March 13, 2012 at 7:10 am

Exclusive: mSpot Plans First 3-in-1 Music Locker, Subscription, Radio Service

MSpot CEO Daren Tsui briefed Evolver.fm about a fascinating 3-in-1 music service his company is readying.

AUSTIN, TEXAS — The great thing about being a music fan these days is the plethora of listening options. The worst thing might be considered closely related: keeping track of your “collection,” if we can even call it that anymore, considering its fractured nature as we switch between various classes of music service.

MSpot might have the answer to the “silo-ization” of our music experience with a first-of-its-kind service that combines an online locker where you can store music downloads in the cloud; a music subscription that lets you stream pretty much whatever you want (with around 10 million tracks at launch and more to come); and a streaming radio service that plays artist stations.

“Instead of flipping from iTunes to Spotify to Pandora, you can get everything in one place,” said Daren Tsui. “This is about combining three different experiences and getting something much bigger than the sum of the parts, because the music can build on itself. The service is mobile – with PC, iOS, and other devices added, so all of your music really is on all devices.

“We thought, let’s put together a service where consumers don’t have to pay three different times,” he added. “It’s hard enough to get consumers to pay for music, but imagine paying $9.99 per month for a subscription, another $25 a year for iTunes Match, another [$36 per year] for Pandora without ads. That’s nuts.”

Tsui was cagey about how much mSpot’s 3-in-1 service, currently in a “proof of concept” phase, will cost — other than saying “essentially, you get three services without paying more.”

In addition to simplifying pricing, the new mSpot (codename: Aria) will allow music fans to fill in the gaps caused by artists including the Beatles refusing to license their music to streaming services such as Spotify. In those cases, fans can get that music from iTunes, Amazon, or other sources of downloads, and incorporate it into their music service themselves, by simply uploading it to their mSpot locker.

“There are still quite a few artists that have elected not to participate in a subscription services, so you can’t get their songs on, say, Spotify,” said Tsui. “And now their are new artists that don’t want to put their albums up. In those scenarios, you cannot have a cloud experience. With a locker, you can absolutely do that. Also, I’m fairly into music, and have a few DJ friends who put together 30-minute, hour-long mixes. I love them. They’re definitely not available [from subscription services] because they’re not license-able. In that scenario, the cloud locker works very, very well.”

In addition, the 3-in-1 nature of mSpot’s upcoming service allows each service to inform the others, unlike using three separate companies for a a locker, subscription, and radio.

“Regardless of where you’re listening to your music, whether it’s from the locker, from the subscription, or from the radio, we know,” said Tsui. “And so when we recommend songs, it’s going to be relevant to your taste… Let’s say I’m listening to a Lady Gaga song from my locker… there’s a little lightbulb icon which means discovery and recommendation. You click on that, and it takes the song that you’re currently listening to and it will recommend other artists from the ten-million-song catalog. Another category will recommend various internet radio stations.”

For starters, mSpot plans to roll out this proof of concept for trial testing. When it does become available to the general public, it will include a free trial and run on Android and the web. Tsui told Evolver.fm this is because mSpot wants to “go where there’s maximum pain” on the part of the consumer, but that iOS and other platforms will follow shortly after that. To attract mainstream consumers, mSpot hopes to partner with wireless carriers and/or device manufacturers to offer a co-branded or white-label version of the service.

Granted, mSpot lacks the mirroring feature that allows Apple iCloud to zap songs onto its servers based on metadata instead of transferring the actual files themselves. But once you get the bulk of your collection uploaded into its system, keeping that collection updated is fairly simple. And the simplicity of using one app for a locker, subscription, and radio does sound simpler than using each type in an isolated fashion.

“The question of ‘rent’ versus ‘buy’ goes away,” added Tsui. “They now coexist. If you’re using one app instead of three, it is easier to buy music because you know where to find it. Purchases always reside in the music app, on all devices.”

So far, mSpot counts over two million downloads of its iPhone and Android apps — and that’s just for the 2-in-1 music locker plus radio feature. Now that it plans to add a subscription to that mix, it should become much more potent.