Trace to launch interactive music service and mobile brand

Olivier Laouchez

Olivier Laouchez

Trace, the French youth-focused thematic channel provider, is to launch a new personalised, interactive streaming music service, MyTrace, and a mobile phone brand.

The music service will launch, initially in France, in the autumn and will be rolled out to other territories thereafter.

The new mobile service, Trace Mobile, is a branded mobile phone service that will initially be available in Africa. The company is making significant investments in the continent – Laouchez himself has been based in Johannesburg for about a year – and will launch the first Trace Africa Music Awards in Libreville, Gabon on December 11 as well as a mobile song contest that invites young people to record songs over a mobile connection, with the winner to be given a recording contract with Universal Music.

Trace CEO Olivier Laouchez told DTVE that MyTrace would be a “personalised music service” with a subscription-based revenue model that will be rolled out on a range of connected devices, both in partnership with service providers and direct to consumer via iOS and Android apps.

Laouchez said the service would be something between a streaming and an on-demand service. MyTrace will learn what music users like and don’t like and allow them to choose the genre of music they prefer. It will also allow users to create playlists, skip between tracks, link to their Facebook accounts and set a preference for how much “surprise” content will be streamed to them.

“It will work on all connected devices – TVs, tablets, mobile phones, games consoles and PCs – but given that it requires a lot of bandwidth, we have also created an audio-only version that just shows a picture of the artist,” said Laouchez.

Trace, which operates the Trace Urban music channel, has access to Universal Music’s catalogue for the service. According Laouchez, MyTrace will deliver music across different genres, not only urban music.

MyTrace will be a paid for service, with subscriptions expected to be between €4-5 a month, giving access for up to five users. “We don’t believe the advertising supported model is strong enough,” said Laouchez. He said Trace did not intend to compete with the likes of Deezer or Spotify. The service will initially be available in France in partnership with cable operator Numericable. However, Trace also plans to offer it as a direct-to-consumer proposition.

MyTrace will be launched in partnership with technology company Fair Play Interactive, which will power the service. In 2009, Fair Play Interactive was  responsible for the launch of Zoond on the Numericable platform, an earlier iteration of the personalised music channel concept that shared much of the functionality of MyTrace.

Numericable will launch the service in September or October, said Laouchez, who added that he had received “about 40 expressions of interest” from other players in territories as far afield as Germany, India and the US.

No timeframe has been fixed for the direct-to-consumer launch as yet, which the launch schedule likely to be dependent on a number of factors, including the availability of rights.

Laouchez said Trace was also making significant investments in Africa, which it saw as a strong growth market.
In December the group will launch the first Trace African Music Awards in Libreville, Gabon. Trace is also launching Trace Mobile, a branded mobile phone service in partnership with local operators, initially in South African with plans to roll out across the rest of the continent and then elsewhere.

“Mobile in Africa is the number one way to get access to content and internet connectivity,” he said. Mobile operators will be given the opportunity to license Trace’s brand to sell services on the basis of a revenue-sharing deal. “Mobile operators will use our content to reach a youthful audience and bundle telecom services with added value services.” These added value services could include, for example, the audio version of MyTrace.

Trace is kicking off its mobile drive with the launch of a ‘mobile song competition’ in partnership with South Africa’s number three mobile operator Cell C. Entrants can record a song using their mobile phones and the winner will be awarded a recording contract in partnership with Universal Music.

Laouchez said he expected Trace Group’s revenue base to change as its mobile activities ramped up. He said he expected mobile operations to represent up to one third of the group’s revenue within the next three years.

Separately, Trace is rebranding its flagship sports channel as Trace Sport Stars to convey more accurately that the channel is about sports celebrities and lifestyle rather than a sports events channel.

Laouchez said Trace’s new activities were currently being funded out of existing revenues. However he said that the company was also open to discussion with potential strategic and financial investors to support its growth in the future.

“We are now starting some preliminary discussions with partners who have expressed interest in accelerating the growth of Trace but it’s at an early stage,” he said.