It was somewhere around 8 o'clock when the woman in front started dancing like crazy. She had to be in her forties, maybe fifties. She was dancing to Snake Rattle Rattle Snake at the Walnut Room in front of a collection of VIPs who had been summoned to witness the launch of Cricket's new Muve Music. Things were getting weird. But it was a launch event. These things are to be expected. Still it's hard to see Cricket's new service as something more than the crazy lady dancing -- a novelty.
The evening started simple enough. Walking in, there were a collection of Cricket phones on tables. The Samsung Suede -- they're sleek, small little phones with a touch screen that also has the phone key pad as a numerical and alphabetical interface. With these phones -- and only these phones, evidently -- you have access to Cricket's new music downloading service, dubbed Muve Music.
Muve Music is something of a segue into where we're heading: It's a subscription download service that runs $55 a month. With a paid subscription, you'll download an unlimited number of songs each month and store them on your phone, plus get your typical phone options. That's $55 a month for the phone, texting, data and the music plan. It's not a bad deal, and for people that use Cricket -- or those who might not be interested in "owning" music at any point -- there is a lot to gain from it. The space on the phone is limited to 3 GB, but the amount you can download per month is infinite.
We tested a few notable bands on it, and it's clear the four big record labels are on board, as are a lot of the smaller ones. Why wouldn't they be? It's free money in the pocket. How much? Well, Cricket representatives weren't willing to disclose the exact figures of how much goes to the label and subsequently the band.
In this era of transparency, when Apple, Amazon and everyone else are taking their clearly defined cut, why not say how much the labels are getting? Instead, we got: "The labels are very happy with this deal we've worked out."
Regardless, Muve will be good for Cricket consumers, who will get access to nearly every song they've ever heard, easily downloaded to their phone with little hassle -- and it appears the labels will walk away with a deal as well.
Bigger question, though: Who needs to download songs at this point? Most people have a digital library established by now. What's more, Muve requires you to download songs to your phone to play, which seems a bit backwards: A subscription service, locked to a phone, where you download songs to your phone that can't be played anywhere else.
Sure, it'll look at your iTunes library, and it'll match up the songs you already own with the songs on Cricket's cloud and -- provided you pay your monthly bill, it'll queue up those songs as need be -- but you don't get access to your full library. The current memory threshold is at around 3,000 songs.
Snake Rattle Rattle Snake plays their first show in months in front of a small, weird audience.
The demo of the whole thing took about three minutes. Follow up questions took another five at the most. Meanwhile, back at the party, Austin based, White Denim was playing awkwardly on the stage, clearly out of place, with strange industry-type people bobbing their heads and the rest of us staring into our beers, eating the free pizza and playing with the phones.
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Cricket probably figured this event would be a bigger deal. But the stacks of swag left unclaimed, or the raffle tickets nobody wanted to own up to (we won a signed a Snake Rattle Rattle Snake shirt we didn't claim) offered a commentary of their own. While Cricket probably thought this was a service that was going to blow the music industry apart, it doesn't really seem like it will be all that groundbreaking.
While Muve Music may be a good deal for Cricket devotees at $55 a month -- which probably amounts to something like $10-$15 a month after the normal phone, text and Internet services -- it's simply not going to revolutionize the industry. Just the same, you don't have to be Nostradamus to foresee that subscription services are likely going to be the future.
Even with that in mind, there is just something that still feels archaic about how Muve is operating. That's partially because the download feature seems strange, with only two or three gigabytes of memory available. And why not stream? In the end, Muve may be the first service of its kind, but if it hopes to, ahem, move forward, expanded the options and making it available on more phones, would be a good place to start.