In the midst of the bustle and chaos that characterise Berlin Music Week, Laurent Billion, Chief International Officer of Deezer, the French music streaming service, seems unfazed by the action. Maybe he’s used to the constant buzz of music from his industry, or maybe it’s exactly this level-headedness and ability to always focus that got him the role in the first place. A former consultant, CFO, COO and founder himself, he’s now taking on the responsibility of launching and establishing Deezer around the globe.
It’s not an easy task – the company faces tough competition, most prominently from its Swedish rival Spotify, which recently announced $577m revenue in 2012. Both focus on music for online and mobile listeners, relying on premium users and advertising to generate revenue. At last count, Spotify had attracted six million premium customers – at the moment Deezer lags behind with two million less.
While both rival companies were founded in 2006, Spotify was quicker to internationalise than its French counterpart. Despite its slower start, Deezer now has by far the largest global footprint, available in 184 countries – a stark difference to Spotify, which is only live in 30 markets. A $130m funding round from Access Industries in October 2012 let Deezer fast-track its growth plans.
Deezer has, however, yet to make it to the coveted US market, where Spotify is already established. Explaining the decision in our interview, Billion said: “We had two choices, the first was to go to the US and build a place there, and we knew it would be hard and take us some time, or otherwise take care of the rest of the world, which we did, and probably come to the US later on.”
There’s no doubt that, under the guidance of Billion, the company is likely to put a US launch back on the top of the agenda. After joining Deezer earlier this year, Billion has so far helped expand the service to African, South African and Asian markets in particular.
In the interview below, Billion explains why they’re so keen to have a local approach to music, why streaming services pay back more to networks than any other medium and why digitalisation could be the only way for music to come back to value…
Video shot and produced by Patrick Steller
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