INTERVIEW: Qobuz, Music Streaming and Downloading (Malcolm Ouzeri)

A screengrab of the Qobuz UK homepage


The Paris-based streaming and downloading service QOBUZ aims to "address the needs of discerning music lovers." 18% of the music being listened to on Qobuz is jazz. Founded by Yves Riesel and Alexandre Leforestier in 2007, Qobuz has not just determinedly offered better sound quality than MP3 since inception, it has also resisted the industry trend towards only offering users commercial promotions and sales algorithms - some of the consequences of which are emerging (*). Qobuz was recently in London, and Sebastian did an email interview with Head of Marketing Malcolm Ouzeri:

LondonJazz News: You have set out to present a fairer model as regards artists than some larger competitors. What is your motivation?

Malcolm Ouzeri: Ever since Qobuz was founded in 2007, the core of our values has lain in the respect given to the artists, to their works and to the value associated to their works.

Qobuz has therefore always promoted paid music subscriptions and value-generating offers when the market was - and still is - filled with free-of-charge offers, generating almost no revenue for the artists. Let's point out the example of Qobuz's unique mix of revenue, including streaming revenue and download revenue.

The founders of Qobuz came from music production - which is significant:

Qobuz has always fostered creation, and creation from all parts: from independent labels, from all genres of music.

The model of Qobuz has always been fairer, and Qobuz is still at the vanguard of a fairer model.

LJN: Is that a "red line" or what kind of commitment do you make that it will be part of your offering?

MO: It is indeed a red line, which is applicable along with several commitments:

1. From the creation of Qobuz, we never provided free-of-charge subscriptions. The "freemium" model has proven to be an insufficient compensation for the artists when compared to their work, especially for certain repertoires.

2. We've created a combination of revenue that includes streaming revenue and download revenue.
In 2017 we still give people reasons to download with high-quality downloads (in Hi-Res Audio). It is value-generating for the artist.

3. The music we promote and highlight is not promoted everywhere else. Our taste is different, so is our users'. Great independent artists in all genres of music find great exposure on Qobuz. As a consequence, the music being listened to on Qobuz is broken down differently. And so do the royalties when shared back.

A few examples : Jazz is 18% of the music being listened to on Qobuz.

4. We do investigate on a change of revenue split model: from a "per service" approach to a "per user" model so that the revenue generated by a user's subscription more directly goes to the music the user has actually listened to.


Malcolm Ouzeri

LJN: There was recently a takeover/absorption of Qobuz. What was the background and is your business model now a durable sustainable one?

MO: Qobuz was taken over by the Xandrie Group in January 2016, after falling into receivership at the end of 2015. The Qobuz team was preserved. The idea was to give Qobuz full support in terms of investment so that Qobuz could fulfil its vision: to provide a great music service for all passionate music lovers.

For the last year and half, Xandrie has followed an ambitious investment plan, to put Qobuz back on track in terms of backend and infrastructure development. Qobuz has recently renewed its digital factory and renewed all of its apps (PC/Mac apps, smartphone and tablet iOS/Android apps). Qobuz has also developed new offers (the very first full Hi-Res streaming subscription worldwide).

Qobuz is now following an ambitious development plan throughout Europe.

LJN: There are claims that the benefit of 24-bit over 16-bit for listening is not that great. How would you respond to these articles from Head-Fi.org  or Xiph?

MO: Qobuz users have something in common, they share a great passion for music. Some of these users decide to express their passion by wanting to experience music in the best conditions possible.

By listening to music the way the artist truly intended it. We give them this possibility, either with Hi-Res download, or with Hi-Res streaming. We give them 'the real thing': the bit-perfect file, the studio master, which is as close as you can get from the music the artist played. And we accompany them in the process by giving them advice and content about the hardware material to use to enjoy Hi-Res.

LJN: Are you the same as Neil Young's Pono or different?

MO: We share common values in the quality-based approach. We offer streaming and download, in CD-Quality (16 bits 44,1 kHz) and in Hi-Res (24-Bit up to 192 kHz).

We have a large catalogue (40 million tracks in CD-Quality / 70,000 albums in Hi-Res) that include all major and independent labels.

LJN: What does Qobuz cost to subscribe and is it easy to do? 

MO: We also have an entry-level offer starting at 9,99 euros a month, which gives access to the full catalogue in mp3 320k and to everything that we do differently: better curated editorial, better documentation, quality recommendations.

Qobuz starts at 9,99 euros a month and there is a 15-day or 1-month free trial period.

See our offers: http://www.qobuz.com/store-router/plans/music-streaming-subscription

Very easy! Download the Qobuz app!

(*) See recent alleged abuses of algorithms/ promotions HERE and HERE

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the interview! I felt it was disappointing that he entirely dodged the technical question about 16-bit vs. 24-bit. Companies trying to tout 24-bit or 192kHz as superior for listening to music are simply selling snake oil, as the Xiph article you linked to explains. It's a shame, because this dilutes the more laudable elements of this offering, such as the emphasis on jazz and a fairer model for the artists.

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