A new application called Fradio is officially launching today, offering a service that allows anyone to become a DJ, broadcasting their favorite tracks to their friends or fans, and even talking over the tunes with a push of a button in order to engage their audience. The app, which is backed by Australian music service Guvera, is making its debut at the SXSW music festival in Austin where a number of artists, including Steve Aoki, A-Trak, and Crookerwill, be among its first testers.
Guvera may not be a household name here in the U.S., like competitors Spotify, Beats, or Rdio may be. But that’s because the service’s focus to date has been on emerging markets. Launched in 2008, and backed by $45 from AMMA, Guvera has largely been targeting the “rest of the world” with its service, including regions like Southeast Asia, India, and Latin America, for example.
Today, the service is live in 20 markets, but is most popular in India and Indonesia, where it has music licensing deals with both major and local labels.
In more recent months, the company has been working to expand its footprint to other regions. It signed a deal with Lenovo last year to get its app pre-installed on millions of smartphones in over 60 markets. And just this year, Guvera scooped up the U.K. music service Blinkbox when its former owner, retail giant Tesco, unloaded it alongside their TV, books, and movie-on-demand offerings.
That deal brought an additional 2.5 million customers to Guvera, which now claims a user base of nearly 9 million.
Like several of its streaming competitors, the company charges customers for access to its premium, on-demand service at $9.99 per month – the same as Spotify. However, in emerging markets, it has also experimented with different models, including day-, week- and month-long passes to the premium product.
With the new app Fradio, the idea is to give Guvera another entry point into the more fiercely competitive streaming industry in the U.S. and other developed markets, by offering a differentiated experience. Unlike apps which let users build out custom playlists, Fradio users can not only create their own playlists, but they can broadcast them live, in real-time, to listeners. And they can introduce the tracks or chat with their fans with a press of button, which softens the music in the background, allowing for a DJ-like experience.
While this may appeal to would-be DJ’s who want to share music with friends, the larger goal is to get artists on board. By using Fradio, they would have another means of engaging with their fans – and that’s something the company may also want to monetize in the future, it says, which would give the artists access to a different kind of revenue sharing deal as well.
“We see this as a real opportunity for rewarding artists,” explains Guvera CTO Damien King, speaking to us from SXSW in Austin. “There’s been a lot of talk about how music streaming services are not providing enough value to artists – so this is part of our strategy. We have a number of things we’re doing in 2015 that are trying to address payments to artists,” he says.
At present, Guvera brings in revenue through its subscription service, video and audio ads played for its free users, and through its branded channels on Guvera. These channels let companies market their own products and services in the service. For example, a Beats channel would let you browse new headphones while listening to a curated playlist. But when Guvera’s deals with music labels come up for renewal, the company wants to negotiate on different sorts of revenue share deals for artists, too – including those for the “live performances” where artists talk to their fans via Fradio.
Guvera’s licensing deals vary by market, but it has the major labels on board in most markets. In the U.S., it has longtime partner Universal’s support, as well as Sony, but Warner is still being signed.
Fradio, which has been in beta testing since the fall, is now publicly available as a free download for iOS and Android, and will offer a Guvera subscription ($9.99/mo USD) through in-app purchase. This will also allow Fradio DJ’s to re-arrange track order and take requests, among other things. Without the subscription, DJ’s can only use pre-populated playlists from Fradio instead of building their own, nor can they really engage their fans. That encourages conversions to the premium product, the company believes.
“We think radio needs to come into 2015,” says King. “The younger generation wants something more interactive…they want something where they can chat together, listen to music together, and where they can interact with their artists. We believe it’s much more compelling than existing radio.”