SongPop has 20m active players and streams 300m music clips a day
Heard of SongPop? More than 50m people have played the social music game across iOS, Android and Facebook since its launch in May 2012, and the game currently has 20m monthly active players.
Those figures come from Mathieu Nouzareth, chief executive of SongPop's developer FreshPlanet. He was speaking at the Amsterdam Dance Event conference about SongPop's success so far, and its plans for the future.
The game involves guessing song clips as they play, as quickly as possible, then challenging friends to guess them faster, like a musical version of Zynga's Draw Something – one of the other big mobile/social hits of 2012.
Around 50% of SongPop's traffic comes from the US, with the UK its second most popular market according to Nouzareth, who added that 68% of the game's players are women, and 32% men.
FreshPlanet has spent "almost nothing" on marketing, with its growth coming from a mix of word-of-mouth, app store promotions, positive reviews and a glowing recommendation by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the social network earlier this year.
Nouzareth said that SongPop has two key groups of players: teenagers and young adults who are guessing today's hits; and older players who are guessing the music from their own youth.
"We have a lot of mothers playing with daughters too," he said. "It's becoming a tool for generations to play with one another, and maybe have the daughter discover the music the mother likes, and the other way around."
FreshPlanet is keen to work more closely with the music industry on SongPop. One example: the company has just launched an in-game promotion for Carrie Underwood's upcoming tour, which includes a playlist devoted to her music.
It's the first of a planned series of artist-branded playlists, which will end with full-screen interstitial ads helping fans follow the artists on Facebook and Twitter, or linking through to iTunes, YouTube, Spotify and ticketing services.
SongPop also shows iTunes links to players after every round of the game. "We're driving a significant amount of traffic to iTunes directly," said Nouzareth. "We've become one of the largest iTunes affiliates in the world today… We're driving a huge number of clicks: close to a few hundred thousand every day."
Some music industry executives have wondered about how (or even whether) FreshPlanet is paying licensing fees for the music used in SongPop. Nouzareth said the game currently streams around 300m music clips every day. Although players guess songs in 2.7 seconds on average, there are still royalties to be paid to labels and publishers.
"We have licences with the big labels and publishers, and we pay them," said Nouzareth. "There is this urban myth that if you use a small clip, you don't have to pay anything, but it's not true."
He also talked about the future for SongPop. "We think we've just scratched the surface in what we can do combining a game and music," he said.
Coming soon will be updates boosting the music discovery features for SongPop. Nouzareth showed a screenshot of the next version of the game, which will display Spotify and YouTube links for individual songs as well as iTunes links.
FreshPlanet is also looking to increase the social aspects within SongPop itself. "The feedback we have from players is they want to make new friends who like the same kinds of music genres they like," said Nouzareth.
That means the game will start matching people with other players near their location who share their music tastes, alongside the existing Facebook connections. "We're not turning it into a dating service, per se," he stressed.
SongPop currently has three main revenue streams: in-game ads in the free version; sales of the ad-free paid version; and in-app purchases for virtual currency used to unlock new playlists and help on unknown songs (similar to the 50:50 lifeline in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?)
FreshPlanet has more plans. "We are also launching a new subsciption model: it's called the VIP subscription model, and you'll have access to exclusive content if you subscribe on a monthly basis," said Nouzareth.
The biggest challenge for FreshPlanet, though, is how to keep growing. Nouzareth was asked during his presentation what he's learned from the very public growing pains of Draw Something.
Social games analytics service AppData – which only counts players who've connected SongPop to Facebook – indicates that the game has been gently sliding downwards over the last month in terms of monthly and daily active users. Is there a danger that the game has peaked, and is about to decline?
"I think we are very different from Draw Something," said Nouzareth when questioned at ADE on this point.
"The emotional link people have to music is very strong, probably stronger than just a drawing. Building a social network and adding more music discovery is designed to address this issue. We are building a community of music lovers, and we hope they are going to stay in the game for a very long time."
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