Jyrki Rosenberg, VP of MixRadio was in Mumbai for the global launch of their new natively built recommendation engine for music personalisation. Anita Iyer spoke to him about MixRadio’s approach to differentiation, competition with new entrants and working with smaller Indian labels. Excerpts:
MixRadio recently fine-tuned its search recommendation engine. What went behind this search optimisation and music personalisation?
We used both internal and external solutions and expertise but the key was to accumulate data on what the user is listening to, time of consumption, their likes, dislikes, what they prefer or purchase on different platforms. If the user had purchased and side loaded any track on their device from another music service, we could study that too. We started to create taste profile for each user and it is not a generic profile.
To get to this stage, we worked on each catalogue with high quality metadata. We developed the algorithm to suit different criteria so tracks could feature in ‘similar recommendations’. We put together the origin of music, similarities in digital acoustic analysis, social aspect and fine-tuned our service. We constantly keep tracking Lumia devices for understanding the consumption pattern.
MixRadio takes tailor made approach and has moved to individual mapping from being country specific. We realised that country is no longer a defining criterion and we have gone so much further in narrowing it. The music tastes are so diverse that if you don’t do individual mapping, you miss the point.
The key to all music services is metadata, how do you process it differently from any your competitors?
The industry follows a common metadata structure, which is just a standard on how you would define the metadata. Beyond this structure, it still depends on how music services are able to best use the metadata. Using a standard structure makes it easier for all parties from artists, aggregators, labels, rights holders and music services to process content. The differentiator still is the quality of metadata. We have worked for years and hence we have built structures on top of these generic solutions that work for small labels or artists too. So while major labels might have standard ways of delivering music and metadata, there might be small players in India who don’t have any tools and technology. We built specific solutions for them, so that they can ingest or help us ingest their music in a standardised way. So we purpose built this for India and we were able to collect content from smaller labels, content owners from India into our catalogue rather than just relying on the big ones.
Now that you have shed the Nokia tag, does it mean Mix Radio would be open to working with other handset manufacturers or expand to multiple devices?
Currently, we are focused on differentiating on the Lumia handsets and it is an important relationship we shall continue. We do believe that to be successful in digital music space, you need to be present on multiple platforms.
We are not announcing any expansions from screen point of view but I do believe that for any music service to be successful you have to have wide approach in market place.
Do you believe that has marred your position in the Indian market?
Nokia Music Store worked very well for us in the Indian market rather. Our market position is a bit of function of device sales. So when device sale volumes have fluctuated, our numbers have declined too. There is a linkage there but we have been in a good position for a long time in India.
The prime differentiator for Nokia Music service was the depth of content you had acquired. Other music services have also expanded their catalogue, so what is the differentiator for Mix Radio today?
You might want to check the sizes of different catalogue by other music services. I would claim that by far, we have the biggest and most comprehensive catalogue in India and then if you add the level of quality metadata, we still ace the game. The fact that you have signed contract with the content rights holder doesn’t mean that you have done your bit. We have spent years and years creating locally relevant catalogue. We are supporting over 20 local languages in India so we are on a very different level from other players in this market.
In the global scheme of things, how important is the Indian market?
It is very critical from many points of view. It is a big market with lots of people; secondly, it is a market of people who love music. Music is right on top of this nation and then there is the diversity. It is hard to find a market with diverse taste, musical and cultural background. So India is a challenge for us and if we can succeed in India, we can succeed anywhere else in music.
How is the revenue model for Mix Radio changing?
Currently, the service is shipping with Lumia device and is a differentiator for the model. Going forward, we will make announcements when we get there.