With CD and download sales declining and streaming not even beginning to fill the gap, things are not looking great for the music industry right now. The answer, as UK startup Electric Jukebox sees it, is to aim a streaming service squarely at mainstream consumers rather than tech fans.
The new service's CEO is Rob Lewis, who launched the world's first ever music streaming service, MusicStation, back in 2007, and subsequently rara.com, currently the 760,912th most visited site on the web.
Lewis announced Electric Jukebox at BAFTA in London, at an event hosted by Alexander "Pointless" Armstrong, with speakers including John Whittingdale MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, plus a number of thrusting and youthful music biz luminaries who are backing the service. And British singer Aleesha Dixon.
The Jukebox itself is a plug-and-play dongle, not unlike the Amazon Firestick. You power it via USB, plug it into your telly via HDMI, then control it with a small, deliberately simple remote that incorporates voice and motion control. Streaming is by means of Wi-Fi and your router.
Electric Jukebox claims setup takes "two minutes" from opening the box to streaming music.
Pricing is interesting: pre-Christmas, early backers can pick it up for £149/$199, then it goes to its standard RRP of £179/$229. However, the subscription part of the deal is a flat £60/$60 per year, with the first year coming as part of the upfront cost. Keen students of economics will note that the exchange rate between dollars and pounds appears to have been ignored, here.
The service will be available in the UK and USA only initially, with the stated intention being to have "localised services appearing worldwide" at some point in the future.
As well as streaming from millions of tracks - licensing deals are still being tied up, so no announcements have been made at this point about what labels are or aren't onboard - the service will offer a curated service, with playlists picked by such luminaries as Sheryl Crowe, Stephen Fry, Robbie Williams and Aleesha Dixon, all of whom appeared at the launch. Albeit the three more famous of the above were in video form only.
There is also an ad-supported version available after the first year of ownership that loses certain parts of the functionality. Precise details were sketchy as to which parts, but Lewis seemed to imply that the full streaming experience would not be available without a subscription, leaving only the curated radio options.
The punt being taken here is that Electric Jukebox will become truly mainstream, to the point where the hundreds of millions of users will allow for large amounts of revenue to be generated for record labels and artists, even though each of those users is paying about half what they do on Spotify, Apple Music et al.
To this end, Electric Jukebox is pushing itself as the streaming service for non-techies. For families and friends who want to listen to music communally, music buffs who grew up with huge collections of records and CDs, and older people.