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Sony Network Entertainment’s Layden on Q Music, beyond

Friday, 1 April 2011 14:31 GMT By Keza Macdonald

In the wake of the launch of Sony’s Q Music subscription service across Europe and the US, VG247 speaks to Sony Network Entertainment’s Shawn Layden about the PlayStation Network, the feasibility of “cloud” media and the company’s network strategy.

Qriocity Music Service

Launched in the US in June 2010 during E3 for Sony TVS.

Shortly expanded into Japan, China, and South Korea.

Hit Europe, UK and Ireland in March 2011 after November 2010 delay.

Aimed at the 70 million registers PSN users and branded as Music Unlimited.

Launched in the UK December 2010 on PSN.

Made available on PSN in North America and Europe in January 2011.

Shawn Layden, Chief Operating Officer of Sony Network Entertainment, a branch of Sony formed exactly a year ago today, is a man with a hell of a lot of experience in one of the biggest entertainment and electronics companies in the world. He joined Sony 14 years ago in 1997, and during that time he has worked within Sony Computer Entertainment in charge of international software development in London. Later, he became President of SCE Japan.

In his last year at SNE, he has turned his attentions to Sony’s cross-platform strategy, including its movie and music subscription services, as well as the PlayStation Store. Q Music is the division’s most recent launch, a new £4.99-a-month subscription service that gives access to more than 6 million songs across all the labels on the PS3, Sony home cinema systems and much else. The play, as Layden outlines, is to roll the service out across non-Sony platforms too, starting with Android later this year.

70 million registered PSN accounts and growing

The company was constituted out of a desire by Sony Group to have an entity that would oversee all the network activities across Sony. Those include, of course, the PSN, the Store transactional activities, video activities and now the music property, Q.

Three years in, Sony’s network business is the premier network entity within Sony group. There are 70 million accounts worldwide, and according to Layden, “it’s a massive undertaking.”

“Every Sony entity sort of cottoned on to the Internet at the same time, and knew they should be out there in some way – but they all vectored in different directions, took different angles and approaches,” he said.

“Essentially it became a bit of a cacophony for the user to have to establish a Bravia relationship over here and a Vaio one over there, so we decided to leverage the immense work that the Sony Computer Entertainment teams have done to create the PSN, build out from that and associate it with the other devices – Sony TVs, Blu-Ray players, laptops – and have Sony Network Entertainment be the central aggregator for all that activity.”

“PSN, three and a half years in, is the premier network entity within Sony group.”

The 70 million figure Layden handed out, is measured by the number of PSN account registrations,  a number which was calculated as recent as the end of February 2011. While Sony knows how many of the 70 million accounts are active, it didn’t provide a number on that aspect.

“It’s a subset of the bigger number, obviously,” explained Layden. “But literally millions of people are transacting across the store on a regular basis. That number is much higher than what we’re getting right now with our network activities across televisions and Blu-Ray.

“I think the user demographic is a bit different [in the PlayStation market], as are their expectations. A PlayStation user expects the network, expects to do transactions or play on there. So we necessarily expect that of that whole network userbase, the PlayStation folks are more net-savvy.”

With Sony expecting to bring SNE to the Android platform this year, it expects the offering to remain part of its core business strategy by bringing the service to as many devices as possible – even ones not necessarily built by Sony.  The reasoning behind this? Sony accepts the fact that customers have electronic devices which do not carry the Sony brand;however, there’s “no reason why this service shouldn’t be available,” on non-Sony gadgetry.

“If you’re measuring the core by where is the majority of the activity taking place, then of course it’s downloading PS games and add-on content,” said Layden. “That makes up the majority of the activity which SNE oversees. But the video service that we just keyed off in April – in the summer here in Europe – and the music stuff, which has been in the field for 6-8 weeks now, these are new and growing and nascent areas.

“I think the overall footprint of something like the music opportunity – because with one account you’ll be able to access music on your TV, music player, laptop, Blu-Ray, PS3 – the breadth of that offering is much wider than moves or games are. There’s a whole lot of growth potential here.”

To the Cloud

The idea of Cloud entertainment has been around for a while, but has always been limited by wireless technology, the need for a home server, and other entry barriers.  Lately, the idea of Cloud-based services in homes has become more feasible, and Layden believes this significantly due to the spread and growth of broadband.

“I remember when I was here in London from 1999 to 2007 running the international software development in the studio, and we were doing online gaming with the PS2. It required a broadband connection to play SOCOM – but back then the term ‘broadband’ meant something different in Rome than in London or in San Francisco.

“I think a lot of those are starting to come up to a usable standard as far as speed throughput goes. That’s probably the biggest trigger to actually making this thing they call the Cloud – a term that makes something different to everyone – feasible. Really, bandwidth speed and availability is what’s making that viable now, more than anything else.”

With Sony labeling its PS3 console as more of an “entertainment hub” than a gaming console as of late,  one might assume the less tech-savvy of consumer market wouldn’t understand the concept of a unified media platform.  But with the youngest of this generation blissfully ignorant of a world where you couldn’t get online, have dynamic gaming experiences, or download videos, over time the market has filled with more “digital natives than actualised digital citizens.”

Naturally, this changes the attitude of the marketplace, and Sony thinks the general public is ready for it, especially with the release of the firm’s new streaming service – Q Music.

The Qriocity Music service

Normally, when a new service is rolled out by an entertainment company, it starts small with availability in one area, before expanding to other markets. It is not unusual for a company to test the waters in this manner; however, Sony chose a different route with it’s Q Music service.

“With the Q Music service we’ve gone line in 10 countries now in a matter of 10 weeks.”

The £4.99 a month subscription service runs “hot and cold, 24/7,” across Bravia, Bluray, Vaio, PS3 and home cinema systems from Sony – and it will expand from there.

“With the Q Music service we’ve gone line in 10 countries now in a matter of 10 weeks, which is probably the fastest rollout for any music service ever,” said Layden.

“Usually you start your service and get to a certain size in one market, then go to the next market and try to replicate that. But we’re live in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, NZ and the US all at once.”

With the service’s launch, Sony has put itself in the same market as other streaming music offerings such as Spotify in the UK and its US equivalent, Pandora. Almost every available music application of this kind were born out of the PC and laptop era and many can now be used on consoles, handhelds, and various smartphones.

While Sony sees these services as a competitor, and plans to offer Q Music on more devices than just PS3,  it is more concerned with “putting music back in the living room,” by making it a communal sound experience with access to more than 6 million songs. The earbud-free experience allows users to sit on the sofa “in a big room with everybody.”

Music labels hop on board

Working with music labels has never been an easy task – for anyone. To get an idea of how many hurdles one would need to jump, all on has to do is read up on the trials and tribulations game publishers experienced when working with these companies on titles such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

The big boys of the music service marketplace such as iTunes, Rhapsody, and Microsoft’s Zune have also had run-ins with music labels, and even streaming services such as Last FM and Pandora have had moments of grief when dealing with these corporations.

Sony’s experience was no different, Layden admitted, and it took the firm quite a while to negotiate with the various firms out there. Luckily for Sony, though, it’s one of the big four record companies in the business, and its history goes all the way back to 1929 when the American Record Corporation was formed. ARC was purchased by Columbia/CBS Records in 1938 and in 1991 it was in turn purchased by Sony, thus forming Sony Music.

Such a resume obviously helped the firm with negotiations, and considering Doug Morris, who headed Warner Music when it was Universal Music, will take over as CEO of Sony Music Entertainment on July 1 this year, that probably didn’t hurt matters when it came to signing contracts.

“We spent the last 12 months working with Universal, Warner, EMI, Sony Music of course and hundreds of independents,” he said. “On the flipside there are all the different publishing companies and collection agencies – there was a whole load of contractual paperwork in getting something like this off the ground. But they are all on board, and they are all really supportive about it.

“I think the music labels like the idea of working with Sony on this because Sony’s in the music business, and has been for a very long time. A lot of the other music services you could mention are people with technology and a business model who are trying to leverage someone else’s content. I think, when we have conversations with the labels about how we can best promote things, it’s two companies who understand the music business having that conversation.”

Getting Q into people’s heads

From a marketing perspective, Sony has started aggressively courting consumers at a grassroots level with its inaugural consumer experiential events. There’s one in in Camden this week, as well as events in Los Angeles this weekend.

“We have large campaigns already starting across the digital media spaces like VIVO and Youtube,” said Layden. “This is not the kind of business that you would buy prime-time TV advertising for – we really just want to take a measured yet regular approach to the promotion.”

“People don’t buy an electronics device because they like having black plastic under their TV set in the living room.”

Layden contributes the grown of Sony’s business in the last five or six years to chairman Howard Stringer, who comes from a media background, and has always been a strong proponent of “tightening and enhancing the content offerings.”

“People don’t buy an electronics device because they like having black plastic under their TV set in the living room,” said Layden. “They buy it to get to something. What they want to get to is content.

“The PlayStation business has grown tremendously, not only in the market but in the kind of games that the teams are creating, first-party and with third-party partners. It’s the same with music and movies. These are the most dynamic areas of the Sony group over that timeframe.”

Layden believes this growth will continue, especially in networking, which he hopes will be  forefront five years from now.

“Absolutely this is the next stage,” he said. “It, too, concentrates on the content – people want this network connection so that they can get to the thing they want, and we want to be able to close that gap between want and have – that’s what marketing’s all about. The network does that faster than taking a trip down to Curry’s or ordering from Amazon.

“We want to be at the forefront of that.”

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5 Comments

  1. frostquake

    All I know is that Every Survey I see on Cloud Based Services, shows Consumers not too trusting of it. I know I am not. I want the Option to Buy a HARD COPY of the Music, and right now Sony’s Q Music does not Allow that at all.

    I would Subscribe if I could burn copies to CD’s to play in my car and other Devices, but No way am I subscribing without that option!!

    Why Subscribe when you can listen for FREE on any of the multitude of stations that do this for free??

    As Long as I could have access to my Virtual Locker, and actually take physically control of it, then yes, otherwise Nope!!

    http://www.schooleymitchell.net/?p=1907

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Christopher Jack

    Yes they do, they don’t upgrade to a remake of the device because it saves them 1cent an hour, they do it because it looks pwetty.
    (Simply requiring to the quoted title without reading the rest of the article like every other ignorant fool, not to actually read it).

    #2 4 years ago
  3. JPickford

    “He joined Sony 14 years ago in 1987,”

    #3 4 years ago
  4. KAP

    What network strategy? the network strategy of laying people off yea? ok then.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Razor

    “He joined Sony 14 years ago in 1987″

    Now I’m not very good at Maths, but even I know something is wrong there :)

    #5 4 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    The Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is now available for PlayStation 3 and PS4. Havoc contains the four multiplayer maps Core, Drift, Sideshow, and Urban along with the AE4 directed energy assault rifle, its custom variant, and the Exo Zombies cooperative mode. You can purchase the DLC separately or pick up the […]

  • Here’s a teaser for Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 2

    A teaser video for the second episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available, so if you’ve yet to play the first episode, you may want to skip this. Resident Evil Revelations 2′s first episode is out now. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • North American eShop update is full of Donkey Kong games

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Titan Attacks, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country and more. eShop on 3DS Ironfall Invasion Titan Attacks! Donkey Kong Land – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 2 – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 3 – Virtual Console Luv Me Buddies Wonderland Around the World […]

  • Venture into the Valley of the Yetis next week in Far Cry 4

    The next batch of Far Cry 4 DLC, Valley of the Yetis, releases in March and Ajay Ghale will be tasked with surviving violent cultists and the mythical Yeti. Apparently the cult is looking for a secret hidden in the valley, and Ajay has discovered their motives. The DLC features co-op with a friend taking […]

  • The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack out for Payday 2, has dino masks

    The 19th DLC pack for Payday 2 title The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack is available on Steam from today. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: 11 new weapon modifications for the AK rifles in the game 11 new weapon modifications for the CAR rifles in the game Four new masks together with their […]

  • Battle Chasers slated for PC, consoles; comic picks up where 2001 storyline left off

    Darksiders creator Joe Madureira and Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli have confirmed a Battle Chasers game and a new comic are in the works at their new studio Airship Syndicate. Speaking to Polygon, Madureira and Stefanelli wouldn’t provide details on the the game, but did divulge it will be an adventure RPG with player-controlled Battle Chasers […]

  • Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami 2 discounted for Sony’s annual Spring Fever Sale

    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]

  • Shelter 2 pre-orders open, launch trailer debuts early

    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]

  • Toejam and Earl are back with a new Kickstarter

    The early 90′s are alive and well in a new bid to bring back Toejam and Earl. Toejam and Earl released for Mega Drive (Genesis, Americans) in 1991, and the eponymous characters went on to count among Sega’s best-known characters. They appeared in a platformer, a light gun shooter and finally a 2002 Xbox game […]

  • New Wander trailer shows off Azertash form

    Wander is a collaborative, non-combat MMO in which you can take on a number of unique forms. Wander players begin as an ambulant tree called an Oren and can progress through several different bodies as they explore the environment, learning its secrets. One of these, which we’d not seen before this trailer, is the amphibious […]

  • SOMA approaching beta phase on PC and PS4

    SOMA, the new horror game from the Amnesia: The Dark Descent crew, is getting close to playable. Frictional Games has apologised for its recent silence over the project, but said it’s focused on reaching beta. Sorry all for the silence! We're closing in on Beta and everyone's working hard to get there. Once that's done, […]

  • Square Enix does not condone Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest HD Remaster

    Square Enix has said it’s not involved with a fan remake of Final Fantasy spin-off Mystic Quest. 1992 SNES game Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is being remade by Dark Design as Mystic Quest HD Remaster. The developer is even taking pre-orders for the project. Unfortunately, it looks like it is in no position to be […]