Samsung is closing its Music Hub subscription service at the start of July after just two years in the market. It straddled the divide between downloads and subscription streaming but, even as a bridging service (with scan-and-match functionality), it failed to catch fire.
Rumours about its viability have been circulating for a while, a situation exacerbated by the launch in the US in March of Milk, Samsung’s Pandora-style radio streaming app designed to push sales of its Galaxy devices. While initially offered for free, Samsung had suggested that Milk would eventually charge a subscription fee for extra functionality – something that could happen soon rather than later as Music Hub goes into the Great Digital Music Service Happy Hunting Ground In The Sky.
Users of Music Hub have until 1st July to say their goodbyes, with Samsung saying that any purchases and downloads they have made will not be affected by the shuttering. The timing of this was made all the more interesting as it coincides with Samsung launching its new multiroom wireless speakers to compete with the likes of Sonos.
Back in October 2012, Samsung was toying with the idea of buying up other music services in the market (it had already bought mSpot to power Music Hub). At the time, the company’s Kang Tae-jin had this to say, “We want to grow the Music Hub to rank in the world’s top four services within three years in both revenue and subscriber numbers. And to shorten the time, we’re ready to do more acquisitions, if needed.” He added, “Mobile business is what Samsung is doing really well, and as a result we have deep pockets.”
2014 is shaping to be a year of closures, mergers and IPOs in the tremendously crowded – but, it should be remembered, still not profitable – streaming music space. Bloom.fm has just collapsed (mainly because its key investor pulled out but leaked figures this week suggested it was burning through cash at a furious rate) and Apple may (we have to stress the word “may”) buy Beats. The news this week that Spotify has 40m active users of which 10m are paying subscribers shines a positive light on the sector. But it also suggests growth and traction in streaming music are hard won and that holding your nerve while being able to persuade investors to keep investing will be 2014’s biggest challenge.