Electric Jukebox aims to bring online music to people who find streaming too 'niche'

The new Electric Jukebox turns your TV into a music-streaming hub. It's aimed squarely at those who are looking for a hi-fi replacement.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
3 min read

The Electric Jukebox streamer plugs into your TV's HDMI port. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

LONDON -- How can you persuade older people to ditch their hi-fi and get hooked on streaming music? A new service from a UK startup thinks the answer is to plug into their TVs.

The Electric Jukebox is a music-streaming service designed for people in the US or UK who want to replace their home music systems with something a bit more 2015. It combines a streaming service and hardware that effectively turns your TV into a music hub.

Watch this: Electric Jukebox HDMI music streamer takes on Spotify

Launched at an event here in London today, Electric Jukebox's device plugs into your TV, a little like Google's recently launched Chromecast Audio plugs into your stereo system. Electric Jukebox's device, though, comes with built-in streaming that's free for the first year. It's operated with a simple Nintendo Wii-like wand remote with a microphone on top for voice control.

Over the last two decades, music has moved from records, tapes, CDs and the radio to MP3 players, smartphones and online services. The next generation of listeners may already be comfortable using smartphones to pipe music into their lives, but Electric Jukebox is betting a late-adopter crowd will be willing to pay for the digital music revolution, too.

"Streaming is niche," Chief Executive Rob Lewis asserted at the event. "This is mainstream."

The Electric Jukebox aims to be a first time streamer (pictures)

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Lewis is going up against music services from the world's two biggest brands, Apple and Google, not to mention better established streaming-music services such as Spotify and Deezer, and electronic products like Sonos players that modernize traditional music listening.

UK-based Electric Jukebox believes it's found a gap in the market. In research the company sponsored, pollster YouGov found 52 percent of people listen to music over the radio at home and 42 percent use CDs. By turning your TV into a music hub for the home, the company hopes to cater to an audience who have yet to adopt streaming.

Electric Jukebox costs £149 in the UK and $199 in the US until October 21, after which the price will rise to £179 and $229 -- much more than streaming rivals such as the £30/$35 Chromecast. It does include the first 12 months of streaming music, however, and is set to ship before the holiday season.

After the first year, you can either choose to listen to the radio channels and playlists curated by musicians such as Sheryl Crow and Robbie Williams, and stream songs dotted between adverts, or pay an annual subscription of £60 or $60 for access to the full streaming service.

The annual subscription is about half the price of Spotify and Apple Music, which are £10 or $10 per month. For the price, though, you get fewer streaming capabilities -- no offline access and no mobile service, for example. And the company will have to convince prospective customers it'll have a good catalogue of music. Electric Jukebox promises details later about which record labels it has partnerships with.

"This is a premium service so you'll have a premium catalogue," Lewis said. "You'll have all the music you want."

Lewis wouldn't confirm whether Taylor Swift's "1989" will be on the service -- something of an indicator that artists are getting a satisfactory deal since the pop singer forced Apple Music to pay royalties during its three-month free trial. But a demo did bring up her previous album, "Red".

A 2014 report by UK regulator Ofcom said 55 percent of those with Internet access already use some kind of music streaming service -- which is hardly niche -- but the likelihood of doing so decreases by age. The Electric Jukebox is aimed squarely at people who haven't already subscribed to a streaming service, an older demographic that doesn't want to listen to music on the move.

"What we're after is the consumer who wants to get rid of the hi-fi and listen to music in the living room," Lewis said.