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"Getting Mog radio in the car blows away XM or Sirius," Hyman said, and the crowd seemed similarly blown away. The one big question of the press conference centered around whether or not Apple would approve such an app. Apple runs a tightly restricted marketplace and is the sole gatekeeper of it. Mog All Access Mobile can be considered a threat to Apple's music service iTunes. "We'll have to wait and see," Hyman said. "To date, Apple has not turned down subscription applications." Meanwhile, Mog's Android app is expected to be easy, and they intend to hold it for concurrent release with the iPhone app.
The demo went off without a hitch and the crowd was left more dumbfounded than skeptical. Now it's just a matter of time before All Access Mobile launches and takes the world by storm, right? Hyman can't be so sure. Cell phones remain unreliable, Mog's music library could be even bigger and more comprehensive than it is, and recession-weary consumers could scuttle Mog's plans in 2010.
For starters, Mog doesn't yet have all the world's music. It has a lot, but, for example, it doesn't have any Beatles, AC/DC, or Radiohead's self-released In Rainbows. Some music licenses are easier to get than others. Some are impossible. The world's music is tangled up in a rat's nest of paperwork, and there's no way any single company can truly have it all. Mog has a full-time staffer tasked with filling the gaps, but even with his best efforts, really obscure searches can be frustratingly fruitless. Rhapsody, iTunes, eMusic and everyone else have to deal with the same problem, and such holes in the catalog can be a turn-off to elite users.
Furthermore, these elites can find anything they want online, if they know where to look, and spend the time pilfering it.
But Hyman says people with no jobs who spend all day stealing music aren't in Mog's core business plan. "I'm not going to get the guy who spends $3 a month on music," he said. "Pirating takes time. When I was in college I had time. I was an obsessive Grateful Dead collector and I would spend my entire day looking for tapes. I had all the time in the world. I didn't go to class. Now, I don't have time for anything."
Mog is banking on the Baby Boom generation, the moms and dads of the hooded kids at Mohawk watching the Black Keys; mainstream listeners looking for a fast, slick way to enjoy mainstream acts. So what's Mog's plan to get these soccer moms? Targeted advertising, Hyman says.
Say someone types in "Sade" into Google. Thanks to targeted ads, they stumble onto Mog's Sade page online. With enough targeted ad buys, Mog hopes to amass millions of converts to pay for the targeted advertising, company operations, and label royalties. But it's no sure thing.
Furthermore, the number of fast cell phone connections in America is still low, and Mog has no control over how fast this grows. "A lot of our success is built on the speed in which people adopt 3G phones," Hyman said. "More people are going to pay for Mog mobile than for desktop. It's just what people want. We're riding the wave of 3G introduction and some of that is out of our control. And I think a lot of our speed at which we can acquire customers are tied to that. And I also think it's tied to the price point."
Indeed, $10 may be too high for music you'll never truly own. Even all of it.
Outside Mohawk, high schoolers from as far away as Denver endorse the idea behind the company throwing them a free party, at least in theory. Sixteen-year-old CJ and Ethan rock dirty Converse, skinny jeans, flannel, and horn-rimmed glasses. They're fans of No Age and the Black Keys, and are something like the golden demographic to marketers.
"I'm a cheapskate," CJ said. "I wouldn't pay for it, but on the iPhone it'll be a service that's immensely popular."
CJ said he only pays for music at live shows, where he'll buy a CD or a vinyl album the same way he buys T-shirts and stickers — as a form of economic support to the band.
His buddy Ethan notes a counter-trend to music subscriptions. Kids these days love buying expensive vinyl almost as a souvenir of their time with a band. And the liner art is cooler. "People like owning so much better than mp3. It gives you something to hold on to, as opposed to a hard drive, which can be ruined."
Still, Ethan said, "I'd pay $10 a month for unlimited downloads." He already listens to Pandora at school when he says he should be studying. But he and CJ are going to need nicer phones. Both of them are embarrassed to show off their cheap, Verizon clamshells. A smartphone is an expensive luxury still currently outside their budgets.
Inside the club, the Black Keys' set concludes to thunderous applause, and as the Mog Mobile starts the grueling three-day return trip to Berkeley, the company is already working past its mobile launch. They're getting Mog embedded in Tivo-like devices and bundled into Comcast-like cable subscriptions. It's the newest frontier for music services, and it points to a world where access to almost all the world's music will just be another line item on the cell phone or cable bill.
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