Deezer reportedly headed to the U.S.

If you visit the Deezer website ( on a computer in the U.S., you see this notice: “Deezer’s music services are not yet available in your country.” That will reportedly change soon, as Digital Music News posts that the Paris-based streaming music subscription service will expand to the U.S. in January.

Though blacked out in the U.S., Deezer has rolled out an aggressive global expansion, serving users throughout Europe and in nearly 200 countries altogether. Geographic footprint is one measure of success, and usage footprint is another. On the second point, Deezer recently announced that its paid-subscriber base reached five-million users. 

Deezer has attracted several funding rounds, and is currently capitalized at $149-million

Can Deezer cut through the noise?

Streaming music has become a crowded segment in the last six years. Deezer, which started in 2007, preposterously claims to be “the world’s first music streaming service,” ignoring many pre-existing subscription and Internet-radio outlets, some of which were operating as early as 2001. Historical whoppers aside, the Deezer platform is robust, with 30-million tracks in the library and a strong reputation.

The U.S. market has been slower than parts of Europe to recognize the value of online jukeboxes such as Deezer. Swedish-based Spotify is Deezer’s most head-to-head competitor in non-U.S. territories, and it was Spotify’s U.S. launch in July, 2011 which helped whet American taste for on-demand streaming music. Other music services had been operating in the U.S. before Spotify’s invasion, but Spotify’s ad-supported free listening was the on-ramp to the experience for many uninitiated users. 

Deezer might not make a U.S. splash similar to Spotify’s impact in 2011. It is tough to differentiate in this market. Territorial accessibility is a waning claim to specialness, and the basic features of subscription services (random access to tracks, downloading for offline listening, artist-based stations, personalization via preference tools, social sharing) have become nearly indistinguishable from one platform to the next.

In this light, future business success might depend on distribution avenues that push brands in front of users on unavoidable, often-used screens. Car dashboards represent one such environment, which is why the “connected car” has become such an important and combative arena in the streaming music business.

Another must-own screen is the smartphone. Most music services deploy custom app experiences, but uptake depends on the user’s initiative to download and use them. A more forceful solution is to partner with a telecom company, as Rhapsody has recently done with its major Telefonica deal.

There are two major advantages to telecom distribution of music. First, pre-installation of the app and placement of the brand on the smartphone home screen. Second, the phone company owns a billing relationship with its users, making sign-up to a built-in music service easy and seamless. 

Deezer is executing the telecom tactic already, having partnered with Deutsche Telekom and several others. There is some speculation that Deezer will coast into the U.S. on a telecom backbone (Verizon is mentioned, but not substantiated). Doing so would have less free-market impact than an unaffiliated launch, but might make business sense.

However this plays out, it will be good for U.S. streaming fans to finally break through that “not yet available” Deezer roadblock.

Brad Hill