More Money Yonder: New Music App Spoils Artists Rotten

BY :RATRI M. SINIWI

JUNE 08, 2016

Jakarta. Music streaming services are great for the fans, but for the royalty-dependent artists, the picture is often not so rosy.

But the times they are a-changin' and a new music streaming service called Yonder could be the game changer the local music scene is waiting for, its CEO Adam Kidron claimed.

Introduced in 2013, Yonder is a music streaming app that allows you access to unlimited music for free and—here’s the kicker—also pays a whopping 75 percent royalty to the artists.

Started out in the US, the mobile music platform was launched in Indonesia on May 23 and is now available exclusively on a major mobile network provider.

The Jakarta Globe sat down for an insightful discussion with Yonder's CEO to talk about how Yonder is going to make a difference and his current obsession: dangdut.

What is Yonder’s background?

Adam Kidron: We began in early 2013 with the idea that people won’t pay for music, but somehow the artists have got to get paid. After identifying that network operators benefit hugely from music distribution, we decided to enter the Indonesian market to provide free music, which you can access as long as you sign up to the network operator’s internet plan, in this case XL.

The idea behind Yonder is to be the service for the 99 percent of people who are never going to pay for music, and yet produce economic value from their consumption of it.

Why Indonesia?

Adam: Indonesia is a tremendously important market, 4% of the world’s population lives here! It’s a very diverse market, with the biggest music being dangdut, which is a very interesting genre. I love dangdut, whenever I listen to it I'm always convinced it's just going to explode one day. It has such a large fanbase and musically, it's a very important genre. Dangdut is grimy, dirty, edgy. It's not polite or nice. That makes it important because the music really means something to a lot of people.

How is it going since the launch?

Adam: So far it’s going good, it’s going better than we had hoped. We launched Yonder last month with this amazing gig where 17 of Indonesia's biggest artists performed together for the first time, sang an all-star song and got heaps of social media exposure. I've personally never seen anything like it anywhere.

We currently have over 25,000 customers, already ahead of our schedule. Our goal is to have 800,000 subscribers by the end of the year.

How is Yonder different from other music streaming services?

Adam: Yonder collaborates with network operators and is a social-based, mobile-first app, whereas other music streaming apps are mostly web-based. When you first open Yonder, it shows the music it thinks you want to listen to, based on the people you follow and your followers. All the tracks on Yonder are available offline. It has an intelligent algorithm which tracks the songs you listen to and take out those you don’t.

We also have a game on Yonder, called Cover Flow, and people love it! You have to guess from the album cover who the artist is. Though sometimes the game gets too easy as 40 percent of albums have the name of the artists, so the bigger your screen is, the quicker you’re going to work it out!

How does Yonder monetize its service and how much does an artist get from Yonder?

Adam: Simple, we give 75 percent of the profit to the artists and composers. We use the rest to provide the service, market it and maintain the infrastructure. That, by the way, is the highest royalty percentage that goes out to artists on any music service.

We make money by charging network operators for every customer on Yonder. They pay an amount for a guaranteed amount of subscribers. For XL, we expect to have 800,000 subscribers by the end of the year and 1.5 million by mid next year. For our one year anniversary, I’ll be very disappointed not to have 1.5 million customers.

Do you think Indonesian artists will gain international exposure from Yonder?

Adam: Well first off, the difference between the music scene here and the music scene in the US is that Indonesia looks inward, whereas American musicians think of how to invade the world after gaining success in the US. I think Yonder will be able to help these artists, but not without changes in their content. Music production will need to improve. Artists who want to open up borders and want a piece of international fame need to be more aggressive.

Honestly, I’ve been very surprised by the quality of artists here. There is no reason why Indonesian artists can’t be as big as K-Pop artists. The first time I saw Momo Geisha in Bali, I could not believe how well she sings. There are sublime Indonesian performers like Ariel of Noah, and there’s a Bob Dylan in Iwan Fals. All they needs is a bit of a springboard to the rest of the world. Yonder can do that through international collaborations with other artists. The rest will follow.

What’s next for Yonder?

Adam: We’ll be expanding to 7 new countries in the next 4 months, including Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan and Ghana. Our strategy is to enter Asia, then Africa, Latin America and then back to the US by 2017.

We’ll also launch a video selfie contest called Yonder Idol in October. Winners will get a chance to meet their favorite artists and open for an international artist’s concert. Should be a big thing in Indonesia!

What we also want to do is produce 10 percent of the content ourselves, following the Netflix model. We’ll be doing collaborations, and we’re going to do one soon with Iwan Fals and Mos Def—a hip-hop version of Manusia Setengah Tuhan. It’s going to be an amazing record, and will help to show people that Iwan Fals is relevant on the world stage. We're also planning to do the same for Afgan.

We are also looking at embedding our app into Android phones to give the best Yonder experience, and have more localized games in the future.

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