While huge names like Amazon, YouTube, Google and Spotify vie for a large share of the streaming music market, German startup Idagio is focused purely on classical music. Three years after its launch, the small Berlin team is preparing to expand to Asia, where the classical genre is gaining millions of new fans. Idagio’s co-founder, Till Janczukowicz, — himself a respected classical artist manager, producer and concert promoter — tells DW why the Idagio app has advantages over the big players.
DW: How does Idagio differ from the likes of Spotify and Amazon Music?
Till Janczukowicz: There is only one Beethoven “Symphony No.7,” one Mozart “Magic Flute” and one Tchaikovsky “Symphony No.11,” but you have hundreds of thousands of recordings and performances of those same pieces that are competing for the attention of consumers. This genre of classical cover versions, if you like, requires a different data model than Spotify.
Most of the other services have three main search criteria: artist, song and album. With classical music, there is composer, composition (which also has three or four different movements) conductor, orchestra and so on. So we’ve had to build an entirely new model which our users say gives them more accurate search results.
In the App Store, we have more than 17,000 reviews giving us, on average, 4.7 out of 5 points and lots of positive comments about how Idagio offers the best user interface for classical music.
You have already done well in German language markets, Japan, Latin America and the US, what will be your other key markets?
We have users in 180 countries, although not yet with localized versions. Our current languages are English, German, French and Spanish. We plan to add at least one Asian language by the end of the year or early next year. Asia is going to be such an important market for us. With an estimated 50 million students of the piano in China, how can it not be?
Streaming music services have been around for more than a decade. How confident are you that you can survive?
Already 300 million people globally are paying for on-demand streaming music. Goldman Sachs has projected that this figure will triple by 2030, so there will be almost a billion people paying for streaming audio.
Idagio founders Till Janczukowicz (left) and Christoph Lange
Classical music sales account for about 5% of the global recorded music market. Also, roughly 30% of music lovers are fans of classical music, so that gives us a vast market. We’re also appealing to new generations of lovers of classical music. Unlike the average age of 60 for a classical concert in Germany, our listeners are much younger, averaging between 35 and 55.
At present, you are charging monthly subscription fees of €9.99. Can you make a profit at that price point?
I believe the classical streaming market will be very profitable. At this moment, we don’t have many price points, but we think some consumers will pay more for a premium service. But you have to build that up in an incremental way. Another thing that works in our favor is that a lot of classical works are out of copyright. So our margins are better than the traditional streaming services.
At the same time, we offer fair revenues to rights holders. Unlike Spotify, which pays 0.0002 cents if someone listens to a track for 45 seconds or more, we have introduced a model which rewards per second and per user. So if a user spends 30% of his time to the Vienna Philharmonic, they will get 30% of what that user pays us per month.
You have the chance to corner the classical market in a way that the big players can’t. Won’t that make Idagio a very valuable acquisition proposition in the future?
We don’t think about it. My ambition is to create a platform that is useful for audiences and musicians. We’re not doing it to make a grand exit at some point in the future, although that may happen. But what’s important is to build a robust platform that helps to secure the future of this genre of music.
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