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MUSIC

France’s Deezer prepares for battle with Spotify

French music-streaming service Deezer is preparing for a "decisive" battle as it faces off against big names like Spotify and American rapper Jay-Z's new venture Tidal, its CEO said.

France's Deezer prepares for battle with Spotify
Deezer CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht poses for a portrait. Photo: AFP

Hans-Holger Albrecht, the new German CEO of the company who replaced Axel Dauchez in February said: “I think there is going to be four or five big players in the future. Deezer is going to be one of them,” said 

Albrecht said Deezer's strategy is different from giants like Apple, which is due to come out with its own streaming offer.

“Apple will be a strong competitor for sure,” Albrecht told AFP in an interview.

Much of Deezer's strategy is focused on global expansion, and it has already invested in 180 countries.

“Our strategy is to develop more in terms of geography, so we have more emerging markets, we have more telecom partnerships and we go more diversified in terms of products,” said Albrecht.

“Our product is top class. We've been very efficient at building a customer base with limited capital resources, so there is a high degree of efficiency.”



Video not a priority

Deezer unveiled on Tuesday a podcast option for customers in France, Britain and Sweden, hoping to enrich its content offerings.

“We have to demonstrate to the consumer that there is more than just music on Deezer. We know people have different kinds of tastes and needs,” said Albrecht.

Even with these new features, Deezer does not plan to change its monthly premium price of €9.99 ($11.12).

The company entered the American market last year when it partnered with Sonos, a California based wireless headphone manufacturer. It also acquired Stitcher, the independent American supplier of podcasts.

The company counted six million paid subscribers last year, and 16 million unique users, still small compared to Swedish streaming giant Spotify's 60 million.

Deezer has yet to release its subscriber numbers for the last several months.

While strengthening its key markets in France, Germany and Britain, Deezer is also trying to lock in more global partnerships, especially in developing countries.

Albrecht is familiar with emerging markets. He is former CEO of media and telecommunications group Millicom, which counted 50 million clients in Africa and Latin America.

In terms of user experience, Deezer wants to continue investing in technology and algorithms to improve its musical recommendations so listeners can have customised experiences.

“There is nothing more individual in entertainment than music. Around the world you don't have two people creating the same playlist. Music is very personal,” said Albrecht.

As far as adding video to its service, which Spotify has started to do, Albrecht says it is not high on the company's to-do list.

“Maybe we will do it later. It's not a key focus.”300

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MUSIC

8 of French duo Daft Punk’s most memorable moments

One of the era's defining dancefloor acts hung up their helmets on Monday, as French electronic music stars Daft Punk announced their retirement in a typically enigmatic fashion with a video showing one of them exploding in a desert.

8 of French duo Daft Punk's most memorable moments
Photo: AFP

From Da Funk in 1995 to Get Lucky in 2013, Daft Punk became the torch-bearers for French house music across the globe, winning six Grammy awards and pioneering the monumental sound-and-light shows that came to characterise the electronic dance movement (EDM) of recent years.

They did so while almost never revealing their faces — the ubiquitous helmets became another much-copied trope of EDM stars, but also afforded Thomas Bangalter, 46, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 47, a freedom from the fame that quickly encircled them.

“We have daily lives that are a lot more normal than the lives of artists who have the same level of fame as us, but who might be attached to being physically recognised,” Bangalter said in a rare authorised documentary by the BBC in 2015.

Here are some of the highlights of their career – although for our money nothing will beat the French army band’s performance of a Daft Punk medley at the Bastille Day celebrations in 2017, in front of president Emmanuel Macron and a plainly bemused Donald Trump.

1. “Daft punky thrash”

Bangalter and Homem-Christo met at school in Paris before an inauspicious start in music with the rock band Darlin’, which also featured a future member of the French indie band Phoenix.

One review in the British music press dismissed the band as “daft punky thrash” — which struck a chord with them.

Reemerging as an electronic outfit, they met with instant success.

This interview from 1995 is one of the few images of their faces:

2. Their signature look in “Around the World”

Early singles “Da Funk” and “Around the World” became club fixtures, and led to massive sales for their debut album “Homework” in 1997.

It was in the video for “Around the World” that they first donned the helmets that would become their signature look. It mirrored the tight control they exercised over every part of their career, which included ownership of their master recordings.

3. “One More Time”

They followed up with the even more successful “Discovery” in 2001, which spawned the hits “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.

There were some distinctively left-field choices in the years that followed, including producing the 2003 film “Interstella 5555” by Japanese anime master Leiji Matsumoto, which featured music from “Discovery”.

4. Human After All

While their next album in 2005, a more sombre “Human After All”, received mixed reviews, these were quickly forgotten amid the euphoria of their live shows over the next two years.

This included a headline appearance at US festival Coachella in 2006, performed inside a giant LED pyramid. EDM fans still speak about it with an almost religious reverence.

5. Tron soundtrack

In 2010, they released a soundtrack to the Disney reboot of Tron, which picked up a Grammy nomination.

6. “Random Access Memories”

But no one predicted the massive success of their last album, 2013’s “Random Access Memories”, for which they gave up their usual makeshift home rig for a full commercial studio– and used entirely live instruments.

The resulting work dominated album-of-the-year lists and helped lift their total worldwide sales to 12 million. It won four Grammies the following year including record of the year for “Get Lucky”, the millions-selling lead single featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.

Their appearance at the Grammy Awards show was their last public appearance for three years.

7. “I Feel It Coming”

They showed up one more time for the Grammy ceremony in 2017, alongside The Weeknd, after collaborating on the Canadian artist’s most recent album.

Despite the Twittersphere erupting in excitement last month amid rumours they would rejoin The Weeknd for the Super Bowl half-time show, that did not in the end materialise. 

8. “Epilogue”

The video titled “Epilogue” announcing their split used footage from their cult 2006 film “Electroma” in which one of the robots sets the auto-destruct of the other.

A cutaway then reads “1993-2021” with two robot hands making a circle around a sunset.

Their publicist, Kathryn Frazier, confirmed the news to AFP by email, without giving a reason for the split.

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