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“Our vision is that one day, music will be like voice mail,” Muve Music founder and SVP Jeff Toig told me recently during a phone conversation. Muve was launched as a business division of Cricket Wireless (s LEAP) in early 2011, and the music subscription service has since attracted more than 600,000 subscribers. Toig said that Cricket expects Muve to have “millions” of customers within the next 12 months – and it hopes that Android (s GOOG) will help it to get there.
Cricket is introducing
two three new Android smartphone plans in September that both include a complimentary subscription to Muve Music, the company’s own music subscription service. The company will also launch up to nine more Android phones by year’s end. “Android represents a large and fast-growing segment of Cricket’s customer base,” said Toig, adding that 60 percent of Cricket’s new customers sign up for an Android phone.
The new plans come with a bit of a caveat for consumers: Cricket is moving away from offering unlimited data, and instead offer different data at varying price points. However, Muve Music downloads don’t count against a customer’s data plan. That’s because Muve focused on downloads instead of streaming from the very beginning. “Muve is very efficient for the carrier’s network,” said Toig.
Those downloads aren’t the only thing that differentiates Muve from Spotify, which the company now trails as the second-largest digital music subscription service in the U.S.. Muve is also mobile and Android-only. There’s no web interface, no desktop client and and no shiny iOS app. “Digital music was built around computers and credit cards,” explained Toig, adding: “It was built around more affluent, tech-savvy consumers.”
Muve’s customer base looks decidedly different. Two-thirds are African American or Hispanic, and the majority of customers make less than $30,000 a year. They pay for their phone service with prepaid cards, and have been all but ignored by the Spotifys and Rhapsodys of this world.
Many of Muve’s customers used to illegally download or swap music, explained Toig. In other words: They’re used to getting their music for free — and Muve wants to keep it that way by bundling the subscription with its phone plans.
“We don’t put a price tag on music,” said Toig. Instead, it just becomes another feature. Something you used to pay for, but that now feels free. You know, like voicemail.