If Spotify proved one thing with its U.S. launch, it’s that people will go nuts for free music. So now MOG, one of my favorite paid streaming music services, is getting a free version of its own.
Like Spotify, MOG lets you listen to any song or album you want from a library of about 11 million tracks. But unlike Spotify, MOG’s free service isn’t strictly time-limited. (Spotify users get six months of unrestricted listening, followed by 10 hours per month and five plays per track.) Instead, MOG uses a game-like system that rewards certain actions with more free listening. Refer some friends, get some free time. Recommend a playlist, get more free time. Click on an ad, get more free time.
MOG won’t say exactly how much free listening you’ve got or how much you’re earning. Free listening is represented by an ambiguous meter that works like a gas tank (that is, before cars told you how many miles you had left). But MOG says that if you’re got a lot of clout through social media, you could theoretically get free music forever.
The whole system is the service’s way of trying to go viral. To that end, MOG is launching a new HTML5 app that’s easier to use than MOG’s old website and a lot more convenient to access than Spotify’s installed application. David Hyman, MOG’s founder and CEO, coyly told me that if Facebook were to “hypothetically” launch a music service of its own (as rumored and expected), MOG would allow users to log in through the social network.
In a couple of months, MOG will start showing ads on its website, but what the company really wants is for people to eventually sign up for its paid service, which for $10 per month includes smartphone access and unlimited listening. The premium version of MOG is good enough to replace iTunes and downloadable music entirely, but these kinds of services have never gone mainstream because people don’t like the idea of leasing songs instead of owning them. That’s a problem, because they’re unsustainable on ads alone.
Ideally, free versions MOG and Spotify will convince people that unlimited streaming music has its virtues and that paying for the service is worthwhile. But they also risk reinforcing the idea that music should be free, prompting record labels to pull the plug on licensing. I hope the former scenario is the one that pans out, because I like these services and want them to stick around for a while.