September 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

MOG Turns Free Social Music into a Game

mog freemium music service gameplay facebook f8

Music on Facebook is about to get a lot more interesting.

MOG, the unlimited music service, has reinvented itself as a social game where the goal is to listen to, make playlists out of, and share music. If you do those things enough, you’ll never have to pay to use it, and the system will soon integrate with Facebook in unprecedented ways.

When you use MOG for free, you now start with a full tank of gas representing how many of MOG’s 11-million-plus songs you can listen to before you have to pay. To fill the tank, you share tracks and playlists via email, Twitter, or Facebook, or perform other activities, though you won’t always know which tasks will earn free music.

“We’re doing this in a different way than anyone’s ever done,” explained Hyman to Evolver.fm in a pre-launch interview. “Because we’re doing it really differently, it’s required different sets of licenses. Whenever you do something out of the box, the labels’ minds explode, and there’s a lot of herding of cats, so it’s been a lot of work. It’s been very inspired by free models that are working in other verticals — specifically Dropbox.”

mog freemium facebook

Sharing offers a path to free, legal music, using the new MOG.

Yes, the new MOG is modeled on the Dropbox online file storage system, which in turn is sort of modeled on Amway, because it gives people more storage for convincing other people to use it.

But the new MOG is also modeled on the New York Times‘ “porous paywall,” to borrow Hyman’s expression and, perhaps most of all, on achievement-based games such as Farmville.

“Users get a gas tank and can earn more free music through game mechanics — making playlists that you share with friends, turning friends on to MOG, and simply by engaging with the service in a way that informs us that you’re grasping the value proposition,” he added. “We have actually brought on game mechanics people from the gaming world… this will be evolving as we collect data and see how it’s driving virality and conversion.”

MOG still wants people to convert to a $10-per-month subscription to remove the ads that will kick in for each free user after 60 days; use the service on smartphones, in cars, and on in-home hardware; and listen to as much music as they want. The service sends users email warnings as their tanks deplete, and links can be shared in a number of ways including email, Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook’s upcoming music strategy, which will launch at the f8 conference on September 22 according to multiple reports, has big implications for MOG’s transformation into a gameplay-enabled freemium music service. In part, this is because Facebook makes sharing songs so easy, but also because from what we understand, users won’t have to sign into MOG from Facebook to hear what a friend is listening to now — or listened to earlier.

One click of the play button is all it will take for someone to listen to a song shared by a Facebook friend, because Facebook can provide user authentication to MOG. This will reduce the friction of trying the service, which no longer requires a credit card or log-in other than Facebook. (You can still use MOG without Facebook if you want to, Hyman confirmed, unlike some other services.)

“You’ve written a lot about the Facebook platform, and obviously I can’t talk about being a partner,” explained Hyman. “But you can imagine that… interfacing with that could be very powerful. Even with just Facebook Connect, when you make a playlist or do something, because it’s hitting your wall and your feed, that’s driving virality. So it allows us to really lower the bar with regards to what you do to earn more music. Simply listening and creating playlists is creating viral events that let you earn more free music.”

Mobile activities, such as ripping a CD with your iPhone camera, won’t earn free gas, because as with all unlimited music services, you need to pay to use MOG on a mobile device.

Still, the company’s brave new strategy of turning freemium social music into a game could pay big dividends, because Facebook is cut out for this sort of thing.

“We’re building mechanics in that look at how many friends you have — this is complex math,” explained Hyman. “We’ve got so many hooks into the data to see how it’s working, and it’s going to be evolving, and we’re going to be learning a lot. No one’s ever done game mechanics with a music subscription service.”

Well, almost no one — the AudioVroom iOS streaming radio app, which we have learned will also soon be relaunching, has experimented with a similar gameplay concept on the iPhone. However, Hyman said MOG has been working on this for over a year, which would put it ahead of AudioVroom.

So why launch now?

“The timing, we think, is really good, especially considering the rumors around things like the Facebook platform,” answered Hyman. “Conceptually, all we need is someone in the pyramid of influence that sits under you to convert [to a paid subscription] every four-plus months and you’ll never have to pay.”

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  • Shwaytaj Raste

    I love this freemium model. But as you mentioned, hasn’t AudioVroom been on it for the last 6 months? 
    Hope it helps mog gain some traction over rdio and spotify

  • Bodicadidit

    it doesn’t seem very advanced to weigh points based on how many friends you have. what makes more sense is to go deeper and weigh how good of friends you are with your friends – much harder to do, but shows true influence, which comes from quality not quantity. also, how is it good for the music industry if it’s easy to get free music. the music industry needs to leverage this opportunity of next generation music services as a chance to train fans to value music and musicians. gamification is great, but if that’s all that’s happening with MOG, I hope their competitor, AudioVroom has a bit more sophistication to their business model.

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