Cricket Muves to the Music

NEW ORLEANS -- International CTIA Wireless -- Cricket Communications Inc. says it has achieved something others have tried to do and failed: It's made mobile music a revenue-generating, customer-pleasing service.

Muve Music has become the second largest digital music service, trailing only Rhapsody Networks and outperforming Spotify and Pandora Media Inc. , said Jeff Toig, senior VP of the service. Cricket now plans to market the service to international mobile operators, he added.

Toig was outlining the reasons for the service's success in a keynote Wednesday at Light Reading's Policy Management and the Subscriber-Centric Service Revolution conference, collocated with CTIA Wireless.

First, the Muve targeted the situation faced by Cricket's low- to middle-income and largely ethnic (one-third African-American, one-third Hispanic) customer base: "Half of our customers don't have high-speed Internet access," Toig explains. They are trying to download music at work, at school or in public places, such as libraries where computers are available.

Secondly, a lot of Muve's customers don't have credit cards. The music industry wants these customers, but they want to get paid for providing their product and not have it illegally downloaded. So Muve created a new business model -- the service provides full song downloads, ringtones and ringback tones as part of a Cricket service tier, on an unlimited basis.

The service was a big hit. The 600,000 customers who joined within the last 18 months average 40 hours a month of listening time.

Muve pays a set amount per month per subscriber (Toig didn't disclose the amount) into a pool of money that is allocated to music industry players based on a formula that takes into account whose music is chosen most often by Muse users.

Muve enabled all of this by creating a digital music technology platform that manages the music downloads and the back office payment aspects as well. One key feature of the Muve service is that it doesn’t stream the music -- that would consume more wireless network resources. Instead, the music is downloaded to an Android device, but the customer's account is managed within the Muve cloud.

"Our customers download 300 songs a month -- they are continually refreshing the music they have," Toig says.

Given the nature of the Cricket audience -- younger, less affluent and more ethnic than the typical iTunes crowd -- some lesser-known music talents are proving quite popular, and Muse tracks their success and shares that information with their music labels. Cricket will also host musician appearances -- 100 so far -- at its stores, based on the local popularity of specific artists.

"If a certain artist is popular in Houston, for example, we can tell the label, and they can get the artist there for a personal appearance," Toig says.

Next up for Cricket is to look at marketing the Muve service to international carriers, many of whom serve markets very much like the one Cricket serves and would thus find great appeal in a music service that comes as part of the wireless experience, Toig says.

For more on Muve:

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

joanengebretson 12/5/2012 | 5:33:18 PM
re: Cricket Muves to the Music

This looks like it was a really smart idea for Cricket. I really like the idea of service tiers that aren't all about levels of data bytes. And it sounds like they really targeted their offering to their customer base.

Sometimes it seems almost impossible to compete against AT&T and Verizon Wireless and then you read something like this and realize there are creative ways to differentiate service.

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