– Revolution, Evolution or De-evolution?

When I first heard about the concept of I couldn’t really get my head around it.

Over 6 months later, and after using it, I am still a touch confused.

But first some history.

I first heard about mid last year. A friend of mine had joined the company.

He organised a lunch with me and one of the senior bods from Guvera – the lunch wasn’t really a success. I couldn’t fathom the idea or appeal of a site that gave away music for free and expected brands would cover the bill. For me, there was a disconnect between giving away music and generating a sound commercial outcome for your marketing investment. The guy I met with didn’t really seem to appreciate the cynicism so ultimately it became a bit of a stand off.

Later on, I did a bit of digging around Guvera as a result and a few things didn’t sit well with me

1/ The company outlined in its prospectus it was seeking around $9m in funding at a valuation of  approximately $100m. Personally I couldn’t understand this valuation given the site wasn’t live, had limited deals with labels and was more a concept that something tangible. To me it felt like the late 90’s dot com era. Anyway I guess it didn’t matter as no one was forcing me to invest.

2/ The premise Guvera ran with was that traditional interruption advertising was dead and that they had nailed a better way. For one, I don’t believe interruption advertising is dead, and I struggled to believe that giving stuff away to people which was paid for by advertisers was a solution even if it was. I find this whole rambling on that ‘everything has changed’ and ‘advertising is different now’ tired and naive.

3/ Are consumer rational and considerate enough to make a tangible connection between getting a piece of music for free and linking it to an advertiser that has paid for this? Personally I’m not so sure but maybe I’m a pessimist.

Anyway – something in me wants Guvera to work. Despite the above, the idea is interesting and backing your idea and going for it is an admirable trait.

Late last week I got a login to the site – and I took it for a test drive. Below are my observations.

1. The first thing I noticed was the Guvera sales team has done a good job. A great job even. They have a decent bunch of initial advertisers and they have delivered outstandingly with FMCG and retail advertisers. The advertiser pages look good – but remind me of a mix of a Yahoo! Music takeover, Myspace custom profile, Fix reskin etc … ie, interruption advertising that will look  to a user like a banner. Is this a unique experience for an advertiser? No. Could it be? Probably if done right but it’s a long way from that.

2. The range of artists currently is not sufficient. I searched for Pink. Nothing. Passion Pit. Nothing. There’s a lot of acts not uploaded – I would assume this is due to the labour involved in adding tracks. My only feedback would be that you need to launch with everything – as there’s plenty of other options to get everything music wise. The alternative – bit torrent – has more artists.

3. The search quality is rubbish. If you search for Pink … you get artists with the word Pink in them … and tracks with the word Pink in them. This is just not good enough and must get better – really really quickly.

4. Once you find an artist, downloading a track could be easier. I was getting 20 options of who could fund my download – which was overwheling. Why do I need 20? Why not give them one? Users don’t care – they just want the track.

5. Conflict feels inevitable. How do you manage the delicate situation of McDonalds funding a Moby (a vegan) download. There are thousands if not more of these potential conflicts and I think they will become an issue due to how prominent the advertising is and how Guvera are trying to link advertiser and artist. I don’t envy Guvera’s task here – it’s a tricky one.

6. BT is still king. If you want to compete against Bit Torrent you need more than an honourable purpose (ie to provide a safer, fairer option that torrent sites) – you also need to be better than Torrents and have more range. You also need to be cooler. I’m not sure right now guvera is either. It’s advertisers aren’t really ‘cool’ brands, it’s UI needs a bit of a polish and the range right now cannot compete with BT. Ultimately guvera’s biggest competitor is BT and that’s a big, much loved, multi layered beast they’re up against.

7. The buzz around this product is limited to the more nerdy elements of the industry. Joe Public isn’t aware of guvera and the buzz around the social channels is barely audible (liking these music analogies?). A key for Guvera is delivering audience volume – which requires either an amazing product or strong ATL activity. Neither exist right now.

Looking at it after week 1 I think Guvera struggles to deliver on its audacious initial bluster. Why? Mainly because they’ve gone with a beta that just isn’t ready for public consumption. The positives? The above are areas they can probably resolve or at least improve. Everything takes time but in hindsight I would say the team would have pulled back a little on the revolutionary cliches pre-launch when trying to generate partners.

Ultimately – Guvera has three stakeholders they need to deliver value to above all else.

The user – who demands a great experience, for free, that is easy to use and delivers THE BEST music better than anyone else.

The artists – who want to be paid fairly and represented in a way true to their artistic values. They don’t want to be aligned to anything that is in conflict to their beliefs and they want a tool that improves their relationship with fans

The advertiser – who wants a platform that can deliver real, measurable, commercial gains that improve their business in a tangible sense.

Does Guvera think right now it’s delivering these 3? If you’ve used it – do you?


8 responses to “ – Revolution, Evolution or De-evolution?

  1. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the detailed review.
    Guvera is in beta so this type of feedback is absolutely brilliant – and we have received several calls about your blog this morning – so you’re well read and a valuable resource for us. Thankyou.

    A couple of quick comments from myself:

    1. Range of content – Our beta only includes EMI, Virgin, Capitol music – we have deals with other global companies including Universal Music Group – all music is being ingested at present – they will all be included prior to the consumer launch / media push.

    2. Search engine will be upgraded throughout the beta period. (I agree its too wide at present)

    3. list of brands that will fund the download.
    (a) the list is long, because there are multiple brands that want to speak to the same audience
    (b) as Guvera emerges out of Beta you will discover a very cool use of this list (each brand channel presents a style and tone of music) so it effectively becomes a place to discover music. – therefore choosing which brand to pay for this content will also expose the user to a potentially relevant list of other music.
    – when creative agencies start using this power of guvera – they will start including unique music that really personifies their brand.

    4. I agree we are competing with illegal download sites such as BT and Limewire that offer the stuff free and easy – but we dont have to convert everyone – just the small percentage that would prefer their artists to be paid for their music – while they still get it free.
    (your 100% correct that BT is far bigger than itunes for example – therefore just a small slice of the illegal users – represents a massive audience for brands and a massive boost for the artists that create the stuff we love to download)

    5. yes, buzz around the product is limited to business press, marketing etc to support our sales efforts. We are still in beta and only allow a few thousand people in each group to trial the product and offer lots of constructive feedback. We do have consumer campaigns locked away – ready for our formal launch. (a sneak peak is our work with Rolling Stone Magazine for its awards next week in Sydney, and the mutliple festivals Guvera is slowly appearing at this summer around Australia).

    6. Guvera has three beta engines in progress – (a) the front end you have been looking at (b) the channels interface that allows creatives, agencies and business to build their own channels and campaigns and (c) the content interface that allows artists and labels to create rules for any brand types or specific brands they do not want to pay for their downloads.

    The stakeholders:

    Consumer: we provide a “paid for” alternative to get the stuff free while still supporting your artists. We also provide a new way to ‘discover’ music through brand personalities.

    The Artists: labels have total control over all lists and brands that are allowed to pay for their content (guvera is an enormous engine of which only a tiny tip of the iceberg is visable in the consumer interface).

    The advertiser:
    Disruptive advertising I agree (its not dead), but it’s dying. We no longer live in a world where media controls the stream. The Mouse, Tivo controls and similar have put the consumer in control and anything that is disrupting and annoying they will click past.

    Guvera is designed to remove the white noise of irrelevant advertising that was created by mass media desiring tens of millions of viewers to attract thousands of advertisers. Guvera allows advertisers to select the exact target audience they are targeting and only allow them to download from their channel.

    This means users are only ever shown ads and products that are actually targeting them.

    Once inside a channel, the user sees a list of content that can be far more niche for each brand – rather than mass for the media.

    One of the ideals behind Guvera is to remove white noise from mass media, wasted advertising dollars, and create a more targeted enjoyable access point to content.

    A brands channel on guvera will house music, film and TV. Which content they choose to deliver will personify them. the research they can get from this process delivers brilliant metrics to understand their audiences and help deliver measurable gains.

    Many thanks again for your comments Ben, Please feel free to contact the team or myself to discuss any element of Guvera.

    Claes Loberg
    CEO, Guvera

  2. so you like pink? I even find that weird! 😉

  3. Agree with much of the above Ben.

    Very tough ask to take on Bit Torrent with a music rights compliant start up. Obviously that is proving to be the case with Guvera as they only offer a very limited selection of EMI related music at present.

    For me though, the biggest issue is the usability of the site. They have gone with a Pandora style search box on the homepage as well as providing channels developed by advertisers. For me, the search approach has limited appeal as I often want to discover new music or browse what is available, but the advertiser channels offers even less appeal. Why would I want to listen to music that has been selected by Bacardi? I’m not sure how Jet, Lily Allen, Sufjan Stevens and Kate Bush end up in the same playlist,, but it seems pretty random to me.

    Also, there are some basic interface problems such as a play button representing ‘play a preview’ and a fast forward button representing ‘play the whole song’.

    And at the core of what the site is all about, I had a hard time establishing how to gain the points needed to download tracks.

    As you said, I hope something along the lines of Guvera does work at some stage, but I think this product has a lot of work to do before it becomes a serious threat.

  4. talkingdigital

    Hi Pink,

    I have to clarify … I’m not a fan of Pink but used her as a search term as her name is only one word and she’s massively popular.

    Besides I am much more of a Gaga fan.


  5. Just checked it out…..very limited selection, and confusing process. surely for advertisers looking to engage this audience in such an environment have better options available.

  6. Does anyone actually download single songs from BT or limewire? Single songs are annoying if you’re used to putting whole downloaded albums onto your iPod/ other music player

  7. Hey Ben.
    Sounds really interesting.
    Do you know how it differs from Spotify?
    The free version of that, hangs on disruptive advertising which is quite affective and accepted – as part of the trade off to use the service.
    It’s all the rage in Europe right now, and after using it for a month now, continues to blow me away.

    With Guvera, is the priority to create a channel for music lovers to get music conveniently for free, or is to create a new publisher platform and channel from brands?
    From what you wrote it sounds like it could be the latter?

  8. Pingback: Guest post: – an alternative perspective « talking digital – Ben Shepherd

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