Helio today becomes the latest carrier to enter the lucrative fray of mobile music sales, rolling out its "Helio Music" platform to a customer base revealed to rock a monthly ARPU (average revenue per user) in excess of $100 -- not a bad target demographic, if we do say so ourselves. The scrappy MVNO, which expects that very target demographic to hit 100,000 subscribers some time in Q2 after launching last May, will offer music downloads direct to user's handsets for $1.99 a pop -- or, more intriguingly, to desktops via a PC client available this spring for 99 cents, at which point the songs can be loaded back to the handset via USB at no additional charge. Helio is promising an unusually user-friendly interface and a far wider selection than other carriers have managed to offer thus far, signing on Universal, Warner, Sony BMG, and EMI to bring "thousands of well-known artists" to Drifts across the land. Speaking of the Drift, it'll be the first device to support Helio Music; no word on whether Helio's older handsets will be supported in the future, but with the Drift's stereo Bluetooth support, we're thinking it's the way to rock anyway. Follow the break for Helio's press release.
LOS ANGELES, CA – February 6, 2007 – HELIO LLC announced today the launch of Helio Music, the newest addition to Helio's line-up of custom-built 3G services. In a very short time, Helio has introduced multiple industry firsts, such as MySpace Mobile, GPS-enabled Google Maps™ service for mobile, Buddy Beacon and "Gifting & Begging", allowing friends to share all of Helio's downloadable content. With Helio Music, the company is continuing to innovate, launching a full mobile over-the-air music download service architected from the ground up to be the richest mobile music store on the market. It is innovations like these that have put Helio on the path to surpass 100,000 subscribers by early in the second quarter of 2007 and have resulted in ARPU of over $100 per month, substantially above the industry average.
"Shopping for music on a phone from a major carrier is a little like browsing the music aisle at a department store – a lifeless experience watered down to the lowest common denominator," said Sky Dayton, CEO of Helio. "Helio Music is a throwback to the corner record shop, combining great selection with a music-loving staff that can help you quickly find what you're looking for, and a comfortable environment where it's fun to just browse and discover."
Music Made Simple
Helio Music features a robust library of the hottest tracks from thousands of well-known artists from major music labels like Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT, and EMI Music, and allows members to browse artist bios and images, preview songs, view community recommendations then download tracks over-the-air via a high speed 3G network. Helio Music is packed with features, and unlike other mobile music services, is designed to limit sorting through unnecessary clutter, so members can navigate to a favorite artist or album easily and full-track downloads are only a few clicks away. With Helio Music, members spend less time avoiding stuff they don't want and more time experiencing music that matters to them.
To keep things simple, Helio Music features pervasive search that lets Helio members find music by artist, album and song. Or, if they are in the mood for something new, they can get recommendations by clicking on categories including Featured Songs, Top Music and New Releases, or browse the Helio Music library by genres Pop, Rock, Rap/Hip-Hop, R&B/Soul, Electronic and Alternative. Features like Top Songs by Artist, Similar Artists and Song Recommendations also let members easily discover, preview and download new music.
Once on an artist page, a Helio member can see not only music tracks, but easily find Rings, music videos and VideoRings. With a single search, Helio Music lets members customize their mobile experience with music, plus all the other content available from their favorite artists.
Helio members can be notified when a new song from their favorite band or artist drops in Helio Music with Artist Alerts. By signing up for Artist Alerts, Helio members automatically receive updates via text message to their devices letting them know when new music from that artist is available. Members can then go to Helio Music and preview the new track or download it over-the-air for on-the-spot gratification so their music library is always up to date.
Helio continues to push the wireless industry in mobile content sharing. Like all downloadable content on Helio service, Helio Music includes the ability to "Gift & Beg" full-track downloads. If a member thinks a friend will like a track on Helio Music, they can "gift" it to them by purchasing the track on their behalf and the track will be downloaded directly to their friend's device over-the-air. Or, members can "beg" a friend for a new favorite song and receive a musical gift to fill out their library.
"Most music is discovered through the recommendation of a friend, and we've taken that concept to mobile in a whole new way," said Rob Gelick, Sr. Director of Media Services, Helio. "Now Helio members can get over-the-air downloads of tracks, and they can immediately share the music they love with their friends by purchasing a track for them."
This Spring, Helio plans to debut a PC version of Helio Music, giving members the ability to get the same song on both their mobile device and their PC for one price. Tracks downloaded via the PC store can be sorted into playlists and saved along with any other music a member has in their library, and then side-loaded to their device via USB. Tracks that members purchase over-the-air will automatically be available on their PC. Tracks downloaded before the PC store launches will remain in a download history and be ready for download at the PC store launch.
Helio Music will first be available on Drift, Helio's newest, premium multi-media device equipped with stereo Bluetooth for wireless listening, and is slated to be available for all future Helio devices. Tracks can be downloaded over-the-air for $1.99 per song or directly to the PC for $0.99 per song. Helio Music is included with Helio All-In Memberships; data charges apply for A La Carte Memberships.
In addition to the Helio Music store, Helio recently rolled out AnswerRings, allowing Helio members to personalize the audio heard when people call them. AnswerRings lets Helio members express themselves to their callers. The service is deeply customizable, letting them play specific tunes by Time of Day, Day of the Week, Special Occasion, for individual VIPs and more. AnswerRings also allows Helio members to record their own personal greeting for callers to hear prior to music playing. AnswerRings is a subscription service with a monthly recurring charge of $0.99; individual AnswerRings cost $1.99 per download.
Innovative Devices and Services Drive Rapid Growth
After less then six months of marketing, Helio is experiencing strong growth and subscriber metrics. Helio now expects to pass 100,000 post-paid members by early Q2 of 2007, less than 10 months after its launch of marketing. Moreover, average revenue per user (ARPU) for its Helio and Helio powered by SK Telecom brand members is more than $100/month, far above the industry average.
Helio is carving out a unique space in the wireless market. With a relentless focus on innovation and assets from SK Telecom, one of the most advanced mobile operators in the world, Helio is in an enviable position to bring a stream of differentiated mobile devices and services specifically engineered for its target audience. In addition to its rapid subscriber ramp and ARPU, further early proof of the Helio value proposition is the aggressive adoption of its data services by Helio members, far exceeding industry averages in most areas. In December, this includes the following metrics for the Helio and Helio powered by SK Telecom brands, except where noted:
- An estimated 25% or approximately $25 of ARPU from data services; over 3 times and nearly 2 times industry averages, respectively
- MySpace Mobile is used by over 70% of Helio members
- WAP penetration is over 85%
- Over 80% of members with a Helio Drift have downloaded GPS-enabled Google Maps™ for mobile
- Approximately 70% of Helio Drift members have downloaded Buddy Beacon
- Members generated over 400 SMS per month on average
"As we carve out our place in the mobile industry, we are encouraged by the strong early traction for Helio," said Wonhee Sull, President & COO of Helio. "The ability to leverage advanced technology and extensive R&D from SK Telecom has provided an advantage for Helio beyond many other services. We look forward to fueling our future growth through continuous innovation for our members."
"The wireless market today is dominated by generalists trying to be all things to all people, but people aren't all the same," added Dayton. "As we have seen in industry after industry, specialized brands will rise up to serve specific needs, and since mobile is now so important to our lives, we think it will happen in the wireless industry in a big way."