Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Hands up who is using the Eircom Music Hub?

We talk a lot about streaming services at OTR. You’ll find a story most weeks here about Spotify and we also mention services like We7, Grooveshark and even Deezer, which launches in Ireland tomorrow, with services ranging from free to …

Wed, Dec 7, 2011, 09:19

   

We talk a lot about streaming services at OTR. You’ll find a story most weeks here about Spotify and we also mention services like We7, Grooveshark and even Deezer, which launches in Ireland tomorrow, with services ranging from free to €9.99 per month for unlimited streaming on your computer and all handheld devices, on or offline.

But what about the Eircom Music Hub, the domestic streaming service launched with great hubbub (and some smart TV ads) about a year ago? How many OTR readers are actually using the service on a day to day basis? Or, is it the case as with a couple of people I spoke to about this in the last couple of days, that you registered, poked around for an hour or so and never went back again? It’s time to find out.

Our interest in Eircom Music Hub was piqued by a few things. The first was Spotify’s recent announcement and the all-singing, all-dancing additions to the streaming world’s big kahoona and a thought that perhaps Eircom Music Hub were doing similar things. There was also an email from reader Brian Casey who was wondering how the service is doing. Given that it’s nearly Eircom Music Hub’s first birthday, we went off, found our user name, did our best to remember the password and had another look at Eircom’s big music offering.

The first thing that caught our eye was The Black Keys’ “El Camino” album, which was strange as the band have refused to give the album to a ton of streaming services due to, uhm, issues. But when you click on the album, you find that you can’t stream it. You can download it (Eircom Music Hub users can download a certain number of tracks per month depending on what package they’re on), but you can’t stream it and there’s a couple of angry user comments on the page along the lines of “If I can’t listen to new releases on the hub then there’s not much point being on it”.

I searched for 10 albums released in 2011, from Nicolas Jaar and Wild Flag to SBTRKT to Paul Simon, and all bar Jaar were present and correct, so the service’s millions of tunes does have a wide and deep span. You press play and, like Spotify, the tune plays quite quickly. You can also link to tracks – here’s one of the tunes of the year, Wild Flag’s “Romance”, for instance – but you need to be a registered user (free to Eircom customers and €6.99 a month to non-Eircom users) to hear the tune, which is probably why I rarely see people linking to Eircom Music Hub albums, tracks or playlists. And whatever happened to the apps they were promising a year ago to help them “battle players like Spotify and Last.fm in the digital music market”? No sign of any Eircom Music Hub app in the iTunes store this morning.

The more you dig around the service, the more frustrated you become at what it could be and what it’s not. Developed in the wake of a lengthy court case with IRMA, the Music Hub really looks and feels like a contractual obligation, a “sure it’ll do the job” service. Yes, all the music you could want is there, but the presentation and navigation are not hugely attractive (the bland band biographies which are used to fill the content gaps are just one example of this). While I’m sure people are using the Music Hub, the service is too limited right now to appeal to anyone beyond the casual user – that said, the casual user is probably the Eircom Music Hub’s target audience. It’s a pity because, having gone to the trouble of negotiating those deals and uploading all that material, the final product just doesn’t seem to match the effort which has gone into the set-up. Luckily for Eircom, though, there is still no sign of Spotify entering the Irish market and, until that happens, they’re not going to have to up their game. Right now, the Eircom Music Hub sadly looks like a lost opportunity.

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