of the ubiquity of smartphones is what’s really helping it along.

    Carter: Well, connected devices. Any single device that can talk to the internet is a playback device now. Whereas before you had one device; a record player, CD player, 8-track player. Now there’s a wide array of devices that are effectively playback devices, so it no longer makes sense to buy one song for each device. It no longer makes sense to port all the downloads that you bought a la carte via external hard drive to every single device that you have. The only thing that makes sense is for you to access it seamlessly wherever you are, using whatever platform or device you have.

    Using the US service as an example, what percentage of users are using Rdio on their phones?

    Carter: Over 85% of our subscribers are on the higher-priced tier. [Note: PC-only access to Rdio is AUD$8.90 per month – five bucks cheaper than the PC/phone combo.] And that makes sense, because the value proposition has always been seamless mobility. People always wanted to move their music around. No-one’s ever bought a song on iTunes to just play it on their computer. They’ve been waiting for 10 years for this whole seamless mobility thing to become a reality. Now it’s finally here.

    Scott: I think that’s one of the reasons that the music industry faced such a piracy problem in the past, because they didn’t offer it in a format in which people wanted to consume music. Now that it’s coming into that format, you see a lot of people moving into services like ours. They wanted to listen in several places at once, but they couldn’t, so the only way they could do it is to steal it. It was still happening up until a month ago in Hong Kong. Everyone was saying, ‘I want to buy music, but there’s no iTunes, there’s no digital services here. I can’t buy what I want; you leave me no choice but to steal it’. These people were lawyers, bankers – people that had the means [to pay], they didn’t want to steal it, they just didn’t have it.

    Carter: And also, the price has never been so low. We’re talking about 34 cents a day for access to the world’s music, across all your devices. That’s an insanely low price.

    Tell me about that education process you mentioned earlier. How do you turn seven million streaming music subscribers into seven billion?

    Scott: [laughs] Well, one of the benefits is to have your music everywhere and anywhere. Part of my job is to go around to all the different countries and get the rights sorted, so at least it’s available to everyone. Once it’s available, the education process is an ongoing one. And it’s one for the entire industry to be involved in. The best way to get there is to allow people to get that ‘a-ha’ moment. That moment comes at certain times, like when they’re at their friend’s place, they’re sitting around and they want to hear that song from their childhood that they’re all laughing about. Obviously no-one has it in their collection anymore, but then you – boom – you stream it down, you get a big laugh, and it kicks off. You can almost have Rdio and some beers, and you have a party.

    I think a lot of people would be using YouTube for that purpose at the moment.

    Scott: But YouTube, again, isn’t all that mobile. I mean, not as mobile as Rdio is.

    Which labels do you have on board for the Australian launch?

    Scott: We’ve got all the major labels, and we have some indies like Shock, MGM and Inertia. We won’t open up in any market, anywhere in the world, unless we have the domestic music, as well. At the end of the day, it’s about enjoying the content. That’s what makes a good service – the titles that you have. We have a whole team who just make sure that we have as much music as we can on the service. Funnily enough, I was just in Germany, doing a radio interview with a DJ. She is in love with Australian music, specifically Australian hip-hop. She used to fly out here, buy the CDs, then play it on her station. What she loves about this now is that she can now follow Australian influences [using the service], get the music that she wants, and find new music just through the service.

    Will Rdio have an Australian office?

    Scott: Yes.

    In Sydney, I suppose?

    Scott: We’re looking for some key players. Who’s the best person to hire? Once we find that person, they can determine where the office is going to be. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth… they’re all options. It all depends on who the best person is to run [Rdio] Australia.

    You talked about the ‘a-ha’ moment earlier. For me, when I was testing out the app, that moment was when I realised that Rdio had taken over the iPod player interface on the iPhone [ie the screen that appears when you’re playing music]. I thought that was pretty clever, how similar and familiar that screen was, even though I was using a web streaming service.

    Carter: Two of the most common pieces of feedback we receive: “I just deleted my iTunes collection because I no longer need it,” and “I’ve discovered more music on Rdio in the past two days than in the past two decades”. We’ve obviated a lot of what you would’ve needed iTunes for, and we’ve made it even better with the whole discovery [aspect].

    Scott: How we discovered music in our teenager years is we’d go to our mate’s house and you’d wait to hear their song. It wasn’t until you’d heard it a couple of times that you’d go out and buy it. It’s rare that you’d buy a song without hearing it first. That was one of the disadvantages that iTunes has; you couldn’t hear it without purchasing it.

    Carter: Every Tuesday, new music comes out [on Rdio]. You don’t have to pay a dollar a song, or eighteen dollars an album: you can play literally everything that’s out on Tuesday. You can save it to your mobile device, you can un-save it and throw it back into the water if you don’t like it. People are consuming more music now. I’ve never seen higher retention or engagement metrics in the 17 years I’ve been doing consumer software, or consumer services. It’s insanely high. People get on it, they love it, they use the hell out of it.

    The recommendation worked really well for me. It’s probably a simple thing, but it seemed to work better than most other services I’ve tried.

    Carter: We wanted to be the most comprehensive service out there. Unlike the other services, we offer a little of everything. We not only have the social music discovery stuff, which is always front and centre, no matter where you dial up the service; we also have the algorithmic recommendations, which you were playing around with. They’re getting better and better every day as we see more data, and learn more about you. We also have the on-demand aspect; “I know exactly what I want to listen to,” whether it’s a song or a playlist. And we have the passive listening stuff; “I like an artist, but I don’t really know which song or album to play. Just play me some of this artist’s songs, and maybe mix in related artists.” Or you can play your ‘heavy rotation’ or your entire collection as a radio station. Or your network’s ‘heavy rotation’, or collection.

    In the US… we haven’t carried it over anywhere else because no-one uses it, but we have built our own iTunes store. So you can buy [songs] a la carte in the US, but we found that no-one uses it, because once you’ve used the streaming service, there’s really no reason to buy stuff a la carte.

    How does the Australian subscription price point compare to the American version?

    Carter: Scott, I’ll let you take that one…

    Scott: [laughs] Thanks. The price point is heavily influenced by the rights holders. Between different markets, we have similar… every market to us is the exact same. So the price point basically was just taking into [account] what we had to pay the artists, the labels and publishers. How does it compare? Unfortunately it’s more expensive than the US market. That was just due to market circumstances when we came here. But we personally didn’t treat Australia any different to the US.

    How do you pitch the service to fence-sitters? Those people who say they love music, but rarely pay for it. They might go to a lot of shows, but most of the music they download is via torrents and other shady methods, not via iTunes or equivalent stores.

    Scott: I think in general, most people want to do the right thing. Music lovers want the artist to get paid. I’ve never come across a music lover that says, “Screw the artist, I want to steal from them”. I think the key is making the service as easy and quick to use that it’s almost the default. So that you’re almost paying for the convenience. Instead of researching on BitTorrent, I have ‘social discovery’ [on Rdio]. I’ve built my playlists around my influencers. I like a particular DJ, and a good friend of mine knows a lot about music, so it just kinda bubbles up [in my playlist]. What used to take me a half hour of reading different music blogs and listening to their tunes, it just comes to me easily, now. As Carter says, discovering more music in two days than in two decades – that is what’s going to engage these music lovers, and make it worth them spending the money that they would otherwise gain through BitTorrent.

    Can the service be used offline, or do you have to be connected to a 3G network or equivalent for it to work?

    Carter: You can save as much music as you want to your device’s memory card. So if you have a 32gb iPhone, you can save that much. Again, for 34 cents a day – instead of spending $10,000 to fill up your iPhone or iPad…

    The mp3s are saved onto the device’s hard drive?

    Carter: They’re locally cached, yeah.

    Has that been hacked yet?

    Carter: Not yet. [laughs]

    What are the most common comments you get when people are engaging with Rdio for the first time?

    Scott: The people who’re born before 1980, their concern is: “why am I just renting my music? I want to own it; I want to have a collection.” I think that’s just a lack of understanding of the access model. It almost goes back to the heyday of having a massive CD collection, and looking at it, touching and feeling it. But more and more, as that moves on… there are a lot of 21 year-olds who’ve never owned a CD. So that question is more of a theoretical until they start using the service, and then they realise, “Hey, I can hear all my songs, and it’s actually better because I can hear my entire collection no matter where I am, not just in my house.”

    Carter: I think there’s a general lack of knowledge. Most mainstream consumers don’t understand why they need a service like this, but strangely, they’re already doing it with other types of services, like movies, videos and books.  You have a digital book reader; you pull down your books electronically, you don’t have a physical copy. Same with video. They’re getting the fact that, “Oh yeah, this is what I do with other forms of content. Now I have this wide array of connected devices, I don’t need to buy one song for every device.” But I think there’s a general lack of education on why you need the service. I don’t think it’s a resistance, per se.

    The desktop client – which is optional to download – has a matching feature, which looks at the music on your iTunes or your computer, and if we have the rights to stream it, it automatically moves it to your Rdio collection. It’s kind of like a locker service, for those people who’ve paid a ton of money – or any money at all – buying digital downloads a la carte. We do that as well. We make it an easier transition.

    Going back to what you were just saying about existing libraries; part of my job is being a record critic. It shits me to tears when labels still insist on sending me a CD – which I’ll rip to mp3 immediately anyway – rather than supplying the mp3s so that I can hear the music instantly.

    Scott: The industry itself is still in a physical mode. It’s turning around. I get CDs all the time, but I don’t have a CD player. My laptop doesn’t have a CD drive. I can’t rip the CDs. I say “thank you very much” and I usually hand ‘em over to the maid at the hotel. [laughs] It’s a transition period.

    Carter: In general, we’re leaving a hit-driven business when you move to services like this. It’s a more personalised view on music. You follow specific people because you like their taste in music. You don’t go to Rdio and look at a ‘top 50’. You go there and you look at what’s relevant, what your friends are listening to. That is a fundamental shift in the industry – along with the mobility [the app allows].

    I want to touch on what artists are being paid through Rdio. As I’m sure you’re aware, Spotify had some bad press about how little artists were being paid per-stream. What’s your model like compared to Spotify’s?

    Scott: The model’s similar, because the tariff is going to be similar.  There’s a couple ways to approach this question. First and foremost, we don’t know about the labels’ relationships with their artists. Those are confidential. I have no idea how the labels are paying the artists. I know the majority of our revenue goes to the rights holders. How that’s being distributed afterwards is a black hole as far as I’m concerned. Having said that, there’s other ways to look at this. Net present value of money and all that other stuff aside, if you buy a [music] download, you only get paid once. That person can listen to that song thousands and thousands of times and you don’t get paid for that. On Rdio, you get paid every single time that song gets played. If it’s a good song, and it goes on for a long time [in terms of popularity], you’ll get paid a lot more than you’ll ever get paid than by a [single] download.

    The second way of looking at things is, there’s been cases where artists or labels will pull their music off streaming services off Spotify. It was funny, because this label guy I was talking to – the one I mentioned earlier – was talking to a big artist of his. He turned around and said, “OK, you want me to pull it off streaming for these reasons? That sounds good. So you want me to close YouTube as well, and also the radio?” [The artist] was like, “No no no, keep those open…” The label guy was like, “Hang on a second. You make 200 times more on the streaming service than you do on YouTube, and 150 times more on the streaming service than you do on the radio. So… I don’t understand your reasoning.”

    So I think there’s another education [required] on how these [services] can help and build the labels. The actual money pool for these artists, as of 2011 – two months ago? It probably was too nascent, too small to be anything significant to walk away from. However, the way that the ‘hockey stick’ [graph] of digital music and streaming services are going? I don’t think you’ll see those same stories this time next year, because the pie is getting bigger. That is one of the biggest complaints – that dollar-for-dollar, they’re not getting as much from our service as they are from iTunes. But the iTunes pie is a hell of a lot bigger than seven million people worldwide. I understand the gripe now – again, I don’t know what [the artists] are getting from their labels – but if they look at it in a promotional way and also that this is a nascent service and it will grow, you’ll see more and more people come online and stay online.

    Carter: In a nutshell, we’re driving up music consumption. Once people are on this service, they’re listening to a lot more music. As Scott said, there’s been a model shift in terms of how they’re paid. So you’ll no longer get paid from only one transaction; you get paid each time you play a song. And we’re driving up consumption. So theoretically, that should even out very soon, as we get to scale. The other part of the equation is, we’re hitting segments of the music value chain that have never paid for music, or only pay $30 or $40 a year through iTunes gift cards. We’re reaching new segments. More people will be paying for music again, as we reach scale.

    Scott: And not only that, but the smaller independent labels in each country – because we do worldwide deals – we’ve now given them reach, very quickly and with no cost to the label or artist. In America, in Brazil, in Germany. That exposure can translate into a great opportunity that they’ve never thought of before.

    Carter: They can be big in Japan.

    Scott: Yeah – it’s not just a t-shirt! [laughs] Going back to our Skype days; when we first launched Skype, we had no idea that Brazil was going to be as big as it was [in terms of users]. It was huge. I’m sure there’s some artists sitting here going, “I don’t know if we can do stuff in Brazil.” Now they’re getting feedback from streaming services and they’re like, “OK, everyone in Brazil is streaming our music, now it makes sense for us to tour there, rather than taking a blind punt.” Or maybe they wanted to go to Rio anyway, which is an understandable blind punt. But this sort of exposure is global, at very, very little cost.

    Those are some well-rehearsed answers to a very hard question.

    Scott: [laughs] Well, we think about it. It is a concern for us. Because if all of a sudden, the artists don’t want to be on streaming services, we’re in trouble. But we’ve thought about it. It’s an industry-wide discussion.


    Andrew McMillen (@NiteShok) is a freelance journalist based in Brisbane, Australia.

    For more on Rdio, visit their website.

    Edit, June 2012: I wrote a feature story for The Global Mail named ‘Unchained Melodies’, which examines the streaming music market in Australia following the launch of Spotify. Click here to read it.

  • Rolling Stone story outtake: A conversation with Gavin Parry, General Manager of Digital & Brand Development, Sony BMG

    Here’s an outtake from my first Rolling Stone story on streaming music subscriptions. It’s an interview with Sony BMG‘s General Manager of Digital & Brand Development, Gavin Parry [pictured below right]. Sony launched the digital music outlet in late 2008. I spoke to Gavin on 25th August, 2009.

    Andrew: As I understand it, Gavin, Bandit is currently a pay-per-download site, but in October, it’s being re-launched as a purely subscription-based site for streaming music. Is that correct?

    Gavin Parry of Sony BMGNo, that’s not correct. I think what happened with the article in The Herald and everything sort of spiraled out of control and there was misreport after misreport. Essentially what’s happening is we’re continuing the download service, and a subscription service will run along side of it. You can either choose to download on a pay-per-download model, or you can choose to be involved in a streaming model, which is basically a monthly payment plan.

    So it’s up to the consumer to consume music how they want, basically.

    It’s all about trying to provide as many options as possible, remembering that we also provide all our videos free to the user, free video streaming. Every featured artist on the site, which is about 1,000 featured artists at the moment and that’s increasing, they have three tracks each that are free to the users for streaming. That’s there right now.

    How long has the streaming service launch been in the works? I know Bandit was launched in November as a download service.

    We’ve had it in place since November, when we organized all our licenses. It’s always been in our plans.

    To my knowledge, all the major labels have music for sale in the store, but Sony is the ones running the site. Is that correct?

    Correct – you have to be very clear here. What happened with The Herald article is it said we were running the service on behalf of the industry. That is incorrect. At Sony, we’ve set up Bandit and we own and operate it, but we have licensed any music from any other three majors.

    And Sony is the main financial backer of Bandit.


    What do you think the benefits are of a streaming-based subscription model to the previous, per-download model?

    Bandit.FM logoI just think it’s about options. There was a lot of feedback online about how people don’t stream music to the PC and people would never use it. If you look at The Music Network this week, they did an article in there that said 50% of kids stream music to their PC on a weekly basis. We know how popular Spotify is in the UK and Europe. There is no doubt that a streaming service, not just to the PC, but to any Wi-Fi device could be quite popular.

    Conversely, what do you imagine some of the costs of a streaming-based site might be, such as high bandwidth and the necessity to allow many concurrent users?

    The cost from our perspective or the cost to the consumer?

    The cost from your perspective.

    From our perspective, basically you have to employ someone like Akamai to cope with the volume. We currently employ Akamai. You are familiar with what Akamai is?

    I haven’t heard of Akamai, no.

    Rather than streaming from our servers, we basically employ a series of other computers, a network of computers that Akamai operate to take the load off of us so the streaming that occurs from a local PC – if you’re in Perth and you’re streaming from Bandit, you’ll be streaming from a computer in Perth rather than a computer from our hosting arrangement. This means the biggest cost to us is actually paying Akamai to be able to operate that high bandwidth.

    There are also hosting costs, obviously to ingest and to hold – we’re up to about 70 Terabytes worth of data. The cost of hosting is pretty significant, as well.

    Where do Australia’s internet service providers sit within this discussion? Are you concerned that Australia’s network might be ill prepared for this kind of streaming model, given that other territories have had faster connections and unlimited bandwidth, compared to Australia?

    I think it will be fine. It just depends on what sort of plan you’re on. Obviously, cable will work fine; it depends on what plan you’re on with the ISPs. A lot of the bandwidth now should be able to cope with the streaming service.

    I can imagine traveling throughout the city and falling into black spots with mobile phone coverage and having the song interrupted by buffering might be a bit annoying.

    It’s the same thing you’ve got if you’re on a Wi-Fi network. You’re up to the vagaries of what the network might be. There are concerns but it will all be up to the consumer to ensure the bandwidth they’re paying for with their ISP is adequate to stream the music.

    With Bandit, did you consider putting in place an advertising-based free service, as Spotify had done in the UK?

    We essentially have got that in place with the video streaming, and with the ‘three free tracks’, which is a limited audio catalog. The problem you’ve got is the advertising model globally, when you actually look at Spotify and other services like iMeem and, those services have really struggled to generate enough advertising revenue to continue to operate.

    On a similar note, is Bandit’s launch time to beat Spotify to the Australian market?

    Spotify logoNo, not really. To be honest, when we launched Bandit in November, Spotify was on the radar and probably has significantly upped its profile in the last twelve months. Bandit’s plan was always to have a subscription service operating around October/November of this year.

    The other thing I should mention is there is another service that we’ll operate, and again, this is all about providing options to the consumer. We’ll be operating a model very similar to eMusic as well. People can sign up and pay a monthly fee and receive a certain value of downloads.

    A certain value, what do you mean?

    Are you familiar with the eMusic model?


    You pay a monthly fee, but you are given a certain value for that fee. You’re given a value; for say $20 a month you’ll get $30 dollars worth of value that you can download. It’s not about streaming. Again, it’s a regular payment plan, but it’s all about downloads.

    Will this value package be launched at the same time in October, or is it currently available?

    The plan is we’ll launch it at the same time as we launch the subscription package.

    Are you able to provide some figures on Bandit since it launched in November, such as how many users or what is the volume of weekly downloads?

    We’ve got a monthly net browsers now of around 80,000. We’re doing about 2 million page impressions per month. We’ve got over 50,000 active users that have actually purchased something. That’s probably enough to give you an idea. We’re quite happy where we’re at after only nine months being operational. We’re pretty much on plan, as far as where we expect the service to be. We’ve done very limited marketing so far.

    I was looking around your website earlier, and I noticed that a lot of artists have unique content-rich splash pages, which includes images, artist’s recommendations, and news [example below left]. Who supplies the content that is displayed on those pages? Is it managed in house or is it syndicated?

    Queens of the Stone Age on Sony's Bandit.fmWe’ve got our own editorial team that puts together news stories, and also looks after Bandit on Twitter and our Facebook page. We also have licensed in the All Music Guide.  When you’re looking at all the biographies and all of the similar artists and influenced by, that all comes from the All Music Guide.

    What we’re trying to do is build a very deep, rich site that is more than just a download store. You can see how it’s been built by creatives. They’re very graphical and it’s a very appealing site. That shows with our average session duration which is around 15 minutes.

    How many staff are working on Bandit full-time?

    We’re still in development mode, so we’ve got a team of probably four developers. We’ve also got a person in customer service, editorial, operations, and also we have a programmer who deals with the other labels.

    It’s still a pretty small team of around ten, would you say?

    Yeah, which we’ll scale down once we’ve finished the development phase.

    What inspired the decision to make Bandit operate within the browser as opposed to an external program, such as Nokia’s Music Store?

    It’s really a matter of what you can support. If you build something within a browser – it’s really a phased approach. The first thing is once you build it within a browser, you know you’ve got a higher chance of compatibility with most computers. If you build an application, it’s much more work to get compatibility with all the various operating systems. It’s really initially a cost consideration, but having said that; we’re currently working on a download manager which is built using Adobe AIR. That’s basically an application that will sit above the site, which will manage the download process, and also manage your library. We have to roll that out in October, as well.

    October is going to be a big month for you, then.

    Yeah, the guys are flat-stick at the moment. We’ve got them down in the dungeon, working hard!

    Final question – are Sony using the Australian Bandit Store as a kind of testing ground for potential expansion to foreign territories?

    I think the focus is just making the Australian site a success, and then we’ll see where it goes from there.

    Fair enough. That’s all my questions. Did you want to add anything else?

    'Grunged' channel on Sony's bandit.fmThe other thing that we’ll be adding in October is a level of social networking, which will be quite interesting. In that case, the core part about Bandit is the channels. You can see different channels which split music be genre, by demographic. We put up the faith channel yesterday, which is all about Christian music. Coming in October, when we launch the social network piece, each user will not only have a user profile, but also will have his own channel. The idea is that a user can go on, select their own playlists, stream music, connect to other artist, connect to other channels, connect to other users, and in that way we’re actually giving people a lot more context. Their channel will be a representation of themselves, musically, online.

    This idea of ‘channels’ kind of makes me think that you’re trying to build on the concept of the radio station, so everyone has their own channel.

    To some degree, that’s it, the ability to essentially create your playlist. We think the subscription service also has quite relevance to families, and it’s not just focused on teenagers and young adults. I think the subscription model going to a family where they have unlimited music online, and they can basically just turn Bandit on to their stereo, set up their playlists, and play music in stereo, I think that is a big thing. In that case, they are actually setting up their own radio station.

    Okay, thanks for your time, Gavin. I appreciate it.

    No problem.