January 9, 2017:Deezer hires former Spotify exec for partnerships role (interview)

Deezer has appointed former Spotify executive Pascal De Mul as its chief partnerships officer, tasked with building on his new company’s deals with telcos, hardware firms and other partners.

De Mul spent five years at Spotify as its global head of hardware partnerships, before moving out of the music industry for a biz dev role at public transport app Trafi.

In an interview with Music Ally, he said that Deezer’s decision to bring him back to music as a C-level exec is a significant statement of intent.

“I will be sitting within the management team representing partnerships, which shows how important those partners are for Deezer,” said De Mul.

“Partnerships with Orange and other telcos have been instrumental in Deezer’s history, but going forward, for all the strategic decisions that the company is making, I will be sitting in there representing our partners.”

De Mul’s role will put him in charge of those telco deals, as well as new kinds of partnerships epitomised by Deezer’s pre-Christmas alliances with football clubs Manchester United and FC Barcelona, and with retailer Lidl in Germany.

“I will be consolidating all of that and taking a holistic view of all the partnerships, making sure those partners are served well. But we would love to also go into new industries and new partnerships,” said De Mul.

“Deezer has shown itself to be extremely friendly to partners, more than many of the other players in the [music-streaming] space. The partnerships with telcos have been super-successful for both parties, and all those telcos – Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone – are signing up again to extend those partnerships.”

De Mul’s arrival is part of a wider shakeup of Deezer under CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht, who joined the company in February 2015. Over the course of that year and 2016, new faces arrived for a swathe of senior management positions at the streaming service.

Deezer currently claims more than 10 million active users: a figure that includes free listeners as well as paying subscribers. Analysis this month by Midia Research suggested that nearly seven million of them are subscribers.

De Mul said he plans to help grow that number by doubling down on Deezer’s existing telco strategy, while seeking out new partners in the hardware industry, buoyed by the hive of activity around music-capable devices at this month’s CES show in Las Vegas.

“There are many, many opportunities for great innovation on the hardware side, in the automotive space and in the home-audio space for example,” he said, adding that Deezer’s personalised radio-like ‘Flow’ feature is a good fit for both those categories and their emerging voice-control interfaces.

“It’s been an area where many audio manufacturers and music services have struggled: now we have these huge databases of music available, how can you navigate them? Voice seems to be the missing link,” said De Mul.

“You see it in the amount of times people use Alexa for requesting music [on Amazon’s Echo] – it works well, and it’s a space where there is innovation to be done.”

Echo support for Deezer is high on the streaming service’s to-do list, but CES has showed that there is a growing number of similar devices ripe for such integrations. De Mul also sees plenty of opportunities in the automotive world.

“Cars are incredibly important: I’ve been working on music in the car for years at Spotify, and now I’m excited to do that at Deezer as well. The car manufacturers are up for innovating in this space,” he said.

“We had phase one, when the car manufacturers were creating their own [operating] systems. Then we had phase two, when Google and Apple created Android Auto and CarPlay, and started making the car an extension of the phone.”

“Now we are entering phase three, where if you bring a phone and an internet connection to the car – or just the connection in some cases – you can create experiences that are uniquely suited for inside the car. So what do we do? Things like Flow are great answers to that.”

De Mul agreed with 7digital deputy CEO Pete Downton’s view (in a recent Music Ally interview) that retail, media and sports brands are more open to streaming partnerships than they have ever been. However, he stressed that Deezer is steering clear of 7digital’s white-label approach to securing those partnerships.

“We’re interested in offering it as a Deezer partnership. We are extremely focused on partners, we are very very friendly, but at the same time we’re not white-labelling our service,” he said.

“Deezer is in exactly the right spot: to show enough flexibility and friendliness to partners, but at the same time, not forgetting all the history and learnings we’ve already had.”

Alongside today’s news of De Mul’s arrival, Deezer has also announced that Daud Aditirto has joined the company as VP of Asia Pacific. Aditirto was previously Facebook’s head of growth partnerships and Internet.org.

Stuart Dredge
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