Making stream­ing mu­sic safe for work

▶ A Swedish startup is sell­ing back­ground mu­sic from the cloud ▶ Com­mer­cial stream­ing “is su­per-frag­mented and dys­func­tional”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Focus On/The Cloud -

Not long ago, when Mathias Forslund wanted to rock out while pulling es­presso shots at the three Stock­holm cafes he owns, he’d burn mixes to CDS. Once he dis­cov­ered the ease of stream­ing mu­sic at home, he wanted the same con­ve­nience at work. But af­ter scru­ti­niz­ing the fine print on his sub­scrip­tion ser­vice, he re­al­ized he was break­ing the rules. En­ter a Stock­holm startup called Sound­track Your Brand .

Forslund to­day pays Sound­track about 350 kro­nor ($42) a month for each of his cafes to have ac­cess to 30 mil­lion songs streamed from the cloud. He can cre­ate playlists that change hour to hour: clas­sic rock for busier times, French chan­sons when he wants a calmer mood. “I love hav­ing so many songs at my fingertips,” he says. “Be­cause it’s so easy to use, it’s per­fect for our stores.”

Song-stream­ing leader Spo­tify and Ap­ple dom­i­nate stream­ing for con­sumers, with a com­bined 43 mil­lion pay­ing sub­scribers, but they don’t have licenses al­low­ing them to of­fer their ser­vice as back­ground mu­sic in restau­rants, bars, and stores. Sound­track, by con­trast, has se­cured those rights for the cat­a­log it uses. One-third owned by Spo­tify, the com­pany is a ris­ing player in the mar­ket once dom­i­nated by Muzak. Sound­track lets cus­tomers choose from songs by thou­sands of artists, from Ri­hanna to Ra­dio­head to the Rolling Stones. The Web in­ter­face shows users what’s trend­ing, shares ac­cess to cu­rated playlists, and lets them sched­ule spe­cific songs, bands, or gen­res to adapt the mix to chang­ing moods through­out the day.

The com­pany’s lat­est coup: a global deal with Mcdon­ald’s that al­lows the fast-food chain’s 36,000 lo­ca­tions world­wide to sign up at a dis­count to Sound­track’s stan­dard rate. The agree­ment gives the com­pany its first foothold out­side the Nordic re­gion. About 130 Mcdon­ald’s fran­chises in Swe­den use the ser­vice at present; in the un­likely event that all of the com­pany’s restau­rants join, Sound­track would reap about $17 mil­lion in an­nual rev­enue. It “can de­liver the largest mu­sic cat­a­log on the mar­ket,” says Lisa Palm-daniels­son, head of dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives for Mcdon­ald’s in Swe­den.

Ola Sars, Sound­track’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, says the con­tract with the world’s big­gest restau­rant chain will give his com­pany greater vis­i­bil­ity and cred­i­bil­ity. Sound­track is streamed to about 5,000 to­tal lo­ca­tions; it will start earn­ing a profit when that num­ber tops 25,000, he says. The monthly

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