In the latest episode of handset makers getting into the mobile content business, Motorola has grand plans to expand its hit MotoMusic service out of China and into the rest of Asia via its 100% acquisition of Singapore-based music service provider Soundbuzz.
No details were given on how much Motorola spent to acquire Soundbuzz, but it's getting quite a bit of market access for its money. Soundbuzz offers online and mobile music download services on a D2C and white-label basis in Southeast Asia, India, Australia and New Zealand.
In essence, says Ian Chapman-Banks, VP of Motorola Asia Pacific and North Asia marketing and business development GM for the mobile devices division, the MotoMusic service has been 'going great guns' since its launch two years ago, logging 700% growth in page views in 2007, with three million members, seven million hits a day and two million songs sold. And Soundbuzz is Motorola's ticket to extending MotoMusic into the rest of Asia quickly, with Soundbuzz's end-to-end system already in place to handle subscriber management, content management, payment, client software and media delivery.
What Soundbuzz gets in return, says Soundbuzz founder and CEO Sudhanshu Sarronwala, is the device partner it's always wanted to create a more holistic mobile music ecosystem to serve music fans.
'Devices will serve as a key place for aggregating mobile music to a serious scale,' he says. 'The creation of an ecosystem, combining seamless connection of device and content, is the key benefit for both parties and to the consumer who will get a richer, experience.'
Soundbuzz has partnered with device makers in the past, such as consumer electronics maker Creative, 'but that approach was a bit too ad hoc,' Sarronwala says. 'What Soundbuzz really needed was a partner that didn't consider music as just an add-on. Looking at the time, effort and pain Motorola went through to create MotoMusic in China, and the success it's had, we could see it wasn't just a flash in the pan,' he told Telecom Asia. 'And because they did it the hard way, they have the most realistic view on what it will take to roll it out across the region.'
That includes the view that mobile music services are best served by an ecosystem that includes the device, says Chapman-Banks.
'Our consumer research has shown us how they think about music - how they want to discover it, acquire it, listen to it and share it,' he says. 'Mobile devices can deliver a good experience, but it's not just the device - it's the ecosystem that it belongs to that helps them to find music, get it, and share it with their friends.'
It can also function as an extension in branding. Last year, for instance, pop star Jay Chou - Moto's music 'ambassador' icon for Asia Pacific - staged six sold-out concerts in China exclusive to Motorola handset owners. Motorola plans to sign on additional ambassadors in the form of local pop stars to promote its music service in other markets.
However, that doesn't mean Soundbuzz will target only Moto users - Sarronwala says that Soundbuzz will remain handset-agnostic, and will maintain its current white-label business while also developing MotoMusic in other markets.
Motorola isn't the only handset maker getting directly involved in the mobile content space. Rival player Nokia spent most of last year acquiring companies in order to launch its own mobile content service, Ovi, which has left some operators with mixed feelings over one of their device suppliers competing against their content decks.
Motorola's Chapman-Banks says they've nothing to fear, insisting that Moto's relationship with cellcos hasn't changed at all since it launched MotoMusic.
'It depends on what the operators want to do. If they want to start their own music service, we can offer them a white-label service with Soundbuzz. Or if they don't directly buy or subsidize phones, then MotoMusic can be a direct-to-consumer offering,' he says. 'Either way, we work with operators and understand their objectives to decide the level of the music offering in each market.'