MOG: the day the music gamifiedOctober 6th, 2011 by Ville Miettinen
Nowadays, the music business is like a country and western album – there are no happy endings. Today’s young people have grown up listening (legally and illegally) to free music. Most 16-year-olds seem to think unlimited downloads are a basic human right. Sometimes it seems like Apple shareholders are the only ones who make a decent living from the industry anymore.
The recent Spotify-Facebook deal has pumped up the volume of online debate. Since the “deep integration” of the two companies was announced, Spotify has gained 1 million users and, simultaneously, managed to enrage the entire blogosphere. As a Facebook user, I’ve noticed a sudden avalanche of friends’ Spotify spam (guys I love you, but if you’re listening to Enya, stay off my wall!).
While record companies are facing diminishing returns, the situation is not much better for the new generation of music companies: Online, Spotify, Pandora, Grooveshark and Last.fm are all struggling to make a honest buck. In such dark times, surely only a crazy person would try launching another free music streaming service…
All you have to do is… Play the game
Executives at MOG clearly disagree. As hip/geeky readers will know, MOG is not really new – the service first appeared in 2009. Until recently however, listeners paid $5 per month to access MOG’s 11 million tracks. Now the service has turned freemium and is (currently) ad-free. So what’s the catch? In a word: gamification.
It works like this: you sign up to MOG and get a full free “tank” of music. As you listen the tank empties. To refuel, you do tasks like “making friend referrals, creating and sharing playlists and exploring MOG”. The more you engage/play with MOG, the more music you get. MOG CEO David Hyman claims that the tank’s “sophisticated game mechanics” should mean that users never have to pay for music.
So, will people who won’t spend $5 per month on music be prepared to spend time watching promos and sharing playlists? Well, maybe. After all, millions of people already share music – this is just a way of rewarding and encouraging them. I guess there is a danger that MOG will mess with the motivation behind music sharing. Friends’ music recommendations are supposed to be about genuine (if misguided) love for a band, not about earning more MOG-points.
People’s outrage over the Spotify-Facebook deal is all about lack of control: users feel they’re losing privacy and being forced to share music. MOG is clearly just as desperate as Spotify to plug in to Facebook’s 800 million users. However, MOG does give people some “mastery” over how they share data and interact with advertisers (users actively decide which ads to watch, which tracks to share etc). As gamers know, choice plus rewards can be a very powerful combination indeed.
The official “love-in” between Spotify and Facebook may ultimately kill-off MOG. Longer-term though, the concept of gamifying freemium music is a great idea. No doubt other services will soon be developing their own “unique” game mechanics. Will it help save the music industry? I guess that depends on how much the 16 year olds want to play along.