Skybee CEO Pontus Sonnerstedt on Guvera, Music Streaming, and Connecting with Former Yahoo Colleagues

3 mins read
October 24, 2013

Guvera may have been made available to Indonesian music fans but the service has yet to be officially launched. As we reported previously, the Australian company got together with Indonesian mobile and digital services company Skybee to expand its market to Indonesia and Skybee in turn signed up a number of local partners to bring Guvera to consumers.

We spoke with Pontus Sonnerstedt, CEO of Skybee who was previously country manager for Yahoo Indonesia, about the company’s plans for Guvera and how the partnership came to be. He noted that the service is indeed online and people can sign up and enjoy five days of free music from Guvera but there are still some wrinkles in the system that needs to be worked out which is why they have yet to officially announce it. “We put the product out there now so we can kick the tires and fix everything”, he said to DailySocial on Wednesday.

At the moment, the payment back end, which is powered by Doku, has yet to be installed. “It is one of those things I was talking about, it’s exactly why we haven’t launched it”, he admitted. The lack of a payment channel at this time does bring up the question about the five day trial limit for the very early adopters but given that it’s not yet official and that Guvera’s plans for a proper launch is underway, it shouldn’t pose too much of an issue.

Given the musical preference of Indonesians, it’s important for Guvera to have local content. “It’s an ongoing process to have local content. it takes time for that and we’re working very hard to have local content. The international content, I think a lot of it is there already in the system and we’re just working now to put the local content in there, so that’s why we’re not screaming about it yet”.

Getting local labels on board is something that Skybee is also working hard on. Since the dawn of digital downloads, local music labels have both been curious and apprehensive about adopting digital given the high level of music piracy that exists in Indonesia. Absent the emergence and dominance of iTunes, Indonesian music labels and artists have mostly shied away from digital downloads, even legal ones, unless they are tightly wrapped in copy protection methods.

Sonerstedt said, “I think the local labels are keen on you know working, promoting, working closely with us to promote their artists. Everyone is keen on finding a business model that works. If you look around the world now, streaming is the fastest growing revenue source. It completely changed the way the market worked in the past six or seven years”.

Fully streaming music services don’t need to serve high quality sounds. Guvera streams in 64kbps audio which sounds good enough for online radios and as Guvera general manager Scott Hamilton said to Cnet Australia earlier this month, it’s good enough for casual mobile listeners. Ripping streamed audio is certainly possible but low quality audio playbacks won’t be as satisfying to listen to and when they are played back on high quality audio systems, they sound terrible. This loss in quality should provide music labels with the peace of mind that they seek when dealing with streaming services.

For local operations, Skybee is working with Jakarta-based software services company Ice House to localize Guvera and provide assistance for technical issues. Ice House is of course, staffed by many former Yahoo Indonesia engineers who were laid off in 2012. For Skybee, it’s all about having engineers available at a short notice. “Lets’ say we work with a telco or something and there are technical questions. If they sit in another country it just won’t be just as easy as calling the Ice House team. Of course it’s also fun to work with my old colleagues and it’s easy to work with people that you know who can deliver”.

Guvera’s business model in Indonesia differs from the Australian version. Sonnerstedt explained that the Australian market is more of a test case for the freemium model. “In Australia they’ve made the decision to try this model. Of course you can grow much faster if you make it free but it also means that you gotta support that with advertising, so you’ve gotta make that whole model work”.

The decision to go with a full subscription from the start for the Indonesian market seems to be triggered by the need to monetize as early as possible. According to Sonnerstedt, the decision had to be made due to the agreements with the local labels and artists but he’s not ruling out adopting a freemium model, or any other model for that matter, in the future if it proves to be feasible in Indonesia.

Although Sonnerstedt declined to provide a specific date, Guvera is scheduled to officially launch shortly for the Indonesian market.


[Header image courtesy of Dellawati Wijaya]

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