Go with the flow
Audio streaming service Deezer is raising its profile in the UK. Vice-president, northern and southern EMEA, Phil Moore, tells Sean Hannam how it’s making a noise and shares his ideas on how we could be listening to music in the future…
Phil Moore has the perfect job.
He’s mad about music and, as the vice-president (northern and southern EMEA) of audio streaming service Deezer, he gets paid to listen to it.
“I love it. I was a classically-trained flautist and I played in orchestras and jazz groups as a kid. I’ve always loved music – I stream it during the day and at home. If I’m doing something in the garden, or working out in the gym, it’s convenient – I’ll have Deezer on,” he tells ERT.
However, even though he’s passionate about digital music and streaming, he still has a love for old-fashioned audio.
“I have an inordinate amount of vinyl at home. A great night in for me is a glass of Macallan scotch and something on the turntable. There’s something about the warmth of the music – I’m hopeful that hi-res can provide that.”
Q: What’s your take on the streaming market and where does Deezer fit in?
Phil Moore: Streaming is taking the music industry back into the money – it’s growing again and streaming is up 8.1 per cent year on year globally.
It’s redefining how people choose to listen to and consume music, as well as video. I think it’s the third consecutive period of growth that we’ve seen and it’s almost eradicating piracy – the labels love it.
The fact that you can consume music at a myriad of prices on loads of different platforms and that you now have access to pretty much everything – we have 53 million tracks, plus football content, podcasts and audio books – means it’s taking the industry where it needed to be.
I want to be able to listen to what I want to, when I want to and how I want to – as a format, it’s fantastic, especially with the latest smartphones and how people can actually listen to the tracks that they want to.
For 2017, Deezer was up to 35 billion streams on our platform, with over 14 million monthly average users globally – we are performing really well in France, where we’re number one, Brazil, Columbia, Mexico and Germany, and we’ve recently just started in Israel, as well as Japan. We’re available in over 180 countries, which I think makes us the biggest from a spread point of view.
Q: What about the UK? Is it fair to say that you need to raise your profile here?
PM: We’re looking really rosy at the moment. We have a great profile and we’ve come off the back of a couple of years of very heavyweight, above-the-line campaigns that have done the brand a hell of a lot of good. That’s pushed our brand perception in the right direction.
This year, we’re trying to align ourselves with our channel partners – in this industry, and a lot of others, the UK is one of the most competitive markets in the world. Everybody wants to be here – in music, it’s even worse, because of the amount of tracks that are produced and distributed from here. The global repertoire from the UK is enormous.
We needed to work a lot closer with our partners to make sure that we have the Deezer brand and presence in all the places where people want to purchase and use their kit.
Deezer is also partnering with music venues. We’re going back to the core of what Deezer is all about – and we’re working with Dixons. Having our product always available and always one of the options on smart-home speakers, home audio and TVs was one of our first goals of the past couple of years.
We’re one of the best in that respect – the next logical step is to promote our service and our offering to people who are purchasing those. We’ve done a really good deal with Dixons, which has been successful, and we’re launching that again, with a new, improved offer.
We’ve also partnered with Huawei and Sam-sung, as well as most of the high-end audio speaker brands, from the very top-end, like Devialet, right through to Harman Kardon, Denon, Bose and Sonos. We also do hi-res – we support MQA.
We’re one of only two services that are offering hi-res.
Q: Is the Dixons deal exclusive?
PM: It is at the moment – they’re the biggest and when you add in Carphone Warehouse and the access to the handsets that they sell, it makes for a really valuable partnership for both of us.
We work very hard with Dixons to train and educate the store staff. They have a very tough job, but we have to make it as simple for them as possible, because they have millions of different products and services to have to understand and sell. We have to get our message across in a very simple, easy and communicative way that they can then pass on to the customer.
We’re teaching them to demo products, so people can hear the ‘wow’ – they can hear MP3 played through a speaker, but then hear hi-res and notice the difference.
Q: How is the tech retail market? Is it tough?
PM: I think it is tough – you have to have an edge. A lot of it comes down to demos and being able to articulate simply products and services. Customers have to see what the tangible benefits for them are. If you can get that over to a customer, you’ve got them hook, line and sinker – they will love you for it.
Q: What are Deezer’s strengths as a streaming platform?
PM: Deezer appeals to pretty much everybody – we have a solution and a service that will fulfil everybody’s needs, but we differentiate ourselves with our content, which is always localised and contextualised.
We have over 40 editors globally who will ingest the 30,000-plus tracks we pull in from labels every week and they will ensure that playlists are updated and localised. You will always get the great content that you want. We then throw in our unique product proposition, which is called Flow.
The beauty of Deezer is that if you’re a techie person like me, you can easily create your own playlists and you can share them, but with Flow, if you’re not so tech-savvy, you can set it up and it will give you the music you want when you want it.
At the moment, it will improve when you like tracks or skip them – the algorithm learns for you.
As we develop Flow, you’ll see a case where if you’re listening on your mobile phone, it will be able to read your accelerometer, figure out that you’re running and switch over to the playlist you have for when you’re running. Or it will know that it’s 10 o’clock on a Sunday morning and that you probably won’t want to listen to a hard, heavy, banging house track, but would prefer something more mellow…
If I look at my listening habits, my perfect Flow would be news from 5:30 to six o’clock, when I’m in the car, music while I’m working on a train, audio books when I’m on a plane and different genres at certain times of the day.
If Flow can do that for me, and all I have to do is press a button or say to an Alexa speaker ‘Play my Flow’, I’m going to get exactly what I want, when I want it, without any hassle.
It’s a lean-back experience and it’s a service that figures out what you want to listen to at a particular time.
Q: How far off are you from developing a more advanced version of Flow?
PM: Not far – integration with manufacturers gives us access to accelerometers and geolocation-based services in devices.
Q: What other sorts of streaming functionality will there be in the future?
PM: At the moment, unfortunately, we’re still strapped to these things [he picks up his smartphone], but there’s a proprietary technology called eSIM that was developed by GSMA. It allows SIM cards to be connectable chip sets that can be put into anything.
All of a sudden, if one of those eSIM cards is fitted into a car, streaming will be ubiquitous – you could have it on your watch, then in your car… it opens up a whole plethora of possibilities to get content to people. The killer app for it is voice, but there’s a platform war coming…
The beauty of Deezer’s Flow proposition is that it’s a hell of a lot easier to say to your device, ‘play my Flow,’ rather than you having to remember how to rattle off a playlist.
Voice control is Star Trek – ‘Computer, find Captain Picard for me’. It’s the way that we interact and it’s natural, so why have we had to develop lots of other ways to interact with technology? It’s a much more meaningful relationship between technology and an individual.
Q: How does audio streaming – and Deezer – fit into the smart home? What’s its role?
PM: Everybody wants to listen to music at some point – the smart home gives people easy access to it.
The fact that you can stream 53 million tracks into your home really simply through connected speakers means that more people will consume more music.
We’re working with the labels and our editorial teams to make sure we get the right level of playlist support, localisation and contextualisation – there are still lots of opportunities for new artists to come along and have content pushed to playlists, so people can discover new content.
The smart home and voice recognition will open up a lot of people’s eyes to a lot of new content and ways of interacting with products and services, such as our own – it’s only a good thing.
What does Phil Moore listen to on Deezer?
“Virtually everything on my Flow is either Eighties music or deep trance house – I just can’t get enough of it. Common Ground by Above & Beyond is a seminal album for me.
“I was 12 or 13 when the New Romantic era kicked off and my brother was three years older than me, so I was listening to his music – stuff like Gary Numan and The Human League.
“Because of my parents’ music taste, I also grew up on Fleetwood Mac, Burt Bacharach and Glen Campbell.”