Guvera has been around since 2008, but you would be forgiven for not recognising its interface or streaming model at first glance. Turns out that the service has been through almost as many facelifts and redesigns as its years in the business.
Based primarily on the Gold Coast and in Sydney, Guvera has had some major developments in 2013 that have helped differentiate it from other streaming models in the market. The key to Guvera's model is totally free, unlimited streaming. Unlike similar services, Guvera opens up both its web and mobile streaming for free to listeners without needing to hand over credit card details.
To subsidise these listening habits, Guvera is ad-supported. There is also the option of becoming a subscriber for AU$11.99 per month to remove ads.
"We've seen over the past 10 months a lot of [providers] come into the market from overseas," said Scott Hamilton, General Manager of Guvera. "Everyone seems to be going along the path of providing music, and that's really all they are doing. Either online or mobile jukeboxes for want of a better term."
Hamilton came on board with the streaming service at the beginning of the year, coinciding with the introduction of Guvera's new mobile apps in January. He admitted that at some stages during its previous incarnations, Guvera did cater to listeners using this single-pronged "mobile jukebox" approach, but has since realised that consumers want more of a choice.
The company's three-tiered strategy is based around entertainment, education and reward. Guvera's partnership with cloud-based music supplier Omnifone takes care of the entertainment component, while education is catered to with content from music news website Music Feeds.
Rewarding listeners is the other area where Guvera sets itself apart from other services.
"For us the reward base is actually rewarding people for high-value actions, [like] logging in, building playlists, sharing their music, discovering new music, the time they are actually online or on their mobile for," said Hamilton.
At the moment, these rewards come in the form of downloads, which are available to highly-active users. For example, a current promotion will reward the top 10 per cent of Guvera users, based on streaming time, with five download credits.
While the current system is download-based, Hamilton did mention that there was a more detailed reward structure on the way by the end of the year.
"For us, the differentiator is that we're really interested in providing consumers with an opportunity to be rewarded for their consumption, and actually care about the customer when they come onto the product."
Previously, Guvera offered free downloads on the provision that users interacted in certain ways with advertisers and brands. Hamilton saw that there were a few issues with that particular model.
"The first one was that being a digital publisher and artificially inflating clicks is very dangerous. I was worried that it was taking away from the brand message of the advertiser and really not delivering the users the right amount of flow. We actually stopped that because downloads cost a certain amount of money and clicks are worth a certain amount of money."
So how many users are currently accessing Guvera with the free, ad-supported accounts? "What we've seen is a very high uptake of the ad-funded product," said Hamilton. "That demonstrates that users do want to consume music but they don't want to pay for it. They want to consume music online and have brands pay for their engagement ... at the moment, we have 675,000 people registered on the service, actively each month we have in excess of 200,000 people using the product in the ad-funded model."
Over 90 per cent of users are streaming content on their mobile. To accommodate these people further, an Android app specifically for tablets is coming at the end of October to supplement the existing iOS (iPad and iPhone) and Android apps currently available.
Guvera delivers its mobile streams in 64kbps HD-AAC format to help conserve mobile data usage. "We did a lot of blind testing on it, with high-quality headphones in the office, and people on mobile couldn't tell the difference," said Hamilton.
"I think if you were to plug that into someone's home stereo and blast it through an expensive stereo system you would [hear] the difference. That's home usage, and we don't expect people to use their mobiles a lot at home."
Songs played on Guvera's mobile apps are automatically cached for future offline listening, rather than users having to manually select songs for saving onto their device. This option can be turned off if desired. Hamilton said that the provision for caching songs without pre-listening — useful for times when users have no internet access, such as on a long-haul flight — is coming soon.
"We need to make sure that every time they consume some music, that that music is effectively being paid for," he said. "It's really important that the artists and the labels are getting paid for music."