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Cricket is chirping half a million music subscribers

January 8, 2012 |  9:01 pm

Cricket Muve Music Dan Hontz 2

Cricket, the San Diego-based cellphone company operated by Leap Wireless International Inc., announced Sunday that its Muve Music service has exceeded half a million subscribers, making it one of the largest premium digital music services in the U.S.

Granted, Muve Music is not exactly the same as Spotify, Rhapsody, Slacker or any other number of premium on-demand digital music services out there. The most obvious difference is that Cricket's Muve is part of its cellular phone service rather than a distinct music offering.

For $55 to $65 a month, depending on the type of phone, customers get unlimited talk, text and Internet data, as well as all the song downloads they can cram into their phones (up to 3,000 tunes at a time, depending on the device's memory). The music service is "baked" into Cricket's monthly cellphone bill. For about $10 less a month, customers can opt for service plans that don't include Muve Music.

Cricket introduced Muve a year ago in one test city, Las Vegas, coinciding with the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Four months later, Muve was rolled out to areas in which Cricket offered its phone service. That covered about one-third of the U.S. at the time. Then, in September, Cricket expanded its cellular service, including Muve Music, nationwide.

Since the fall, subscribers who have sprung for cell plans that include Muve Music have zoomed from 200,000 to more than 500,000 at the end of December. Much of the surge came in the last two weeks of last month, when many activated service on phones they received as gifts over the holidays, said Jeff Toig, Cricket's senior vice president.

That puts Cricket roughly neck-and-neck with Spotify, whose July debut in the U.S. market was greeted with a cacophony of press coverage. Spotify, which has more than 2 million paying customers out of 10 million active listeners worldwide, has not released its U.S. subscriber data. But sources familiar with the figures say Spotify and Cricket are a hair's breadth away from each other.

The largest player in the field, Rhapsody, has about 1 million paying customers.

"We’re really pleased at how the business has accelerated and how much the concept has resonated with our customers," said Toig, who added that Muve users have downloaded more than 500 million songs in less than a year, amounting to about 300 songs per customer.

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-- Alex Pham

Photo: Cricket's Muve Music service on a Samsung Vitality smart phone. Credit: Dan Hontz Photography. 

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