Malaysian music streaming provider unfazed by new iTunes service
By Edwin Yapp July 2, 2012
- MNC Wireless CEO unruffled by giant’s entry into 12 countries, including Malaysia
- Believes that competition would be good for digital music ecosystem, spurs innovation, lessen piracy
MALAYSIAN cloud music provider MNC Wireless appears unperturbed by the news that tech giant Apple is introducing its hugely popular iTunes music store in the region.
According to its chief executive Chung Jaan Hao, the news of iTunes launching in Malaysia has been “floating around for some time now,” and so the news did not come as a surprise to him.
“We welcome the entry of legal music services to Malaysia to raise the overall awareness of legal music consumption [amongst consumers],” he said in an e-mail to questions from Digital News Asia. “[In fact] we do not view iTunes as a direct competitor as our service concepts are very different [compared to iTunes].”
Last last Wednesday (June 27), computing and media giant Apple made available its iTunes music store in 12 additional markets in Asia but did so in a low key approach, as it only made the announcement over its website and through direct e-mail messages to existing iTunes subscribers.
The iTunes Store is now available in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and nine additional markets in Asia: Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Laos, Macau, Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
A local dotcom survivor, MNC Wireless came to the market more than a decade ago. It primarily marketed mobile value added services driven largely by SMS services and was also involved in mobile app development. The company first cut its teeth in the dotcom hey days by providing mobile ringtones, wallpapers and gaming.
After dabbling with some of these lower value mobile offerings, the company repositioned itself in the past three years and began creating services based around rich content for web and mobile technologies.
Last year, MNC Wireless launched what it believes to be its most innovative service to date – the WOWLOUD music streaming service. The subscription-based service allows users to either stream or keep a playlist of songs on their laptops or desktops.
Its Premium Plus service has the added option of allowing users to stream music and keep a copy of the songs on their mobile devices. Users can also access the service for free, albeit with a lower quality music stream and advertisements.
Chung (pic) noted that Apple’s iTunes is based on ownership while WOWLOUD is based on access and anchored around music discovery and social sharing.
“We view both services as complementary [both of which] now offer good legal choices for consumers to access digital music,” he said.
Asked what were some of the subscription numbers since its launch last October, Chung declined to reveal noting that it is “MNC Wireless’ policy not to reveal subscriber numbers at the moment.”
He however noted that its WOWLOUD service “is gaining very good traction and the acceptance level of the service is very high among consumers.”
“As anticipated, our WOWLOUD free version, which allows our free access option on a computer platform, attracted the bulk of our users,” he said.
“The results are in line with our strategy to provide a great music listening experience to users through WOWLOUD FREE and then to convert them later into paying subscribers where they can enjoy ad-free, high quality audio and mobile access via smart devices.”
On how the iTunes entry would affect negotiations with record labels and content owners, Chung said these activities would be inherently difficult regardless of which player is in the market. What is more important, Chung added, is whether a company has a solid business model, great consumer products and an aggressive marketing plan.
Asked how will MNC Wireless continue to differentiate itself from the market, Chung acknowledged that its WOWLOUD service concept is new to consumers in Malaysia as it has often seen users tweeting that WOWLOUD is the “new way” of listening to music.
Consumers at large still do not quite understand the concept of cloud music access and the industry is at the stage where it is only scratching the surface of the market with early adopters, Chung pointed out.
“Our real competitors are the ingrained consumer habit of illegal downloads and streaming sites, and the Gen-Ys (Generation Ys) know exactly how and where to get their illegal music fixes.
“What really bothers me is that music used to be such a big deal for me growing up and the invention of MP3 downloads has killed the music experience with the rapid decline of music stores. The older target audiences have totally lost that experience.
“We will continue to evolve WOWLOUD by offering an experience that is better and unattainable through illegal music sites, and we have very strong ideas of where we want to take the service and how to make it a joy to discover music again.”
The good thing going for MNC Wireless is that everyone who has tried WOWLOUD loves it, Chung claimed.
“We believe that legal competition will help raise the awareness and drive the adoption of this ‘new way’ of listening to music at a more rapid pace, and we welcome it,” he stressed. “It is illegal competition that keeps us on our toes.”
Asked how Apple's new iTunes service would impact MNC Wireless, Jan Dawson, chief telecom analyst at Ovum said, "I would expect iTunes to impact WOWLOUD, but only to the extent that its users are buying Apple devices and therefore be drawn into Apple’s content stores. iTunes is unlikely to be the cheapest or most comprehensive offering, especially for local content, for some time, so its appeal to other users will be limited."