The Hot Seat: Carter Adamson, Rdio

Published in The Music Network

 

This year is shaping up as a huge one for the streaming music business in Australia, with the international services Spotify, Songl, Deezer and MOG all expected to launch here. However, they’ve all been beaten to the punch by Rdio. With little fanfare, the US company pressed the button on an Australian operation in January, boasting a licensed library of some ten million tracks. TMN caught up with Rdio’s New York-based COO Carter Adamson, a former Skype exec with 16 years’ experience in consumer software and Web services.

Carter, Australia is just the fourth market for Rdio. Why here, and why now?
We launched simultaneously in the US and Canada in August 2010, and we’ve been laying the groundwork for a number of years for a global expansion. When we started this business, the intention was to become the world’s first truly global music service, because one doesn’t really exist yet. We simply prioritised. In our view, the priority markets first, and Australia was one of them. There’s a great tradition of music here and Australians are early adopters. If you look at music revenues, 40% of the music revenue here is already digital music revenue, and that’s only growing. So we viewed this market as a huge opportunity.

When Apple launched outside North America, it went into Britain, Germany and France.
The market has changed a lot since iTunes rolled-out. We’re living in a world where “normal” people have a wide array of conneapplected devices which are in fact play-back devices. So the need for a service like this is only becoming greater by the day. You can see by just the last year in global revenues that the digital revenue portion is growing and will continue to grow throughout 2012 and beyond.

I’ve heard Spotify is coming in March, or soon after. Were you determined to get here before they did?
I don’t know if that was in our mind at all. There’s a lot of excitement around this space. Again it’s because the stars have only just recently aligned to be able to even do services like these. The rights weren’t there until recently and the adoption of smartphones and the apps on the smartphones weren’t there until recently. The improvement in wireless networks wasn’t there until recently either. The mind-shift has happened, so that consumers are thinking in terms of subscribing to music like electricity. We’re talking about 34 cents a day to access all the world’s music across all your devices, and then you can save whatever you want up to your individual devices’ memory capacity. Most of us (at Rdio) are from Skype. We’ve operated a very popular global business before. We’ve actually been in business with most of the major carriers and telecoms around the world. That’s why we’re able to get so far out ahead of the pack; that and because we delivered the experience that resonates with most people.

Why were you so quiet on the launch?
We do that for a number of reasons. Some of it is tweaking, bug- fixing that goes on in the background. When we launched in the US and Canada, we didn’t really do press and marketing until February/March 2011. We like get key people playing with it. It’s just our style. We want to make sure the experience is exactly where it needs to be for a launch.

There were some problems with the soft-launch. Content was missing, and pages were freezing. Is most of this ironed out?

It’s an ongoing process and we’re getting better every day in terms of speed and catalogue and functionality. We’re launching a handful of very exciting additions to the service, so it will only get better.

Tell me more?
One of them might be a new version of one of our mobile clients. One might be something very significant, but I can’t tell you. In general in 2012, you’ll see us go into a lot of different markets. It’s not pushing the button and 40 countries come alive. We’ll be doing a lot of local activity in each region, and spending time there – and actually having people on the ground.

Speaking of which, I understand former TMN editor Jade Harley and MySpace managing director Rebekah Horne are part of the launch team?

Yes, we’ve been working with their team Inception Digital. They’ve helped us understand the market and get to the right people. We’ll soon announce a team that is based in Sydney.

So what next?
The global expansion is the first thing we’re focused on. We’ve lined-up the rights to launch in a number of different markets. That’s going to go quickly. There’s a fairly big thing coming down the pipeline in terms of features and functionality; that’ll happen soon, within the quarter. We’re focused on new platforms, because you need to be everywhere. Mobility is obviously the core proposition. Nobody has bought a song on iTunes just to listen to it on their computer. Cars are a big focus for us as well, because that’s where most people listen to music on a daily basis.

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