Business News Digital

Electric Jukebox is actually going to launch

By | Published on Tuesday 8 November 2016

Robbie Williams / Electric Jukebox

So here we go people, Electric Jukebox, the latest digital music venture from the people who brought you Omnifone and, erm,, is finally set to launch tomorrow.

Are you excited? No, of course you’re not, but Robbie Williams and Alesha Dixon are dead excited. Quivering in their boots they are. Dixon just fell over, that’s how excited she is. And to be fair, your current lack of excitement is mainly because you’re yet to learn that the Electric Jukebox dongle will be available in three colours, including charcoal!

When Electric Jukebox was first unveiled last year at a cheese-heavy launch we couldn’t even be bothered to mock the damn thing. Though the UK-based streaming start-up could now be seen as a competitor to Amazon’s recent move into standalone music streams, ie a cheaper way to stream music that is locked to a specific device, but which therefore requires a more hefty upfront investment. Which almost makes it interesting.

In the case of Amazon, its lower price streams are locked to the firm’s Echo speaker device, which retails at £150 – or £50 for the low-end version that needs to be plugged into an existing speaker system. The streaming music bit is only currently available in the US, but if it is launched here at the same price point except in pounds it would cost £4 a month, so £48 year.

Electric Jukebox is locked to a proprietary dongle that you stick into the back of your TV and operate with a special remote. It costs £169, of which £52 is your first year’s subscription to the tunes, so it’s basically £117 for the device itself. When the first year’s subscription is up users will need to hand over another £52, though Electric Jukebox says it will also have an ad-funded free option for people to fall onto after twelve months, if they so wish.

So, like Amazon, Electric Jukebox is playing with the mid-price model that everyone agrees the digital music market needs to master for streaming to work long term, ie once CDs and downloads have declined so much they are niche products. Amazon, of course, has a massive advantage in terms of an existing customer base and, in the Echo, a multi-tasking product that had been very well received before the cheap streams were even added in the US.

Electric Jukebox, which has raised in the region of £7 million in finance to date, will be hoping that its celebrity backers and playlist curators – like the aforementioned Williams and Dixon – coupled with support from high street retailers and a to-be-confirmed TV channel partner will help it attract consumers in the run up to Christmas, before Amazon launches its Echo-plus-cheap-streams offer over here. Which, it has to be said, all seems rather ambitious.

Though the sales pitch actually being employed by Electric Jukebox centres on simplicity more than price point. Possibly because the upfront cost of £169 is pretty high given that, unlike the Echo, the device doesn’t offer other functionality. And if mainstream consumers are put off the likes of Spotify by the £120 a year price point, £169 upfront is going to seem pretty pricey for some streaming tunes, even if long term it works out cheaper per year.

So the firm is instead going with a sell along the lines of “give us 169 quid, plug this little dongle into the back of your telly, and boom, streaming music!” No apps to download! No form to fill out! No smart phone to turn on! Which basically makes it’s a product for people who are tech illiterate but have spare cash, but not enough spare cash that they can pay someone who is tech literate to set up a Sonos system with Spotify. Those people do exist, I suppose. But yeah, it still all seems rather ambitious.

Though did I mention it’s available in red, blue and charcoal! Charcoal!

Here’s Electric Jukebox chief Rob Lewis with some words: “Streaming is the future but today only 8% of UK consumers subscribe because it is expensive, difficult and complicated. We want to give everyone access to all the music in the world in their living rooms by making streaming as simple as using a radio. [And] we want music to be affordable and easy to access so everyone can enjoy it. Our one year premium music pass for Electric Jukebox will cost the equivalent of just £1 a week: £52 pounds for the year. That’s makes it affordable for everyone”.