Music download service acts local, but has a global vision

29 Oct 2009

The rapidly emerging music service is bringing more than 1,500 Irish recording artists to a global market. Its founder, Johnny Beirne, explains the genesis of the service.

What is the inspiration behind and how does it work?

The idea is to help unsigned artists and independent labels sell their music at gigs, on buses, or wherever. Somebody sends a text message the moment they hear a song they like.

We have over 1,500 artists in Ireland. More than 10 a week are signing up to our service in Ireland, and about three or four per week in the UK where our service is called Our strategy is to act local but to go global.

Last week, Google revealed it was launching a music search service. Do you see this as a threat or an opportunity?

Google wants to make everything in the world searchable and, with the amount of music now online, I’m surprised they haven’t done it before now. Is it a threat? Certainly not, it’s another avenue to sell music.

We’ve also linked up with music sites such as and Lala, which makes music playable in a web browser. We’re looking for partnerships all the time because there are no sites in the world doing what we are doing.

How does the service actually work?

We focus on the text message as a payment mechanism to capture the moment of opportunity. Supposing you were at a gig and a band has put flyers or put instructions on their bus and if the audience likes the music they are playing they just text the code for that song to 57501 and their phone is charged €1.

You can have the track downloaded onto your computer at home or straight to your mobile phone if it has an MP3 player on it.

Do you think this model will make it better for bands to monetise?

If you are a band and you announce a song on the stage, your fans can download it on the spot from the internet, whereas in the past they would have bought bootlegs outside or they would have tried to remember the name of the song and searched for it when they got home.

For independent bands, and even for majors, it’s a call to action on the spot. Just text a message and you get the benefit of the impulse buyer.

How is the international expansion of going?

We’ve been in the UK since September last year and we’re planning to launch into mainland Europe quite soon. We are also planning to launch our service in the US, but because the networks are managed differently there we need to get individual approval from each of the mobile carriers.

Are mobile operators happy to split revenue with artists?

The problem is the mobile operators tend to take the lion’s share of the revenue. In Ireland it is 60pc, while in the UK it is 40pc and the artist gets 31pc.

Around 90pc of our sales are by SMS. We are registered with both the Irish and UK charts, which is a big attraction for our services because people can buy online music without owning a credit card.

We’ve gone from selling 100 songs a month to hundreds a day and our site gets one million hits a month.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Johnny Beirne, founder of

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years