Eircom has told Siliconrepublic it is planning to produce iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7 app versions of its new 4.5m song MusicHub in 2011 in a move that will see it battle players like Spotify and Last.fm in the digital music market.
Eircom built MusicHub in collaboration with major music labels Warner, EMI, Sony and Universal after an out-of-court settlement last year with IRMA to clamp down on illegal file sharing.
The new Eircom MusicHub provides streaming and downloading of more than 4.5m tracks and at 32 cents per download, Eircom says it is 75pc cheaper than iTunes.
Stephen Beynon, group managing director of consumer and small business, said the plan is to deliver mobile versions of the service for customers of eMobile and Meteor.
“The music industry is supportive and has been a huge help in developing the service, But to deliver a mobile service will require a set of different commercial arrangements,” Beynon said.
Beynon, who oversees Eircom’s fixed line consumer and SME business, as well as the eMobile and Meteor divisions, said the MusicHub service was a response to the growing problem of music piracy and working with the industry to develop a product that would offer an alternative to piracy was a wiser course.
“What we thought at the time of the deal that led to a graduated response being taken was what was needed was a carrot and stick approach – and we were missing the carrot.
“Now anyone who is an Eircom customer can access 4.5m tracks and listen to them free of charge.
“We think this will begin to make a difference. We’re now in a position to move the issue forward rather than go back to square one.
“For an Eircom broadband customer, why would you illegally download music when you can have it for nothing anyway?”
Beynon said that the next step for the MusicHub is to bring it to the mobile world.
“We intend to work with the music industry and develop music apps so that you can use the MusicHub on tablets and mobile devices. Then we intend to deliver full mobile services for eMobile and for Meteor and for Meteor to have its own version of the service in the next calendar year.”
Beynon said that the music industry currently divides the world into fixed and mobile and the operator has worked with both IRMA and IMRO to get the service over the line.
“It is complex, time consuming but we’re grateful for their support. Each of us have our own sets of commercial needs.”
Beynon said that when the mobile app version of MusicHub is unveiled it will work on the major platforms, whether it’s for the iPhone, iPad, an Android device or a Windows Phone 7 device.
He said the operator studied how other European operators tackled online music. One operator, TDC in Denmark, effectively underwrote the entire digital music industry in that country and gave all customers streaming and downloading. “But if you moved away from that service you lost all your music. Our service is DRM-free so once you’ve put it on an iPod, you own it.
He also said that Spotify’s slowness in tackling the Irish market worked to Eircom’s advantage. “Spotify has taken off in certain markets but there was no service in Ireland and we think the MusicHub is the right answer for this particular market at this time."