Univision has announced a new partnership with Napster to revamp the Latin-focused music app Uforia. But is free the best way forward?
Several new playlists from Napster’s list of 40 million songs now appear in the Uforia app, alongside live streams of Univision’s local radio stations. The deal is the latest from Rhapsody-owned Napster, which has sharply pivoted towards b2b streaming services.
Ahead of the announcement, Univision Radio president Jesus Lara admitted that his company hasn’t done a great job of coordinating efforts across mediums. Uforia aims to change that by bringing everything music-related under the brand.
Napster CEO Bill Patrizio says Napster and Univision will work together to cater to the different nuances between Latin communities. He described most of Latin America as “poorly served by today’s mainstream music services.”
The aim is to turn Uforia into the best Latin-focused music streaming app in North America.
Uforia is catering to the community by offering specially curated playlists to celebrate holidays and events. For International Women’s Day, for example, the app featured playlists of women-only Mariachi bands and female Reggaeton artists.
The biggest draw is that Uforia is free, with no upsell into a paid tier.
By sharp contrast, Apple Music presents a hard paywall, which may not work for an audience accustomed to advertising. Even Spotify uses free to ‘funnel’ free users into paid. In that light, going totally free is a controversial strategy, given the detrimental impact ad-supported streams can have on artist payouts.
But both Univision and Napster seem to agree that premium subscription services may not always be the best route forward. “My audience is accustomed to and doesn’t mind the advertising for a free service,” Lara said, saying Univision has no plans for to offer a paid listening tier.
“Not all roads lead to $9.99 a month,” Patrizio agreed.
Napster has a long and storied history in the music streaming business.
After its extremely controversial debut in the late-90s. the app was reincarnated as a paid online music store. Now wholly-owned by Rhapsody, Napster is heavily focused on powering streaming services via its b2b model.
That includes services for iHeartRadio, which is now reemerging from major bankruptcy last year.