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why eircom music hub will fail

musichub fail

Earlier in the week, eircom launched music hub, their answer to music piracy approved by the IRMA (record labels). You can stream music for free, if you’re an eircom customer. Or, you can buy & download music. €5.99 for 15 tracks or €12.99 for 40 tracks. Users of all other ISPs get shafted…

Can it work?

No. Eircom need to focus on getting broadband right before they can start offering streaming services. For starters it’s been built in flash, which the cool kids like Apple and Google are trying to kill. I love the non high resolution images too, very classy if you want to give a home made, cheap, tacky impression 😉

We then have the fact this can only run in a browser. I don’t know about you, but i listen to music whilst i’m doing other stuff… i want desktop apps or browser plugins or something that allows me to ‘remote control’. Eircom Music Hub doesn’t have that so the novelty will wear off very quickly. Nobody wants to keep a tab or a window open in the background, running permanently. Get real.

On the same day Eircom launched this, Sky confirmed it was shutting down their service because they “didn’t see the consumer demand we’d hoped for”. It was up and running for just over a year. Virgin had planned to launch their version in the UK last year but had the cop on to realise it wouldn’t work and instead are supposedly partnering with spotify.

What makes eircom different?

I don’t think anything makes them different, which is why i think Music Hub will be a big mistake. They are Ireland’s largest ISP but they’ve nailed their colours to the mast in terms of music and piracy. This service is no doubt seen as a niche by eircom… they play the middle guy between consumers who are demanding free music and the IRMA who are demanding profit. They think this will work.

Whilst the free streaming part might have novelty value at the start, i can’t see eircom profiting from Music Hub. They’re not itunes. They’re not spotify. They’re not music people. They’re getting involved in something they have no experience in but something that their consumers have a lot of experience in. Can Music Hub compete with Groveshark and the inevitable introduction of the likes of Pandora and Spotify in to Ireland? Not a chance.

Cracks are already appearing

I’ve said already the site has been built in flash, which is a mistake in 2010. What’s even more worrying is that despite launching it a few days ago, Music Hub is nowhere to be seen in Google for the words ‘Music Hub’ or ‘Eircom Music Hub’. Shocking stuff. In fact, the site isn’t even indexed in Google as of today as far as i can see.

music hub

A massive PR campaign and fancy launch yet if people try to search for anything related to ‘eircom music hub’, they’ll have to ‘work’ to find the official site. This is why eircom need to focus on what they specialise in rather than waste time & money on something that nobody but eircom believes will work.

  • Strawbs

    Most average people aren’t so picky and care less about flash and plugins and ‘apps’ and actually about the music.
    “Get real”.

  • Tuppe

    I can stream it with no issues. I don’t care about flash or whatnot as long as it works. And it does. Great service, I hope is turns out to be hugely successful.

  • theefer

    The multiple statements that eircom MusicHub is built in Flash are misleading – it is not. MusicHub is an HTML5 app written in Javascript/HTML; Flash is only used as a thin component for audio playback, and it could just as well be replaced by HTML5 audio in the future.

  • Anonymous

    Tell that to iphone / ipad users, who are probably more obsessed with their music than the rest of us. The reason this music hub came about was because of filesharing. File sharers are savvy enough to find and use all sorts of apps to download music illegally… if they cared so much about the music or artists, they’d pay for the music 😉

    This will appeal to average users who buy music anyway… but as i said above, without any desktop apps or remote control, the novelty will quickly wear off.

  • Anonymous

    but that’s the important bit! if a music site can’t play music, it’s useless – that’s what ipad users will be saying. I wasn’t trying to turn it in to a flash -v- html5 debate, but it’s a small example of where they’ve gone wrong…

    why use flash at all when it’s clear html5 is the way forward? what about SEO? that’s basic stuff when you’re launching any site and it’s insane that eircom would launch a site that can’t be found in google.

    analysing things further, the FAQ section says this;
    “Will eircom MusicHub work on Apple devices such as iTouch or iPad?”
    “eircom MusicHub site has not been configured for these devices as they use Flash”

    What’s an iTouch? These devices DO use flash?

    Ok, i’m nit picking here but all of these small things tell me eircom will fail because they’re not perfectionists.

  • JoeyJonson

    I think you guys are missing Seans point completely. Firstly why “replace the flash player with HTML5 audio in the future” why not be ahead of the game and not use flash at all.
    Secondly, i did a search to find it without reading this blog first and typing in “Eircom music hub” i find an Eircom sponsored ad for the main site selling broadband, a boards.ie thread and this blog. Nowhere did i find a link to the hub. That is just bad. Whatever way you look at it. Did they load it up Tuesday night and launch it wednesday morning?

    And lastly, Eircom can’t do anything right, they have inferior services, inferior staff, inferior planning and development and don’t use the proper resources with something like this. It will fail, there’s no doubt about it. But it will keep going at a loss for a long time before they pull the plug. Because thats Eircom all over. And best of luck to you if you have to call technical support about any issues with it.

  • Jaded

    You’re assuming that eircom wants/has the right to stream to mobile devices (I’m guessing that requires a separate deal with the labels), and that they have no plans to do so in future. Spotify started as a desktop only product as well…

  • Declan O’Brien

    Hi Sean,

    I worked on the MusicHub project and would like to address a few points in your post. Firstly, thanks for taking the time to sign up and use the site and sorry you didn’t have a good experience. In relation to your overall concerns about eircom as a business, I can’t address anything about broadband or the wider eircom company, as that is not my part of the business, but I do know that there is massive work happening on the ground to upgrade the network. It’s a huge
    priority within the business and very good work is being done in this regard.

    As for MusicHub, the site is something we are greatly proud of. We will be adding components and functionality on an ongoing basis and we are working on SEO optimisation. That said the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive with initial take-up far surpassing our expectations. It’s early days yet and it is important we keep the quality of the service high, but initial customer feedback has been superb.

    Wednesday’s launch was the first phase in a roadmap that will see a number of major updates throughout 2011. We are looking at desktop apps, mobile offerings and everything you mentioned as well as some pretty cool features and additional content. All these things require additional development and licensing arrangements. Obviously I can’t
    say too much more, but we are working hard on creating a world class service, I think we are off to a good start, but there is lots more to come. Spotify has had many functionality additions and platform tweaks, since its inception, we are working with a model of continuous development with the service, both in terms of content addition and new functionality.

    In reference to use of Flash on the site – frankly we couldnt find a non-flash player that we were happy with in terms of overall smoothness of delivery and consistency. There are issues with HTML5 in terms of browser compatibility and consensus on what codecs to use that ruled it out- this is not to say that we won’t revisit this in the futureYou mentioned Grooveshark as a service we will have to compete with, but that site uses a huge amount of Flash components. As technology evolves, we will adapt the site to what works best. The solution we have in place currently is something from a technical point of view we are very proud of and full credit to MSP the platform provider for creating something really impressive.

    With regards the other services you mentioned and why we feel we are different, SkySongs was a constrained experience from the start and wasnt particularly competitive (we are free, and cheaper than itunes in many cases for downloads) Plus the actually quality of the streaming was a 48kbps AAC+ (we stream at 128). If you want to see a more apt example of why we feel this service has a future, look to the likes of TDC in Denmark and WIMP in Norway. Wimp is in its early days, but TDC have been running a free music service for their customers for over two years. The response has been amazing – I wont go into it too much here, but they are credited with reducing piracy significantly and growing the music industry in Denmark by 300%. If we even achieve a fraction of that, then the site will have done far more than it set out to do. http://www.musically.com/musicinsider/ (some headline stats in this report)

    With regards Virgin, it is my understanding that their failure to launch a service was more to do with label negotiations and the fall out from the Digital Economy bill than whether or not they are ‘music people’ . There are various rumors swirling around the industry as to what their long term game-plan is in this space, but there is speculation that a Spotify deal will just be a stop-gap. I’m in ‘watch-this-space’ mode with them… btw, Virgin has an excellent
    pedigree in music, Branson still has a radio empire under his belt as well as various other media interests.

    Ok final point – your assertion that we are not ‘music people’. The team working on the project within eircom all have significant industry experience. But we also partnered with MSP, who have a long and distinguished history in digital music. The have been an incredible partner and are working with us on creating what we feel is a first class product. Its a pretty big departure for eircom to get into this space, but as Frank Zappa once said ‘without deviation from the norm, there can be no change’.

    While we are proud of what we have so far achieved, we are also clued in enough to listen to all feedback. Thanks for taking the time to write and comment on it. I hope you opinion of the service improves in time as you see where we will take it. If you want to ask any more questions about the service, just drop me an email.

    Thanks

    Declan

  • Anonymous

    Hi Declan, firstly i appreciate the time and effort put in to that comment.

    What initially angered me and prompted this post was the lack of SEO – i heard about the launch on twitter, googled the service and couldn’t find the official site. Incredible and i know i’m not alone on that because the traffic i’m getting for the words ‘eircom music hub’ to this post suggest there’s plenty of other people out there trying to find the site who may genuinely not know how to get to it.

    When i did get to the site, i found it fairly easy to pick apart. The low res images on the flash banner look poor imo – they were the first thing i seen. I’m not a fan of the overall appearance, but i accept beauty is in the eye of the beholder, others may like it.

    As i said above, i feel this will work, but only temporarily until people get sick of having to keep a tab or window open all the time. From my own experience using any online music streaming service, the novelty wears off quickly and i always end up going back to itunes, offline. I can guarantee stability and reliability and i can let it work away in the background without it getting in the way or accidentally closing it.

    The only reason i mentioned grooveshark was because i found it to be fast and easy to use plus it has a chrome extension, another service allows you to import playlists etc… it’s managed to keep me streaming music online longer than most other services. It’s all html5 apart from audio playback which makes it useless on iphones / ipads but only because their old app was pulled for legal reasons, not for the want of trying.

    I accept music WILL move to the cloud one day (properly), but i can’t see Ireland or eircom leading the way. The odds, imo, are stacked against you and it’s things like the lack of SEO (after a launch and media publicity) which don’t inspire confidence.

    That said, this is at least some kind of innovative approach to combating privacy rather than a simple 3/4 strikes and your out policy. That deserves credit but i still can’t see eircom, record labels and consumers living happily ever after… bottom line is i can’t see eircom profiting from this, which i assume is their goal.

  • At the moment I’m with Vodafone so the package is not that attractive under the pricing model. However my contract is up with them next year and the music hub would definitely entice me to go back to Eircom.

    Couple of things
    1) The downloads are not DRM this is huge advantage. I can transfer the music I download from the site to any other device I own.
    2) Its a lot cheaper than either Itunes or Seven digital for downloads
    3) I can use this service without going thru some proxy (spotify eyc)
    4) Flash is not going away anytime soon, as much as it pains me as someone who is an Free software advocate flash is still the best media delivery mechanism. It has to work, flash works despite everything. Even the new version of android runs flash . When html 5 can do what flash can Eircom will probably go with that. youtube uses flash and its owned by Google. HTML5 is only starting its not proven.
    5) Artists have to get paid if we want new music , they need to be economically viable. Its not technology that stops these efforts its licensing.
    6) */rant mode on/ Apple customers get what they deserve they buy a completely proprietary system and then act surprised when the rest of the world doesn’t work with their closed system , you buy apple your stuck with I tunes and you get what you deserve 99c downloads*/rant mode off/

    I really hope the music hub is a success.

  • Anonymous

    Yip, all valid points but the guy downloading torrents won’t suddenly start shelling out (any amount) for music. They may take advantage of free streaming though, until they get fed up of the lack of control they have over quality, reliability of broadband connection etc…

    Because we’re not at a stage where we can stream music on the go (in the car, on an ipod etc..), there is still a need to download music and store it offline. Music Hub allows people to do that but it’s much more expensive than torrents which is why i feel it won’t work (because it won’t be profitable)…

    If it were free for all irish users (regardless of ISP), same prices for all irish users and had apps galore in browsers / iphones / ipads, then maybe we’d see a shift in attitude which is what eircom need for this to work. They have to change the way people think and imo, Music Hub won’t do that.

    Maybe i’m wrong, maybe it will turn out to be a fine example of how ISPs can successfully venture in to other areas but right now i’m happier saying this won’t work, time will tell how right or wrong i’ve got it.

  • Mark

    Few things:
    1. It doesn’t give a “home made, cheap, tacky impression” at all, it looks just fine, go to the North Korea OFFICIAL website and tell me Music Hub looks tacky.
    2. The fact that it only works in a browser, yeah it really kills me to have one tab left open…oh wait.
    3. It won’t work because it hasn’t worked “elsewhere”. However does Ireland have the absolutely massive competition of Spotify that has been running in beta for years? No. This is only in beta and it’s one of the very few (if not the only) music streaming options in Ireland, oh and it’s free to eircom customers.
    4. “inevitable introduction of the likes of Pandora and Spotify in to Ireland”. I laughed, with Ireland, tons of things are inevitably coming here, that doesn’t mean anytime soon . Like the inevitable introduction of TV shows in the Irish iTunes? That’s been running in the US for years. The Irish licensing is clearly something that international businesses aren’t too concerned with for at very, very best around a million customers. Why not go to Germany/France/Spain/Portugal/Italy/Russia//Canada/Mexico? All those countries have huge populations. In essence, yes Pandora and Spotify will inevitably come to Ireland, but with Eircom Music Hub “adding 1000s of songs every day”, by the time they do, and it gets (which I see as quite crucial) a last.fm linking feature, I for one won’t leave Eircom for a bigger brand name. And I’d argue that Spotify is really the only threat to Music Hub anyway, I’ve used Pandora in America and it’s nothing special, Spotify on the other hand, I’ve heard from people, is.

    Googling is working now by the way, granted this article was written in December. I guess I’m a little late to the party.

    Well laid out article though. Very easy to read.

  • Anonymous

    Since eircom’s musichub launch we’ve already had Sony launch their ‘Qriocity’ service and we7.ie will be launching on January 17th in ireland (you can already use their .com version in ireland). we7.ie will be ad supported, but free to everyone (remember only eircom customers can access musichub for free). There’ll be more where they came from so Eircom won’t have as tight as a grip on this as they might like to think.

    They’re an ISP so they have a few big advantages, mainly that they’re in a no lose situation in that they have record labels onside as opposed to any other service which always seems to be involved in legal battles.

    But for this to work, eircom need people buying music, not streaming it. How they’re gonna get people to think ‘eircom’ for buying music is beyond me. They’re doing a great job with their new ads, very creative and i know they’re launching social media campaigns too but long term i just can’t see people buying music from them and unless they can remain up and running as a streaming service, then i can’t see a future for musichub, just like i can’t see a future for Sony’s Qriocity.

    Then again that’s just my own view, i’m just someone who takes an interest in this stuff, i’m not an expert in music or business and i’m simply going on gut instinct.

  • tomfinnerty

    Hi, I hope music hub does survive, I love it – the main reason being the selection of music on there is fantastic, not many places you find readings by Allen Ginsberg and Hunter s Thompson sitting alongside the latest X-factor crap so it’s pretty obvious to me that it’s been put together by people who know about music. Also the streaming quailty is excellent. I’m no fan of eircom but this is the exception, yeah it ‘s got limitations but it is a beta and it’s off to a very strong start, I wish it all the best.

  • Jdelaney

    just logged into music hub and agree it is handy to have on pc….would like it on my samsung galaxy though instead. haven’t played with it too much but pissed off when tried to play it on my phone via web..no dice. Also, agree with getting broadband sorted first and email spam filter. soon, i won’t care about eircom if they don’t start improving their ability to troubleshoot basic tech problems.

  • guest

    Music hub offers basically free music to broadband customers,i mean whats this guys problem.Oh he has to keep a browser open to listen to his free music and his eyes are insulted by the non high resolution images while he listens to his free music. Chill out dude while listening to your free music.Just try not to think about those low resolution images.

  • Lol

    What does music hub have that itunes doesn’t? Free streaming music isn’t some mana from heaven for eircom subscribers. It’s something that’s taken for granted by the youtube generation. Music hub is supposed to be the carrot to the three strikes stick that eircom introduced against file sharers. It fails completely in this regard as it doesn’t offer the quality and variety of music available over torrent; it also costs money which will be a big turn off for most torrent fans.

  • Samleigh

    Tried it today and I’m told Kildare is outside Ireland.

  • Guest

    Laughable product offering. Why buy the cow when the milk’s for free?

  • john

    because you not an asshole who steals music?

Sean MacEntee

Web Developer. Technology Addict. Swimmer. Man Utd Fan. Writer. Designer.