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News October 27, 2015

Hot Seat: Mark Shaw – Songl

Songl has finally flicked the switch. The major-label backed streaming music service was presented at a function in Sydney last Thursday, a week after going live. It’s built by Digital Music Distribution (DMD), a joint-venture founded in April 2011 which now counts Sony Music Entertainment Australia, Universal Music Australia and Southern Cross Austereo as partners. Songl’s gestation period has been surprisingly lengthy. It was soft- launched in October 2011, after which time a wave of rivals have pushed into Australia including the global brands Spotify, Deezer and Rdio.

The on-demand business has been designed to operate across PC, Macs, iPhone, Android phones and Sonos devices and, at launch, boasts “millions” of tracks from more than 100,000 artists. And there’s a video-streaming function. The premium music service is priced at $12.99 per month, plus an ad- funded “Songl Free” offering. Songl’s business is steered by DMD CEO Mark Shaw, who came to the company in March 2012 with experience across radio, advertising and digital media.

There’s about 30 digital music services currently operating in Australia. How is Songl going to rise above them? 

No-one has gone out there and educated the market. At this point, less than 1% of revenue in the music industry comes from streaming — only $2 million has been generated by the streaming industry. Although there’s been big noise about it, the bottom line is 95% of Australians don’t know anything about streaming, they don’t understand it, they’ve never heard of it. We’re going to take a market-leadership position from day one. Obviously having the links with Southern Cross Austereo as a shareholder gives us a massive media play. We’re going to demystify the streaming story and bring to market something that’s different. If we just sit around and launch services and do nothing with them and expect consumers to just pick them up, it’s not going to happen. It’s going to require organisation and that’s why we’re doing it, to be proactive about it. Back in 2005, iTunes launched and everyone laughed at it. And look at where it is today. Streaming is a similar space, it requires a bit of time. The numbers around streaming are pretty small at the moment, but with the firepower we have behind us and the product we’re bringing to market and the way we’re approaching it, we’re really enthusiastic about the growth potential. We think we can get some really good traction sooner rather than later.

An official launch had been scheduled in the first half of 2012. What took so long? 

When I joined Songl in March 2012, the board gave me the mandate to come back to them with my views on the market and where I wanted to take the brand. My belief was there was a real opportunity to take a step back and really assess what the dynamics of the market were. The bottom line is I believe that we’ve used the time that we’ve taken over the past 12 months really effectively. We know the market inside and out. We built a business that has music DNA in it. We come to the market today with something really unique. I think it’s going to be really successive. And we think we have a real point of difference. We would like to see Songl become part of the vernacular. You talk about Googling, Twittering. I talk a lot to people about, “have you been Songled?” That’s a personal goal that I’ve got.

Will this roll out into other territories? 

Absolutely. Our focus right now will be obviously penetrating the Australian market. But we believe the model we’ve got is applicable to other markets and that’s something we hope to see happen soon.

Sony Music here has BandIt. Universal has GetMusic, EMI has the InSong. Will this service be integrated into those platforms? 

No. DMD is a standalone business. We operate as a separate organisation.

You’ve two of the three majors represented. Where does Warner sit with it? 

We do have Warner’s content. We’ve got content from all the majors. And obviously we’ve gone out and done deals with independents.

But you don’t have a deal with Merlin? 

No we don’t at this point.

So there is still a lot of independent content that is not in the system. 
We’re building it every day. Obviously our focus has been about securing the majority of the content across the major labels. We’ve done a number of deals with the independents. There’s still more to do. We’re pretty confident of the fact we’ve got over 100,000 artists and millions of tracks, and that content is growing every day. That will continue to grow. When you’ve got the four majors you’ve got most of it, that’s for sure.


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