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  • Writer's pictureEric Doades

Bridging Music and Mobile Tech with Juan Saavedra of Kuack Media

Join us as we navigate the junction of mobile tech and music with Juan Saavedra of Kuack Media.

Tune in to hear how Kuack Media Group is reimagining music streaming through innovative partnerships with mobile operators, fintech companies, and even gyms, to create bespoke streaming services. By targeting underprivileged audiences and emerging markets, they're not only nurturing a love for music but also encouraging deeper engagement with the music industry and local artists.

Discover the power of branded music streaming services and their potential to revolutionize customer engagement strategies, and walks through the fascinating evolution of music trends, from monophonic ringtones to today’s streaming giants. Discover how Latin American rhythms and sounds have taken the world stage with Juan's insightful take on the industry's future in this week’s episode.

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Episode Transcript

Machine transcribed

0:00:11 - Dmitri

Welcome back to Music Tech Tonics, where we go beneath the surface of music and tech. I'm your host, Dmitri Vietze, also the founder and CEO of Rock Paper Scissors, the PR firm that specializes in music innovation and music tech, and some of the most exciting things about music innovation are the new opportunities to increase the industry by opening up more music to more listeners. As we get word of streaming services plateauing in the United States, there are interesting things happening with streaming in unexpected places. In some cases, these are parts of the world that still have growth in their streaming economy, and in other cases, these are groups of people who, until now, have been underserved with music from churches to prisons. Today's guest is looking into all those nooks and crannies to figure out how to bring music to more people through some interesting partnerships.

Juan Francisco Saavedra Plata has spent two decades at the intersection of the mobile and music industries. He spearheaded over 400 tech projects with an eye towards innovation. His brainchild, quack Media Group, partners with a variety of companies to offer white label music streaming platforms. Originally aligned with mobile operators in Latin America, quack has since forged partnerships with banks, fintech companies, gyms and unique projects like the music service for US inmates, another of its standout ventures is the introduction of God Beats, a gospel specialized music app. Really diverse, quack is now expanding into Africa, connecting with a market with 250 million users across 42 countries. Educated at Pontificia Universidad Havreana and Universidad Catolica del Uruguay, juan Francisco has been a judge at Meet Him Lab something I love and a frequent speaker at GSMA and other esteemed telecom symposiums. As a beacon of the convergence of mobile tech, music and multiple sectors, he's shaping the next wave of digital music experiences. Juan, welcome to the show.

0:02:12 - Juan

Thank you, Dimitri. Thank you for having me here. You know such an introduction. Thank you, Thank you very much. It's an honor. It's an honor to be here. Thank you. Thank you to Music Tectonics. Yes, that's everything you say. You know it sounds amazing. So let's get started. I know you have some questions for me.

0:02:32 - Dmitri

Yeah, yeah, let's dive right in and you've. You know, the introduction is great because you've done so much stuff, juan, but just so that people are clear, what exactly does Quack Media Group do?

0:02:43 - Juan

Well, it will be an oversimplification to say, you know, that we merely provide wide label music streaming platforms. Well, we do develop, you know, branded and customized platforms based on our partner's specifications. You know, our runner really extends beyond that. You know, every time we engage with a new partner or industry, we guide them in the understanding that you know the benefits of having their own music streaming platforms. We show them how this can possibly impact their business and improve certain KPIs. You know, some partners aim to provide a high value added service to build a close relationship with their customers, while others look to create bundles to boost their service usage. There isn't really a one size fits all approach, you know, and this is what makes us different, because each new partner requires not just the design of a totally new app but the design of a long term strategy, and that's why our partners investments in music are successful and actually endure over time. You know, Dmitri, it's important to mention that at Quack, we stimulate our partners to invest in music and many of our partners don't stop simply offering a wide label music streaming platform. They often end up building, you know, a deeper relationship with the music scene, sponsoring concerts and seeking even seeking local artists for their marketing campaigns. So this generates a unique opportunity for record labels, for artists and from the entire industry. You know we make businesses recognize the potential of investing further in music and cultivating ties that might not have occurred otherwise.

Of course, there's the other part. You know the user front. You know our primary focus is is with those who engage with our apps. You know we need to understand their needs. Actually, we have been pioneers in developing, you know, innovative business models tailored to distinct populations. Probably it might be hard to imagine, but there are users in emerging markets who mainly consume branded content because they're, you know, their monthly mobile budget is less than the cost of a premium music app and data chargers for for streaming are extremely high. However, by creating a daily or a weekly music service and partnering with with mobile carriers offering zero rated data, we enable users to enjoy a legal quality app. Of course and someone asked me this the other day you know how, how, how are their consuming habits, the consumption habits, and I said look, they might only consume music for two days a week, but that user is happy, it's, it's most important, it's loyal to, to its mobile operator, to its carrier, and no longer relies on on on pirated sources. That's so interesting.

0:05:57 - Dmitri

Wow, I love. I love that you are kind of doing two things at once. One is showing the value of music and then and then helping people with it, like music services from there. But two like really thinking from a business model perspective, and that's how we approach the work at Rock Paper Scissors as a PR company too. It's like if it doesn't help the business, ultimately there's really no goal. You know there's no real benefit to getting press. Same thing like if it doesn't help the business, then why are you creating a music streaming service? So I love the way that you're approaching it and to hear your passion about the, you know, getting music to fans and people who might not have it Most people in the music business. I think think about the consumer facing streaming services as the place to listen to music. Places like Spotify, apple Music, amazon Music or maybe even TikTok or YouTube. What exactly are these other places where people are streaming music? You've kind of hinted at it, but let's spell it out here Exactly.

0:06:49 - Juan

I mean today, you know there are many, many services available, as you said, all offering essentially the same content, apart from some AI futures, you know, podcasts or very specific content. However, one could argue that today, all existing services are essentially substitutes for each other. Each platform may offer some added functionality, but the basic operations of, you know, catalog, search, playback, which are the essentials of a platform, are nearly identical across all of them. On the other hand, the services our partners provide to their users, they always have a unique future that makes them very convenient and distinctive. As an example, consider a fitness change, a change that decides to include in its you know, in its monthly fee and music streaming service, with the same catalog and same basic futures, and additionally offers some benefits, such as a virtual trainer, nutrition plans, among many others. This can be customized and curated in such a local way that no other global platform can, because it's designed to specific local segment. So it gives us a unique advantage when it comes to local flavor and you know let's say the cost of this service.

It's already included into their monthly fee, making it part of a bundle with multiple benefits, making it highly attractive for the user, especially if the partner assumes a significant percentage of the cost. To be really honest, many times, Dmitri, these services are subsidized by the partner. Also, consider that these apps not only customize the music content but also the overall experience, offering relevant content about the gene, the training routines, the nutrition measurements, and so the user gets much more than music. So this starts to resemble more of a super app approach where user can customize their gene services and enjoy their music all within the single app.

0:09:10 - Dmitri

Got it. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. You know something. Before we move on, I'm curious. It seems like the types of companies you're talking about seems to track closely with emerging markets regionally speaking. Can you just talk a little bit about why that is? I mean, it may be obvious to you, it may be obvious to some of our listeners, but you know again, like here in the US, people are like well, I use Spotify, I use Apple Music, something like that, but you're saying that in other places it makes sense to do something different. Let's just express like why is that?

0:09:41 - Juan

Well, let me circle back a little bit with a previous question and that's actually relevant for this one. You know, an important point to answer the question is that, you know, the partner is the one that promotes the service. The partner is the one that communicates and brings users, so actually, we don't have to go out and see customers. It could be said that we have a, you know, a captive audience for us. So that's also, of course, a recent way. You know, users are listening to and using branded platforms. Regarding, you know, emerging markets, and why, of course, you know, probably this was, you know, initially it was so popular. I will say that, yes, I mean it was successful, especially with telecom companies. You know, when we started it, like eight years ago, the percentage of people with credit or debit card to purchase a music subscription in many markets was less than 20% in Dmitry, or even, you know, lower in an, among younger population, I mean. So people didn't have access. Additionally, there weren't, you know, many options available back then. So a model that offered opportunities like zero-rated data and allowed access, you know, to a legal or a high quality service without having a credit card, with payment via mobile, via top up and the flexibility to pay for a week or even a daily. It had a huge, a significant advantage. Of course.

Today, what has evolved? Well, we continue to see substantial success in emerging markets, especially with telecoms. We're increasingly finding success in markets like Spain, for example, where our service with Telefonica Movistar Musica has achieved an incredibly high penetration rates among users. Other example is the one that you mentioned our new agreement. We have just closed here in the US, the sign to provide music streaming services to in-person. We could talk a lot about only this project, and I love it because it's not just business for us. We are bringing joy to many who could really need it. You know, our concept of integrating music into other applications and creating super apps with music isn't limited to emerging markets, and that's why we are venturing into the value market, because what now has a very robust application over 100 million songs catalog, almost 10 years of experience in the music streaming business, over 20 in the digital business so, yes, we are ready to accelerate our expansion and conquer not only emerging markets.

0:12:39 - Dmitri

Amazing. All right, we have to take a quick break and when we come back let's talk a little bit more about what types of brands are getting into this outside of emerging markets as well. We'll be right back.

0:14:51 - Dmitri

Okay, we're back and one, Francisco. I wanted to ask you what are some of the most common types of companies that launched their own streaming service, as you were talking about before the break, and why would a brand want to launch their own streaming music streaming service?

0:15:06 - Juan

Great question. Thank you for asking this. I will say that it's very common to see telecoms providing their own music services. I believe almost all mobile companies offer music to their users, but those who use their own platform get unique benefits. Of course, the easiest route is just to do a partnership and grant access to a third party platform which doesn't require much involvement. However, the mobile operator doesn't have a clear idea of what happens with its users when they use them, or if they even use this value added services.

Often, when a company decides to invest in music by launching its wide label platform, it isn't about increasing their marketing spend. It's about relocating their budget for using it in a smarter way. I remember a perfect example of a mobile operator in Peru that used to sponsor a marathon annually, sticking to traditional marketing strategies, and once they launch their music app, they transform the entire event by integrating music into the core of the marathon. They even named it La Carrera del Sonido, which is, in English, will be the sound race, you know, obtaining results beyond just the event duration. I mean, most people run and listen to music, so it just makes sense. It's brilliant. They manage to create a community through the music app and keep it active permanently and not only during the marathon. So there's a lot of data there. There are great opportunities to build relationship with customers for music to achieve goals, and that's why brands are willing to invest into their own platforms in their own ecosystem, where they have the total control and access to data.

0:17:01 - Dmitri

That's super cool. I love that example from Peru and how they used it to not only enhance the marathon branding and that experience, but also I could see they would carry that forward throughout the year, not just during the marathon, where people are going back to their mobile providers, music service and getting more engaged and feeling more loyalty, and so forth too. I'm curious what about other branded streaming services? How are they differentiating from a more traditional DSP?

0:17:29 - Juan

Well as music services. They probably aren't that different. It's important to understand that the music streaming business. It's very different from video streaming, where content from HBO or Disney is exclusive. You know and users have more than one platform. In music, all competitive platforms have essentially the same content, so in this regard, there isn't a significant difference between Spotify and other platforms. Of course, there's a difference in infruits and I podcast and added values such as song lyrics, for example, but the essence is the same On all platforms.

You search for a song selected, listen to it and the story. However, while able platforms which are part of another service, like your bank, your mobile operator, your gym airline, they offer unique benefits that other platforms just can't provide. In addition to extremely accurate and unique local curation, it could be the convenience of the payment method. Perhaps your bank offers to you as part of a benefit package to retain you, so you're probably already paying for it with your credit card maintenance fees. Or simply because it's convenient to check your gym work out routine and find the perfect workout playlist right there, or because, using your app, you could win tickets to your favorite concert.

There are so many examples. We have so much in common with other DSPs, but Dimitri, at the same time, wears so different, so different. This week no, this week, for example, we recorded some music sessions for a client in the northeastern part of Brazil, brazil. It's an ISP that has understood the power of music and it's determined to search for local talent, to invest in music and use it to build relationship with its customers. It's so exciting to witness this, to see how a brand can support our industry.

The platform is called Brisa Music and we're even launching with them a do-it-yourself platform called Brisa Talent for local artists to upload their content to Brisa Music and other DSPs directly. This is something really, really special for local artists because on this platform with 100% regional focus, they will have a special place. They won't just be part of those hundreds of thousands of contents that arrive weekly to all DSPs. As I said, each case is unique. The real highlight is that a Y-Label app can offer unique benefits for both to those who offer it and those who use it, and that's what I love doing this. We always have a client who asks us for something new, who challenges us to imagine new strategies to make their users happy, to bring them closer to the brand, to create a genuine community around us. I love it.

0:20:45 - Dmitri

It's so funny how you started off the answer by saying they're not that different, but then the ways it gets used ends up feeling different.

Maybe you have access to plenty of the same music if the client wants, if the partner wants, but it's these close integrations between what that brand's user experience already is that really differentiates the ability to tie whatever the listening experience is to what else their user is already doing or what else they want their user to do.

So it's almost like this last mile between the headphone and the ear, where there's, or when they're looking at their phone, what they can do next the contest or the upsell or just the user experience and, of course, the payment too, with the bank or something like that. But it's super cool to see how you get to see not only specific brand needs and their users' needs and how that integrates with music, but also you get to dip into these whole communities, these whole scenes, because each country or each brand that you're working with has something that's unique. So I'm curious are there some interesting things that you've learned about listener behavior by creating this type of unique listening experience in different places across the globe and maybe in these non-traditional platforms? What are you seeing about listener behavior from that Wow?

0:22:09 - Juan

yes, I mean. Every region has its unique listening habits. That's not surprised to anyone, but I remember when we started looking at the consumption analytics of our first streaming platforms nearly a decade ago. The first thing that caught my attention was with a mobile operator in Bolivia, where we launched one of our first daily subscription services. We had no idea about how many days a user will pay for music, for example, especially since daily subscription is twice as expensive. The price isn't obtained by dividing by 30, but by 15. So it's 40 cents, almost right, and that's expensive, especially in a market where the average revenue per user was not higher than $5. So we began to take a look at the data and so that on Thursdays, fridays and Saturdays, users top up to activate access to their music service. Indeed, the streams on those three days were 10s of times higher than those on Mondays or Tuesdays, for example. It was the first time that we understood that our music streaming business would be directly related to cultures and habits and that if we managed to create a business model according to the macroeconomic reality of each territory and consumption habits, we will succeed.

The rest is history. Here we are today, dimitri, and it's been a ride I said a lot about what we see with our partnership in Dominique and Republic, mexico, chile, uruguay, haiti, but we will need more than one public session. What I can tell you is that users who can't access a music platform and are limited to a premium platform full of limitations and flooded with ads, they really value when given the chance to access a premium service. That's something that we have noticed. Oh, I'm not sure it's so cool.

0:24:20 - Dmitri

It's great to have you on the show, Juan Francisco, because it really does give us another global window, a sense of what else is possible, and I don't think these discoveries would be made in the US, but they might actually create innovative payment models in the future for the US. You might realize there's a group of users here who are not familiar with the music platform, but there's a lot of people who like to pay for a little more, like a jukebox, like I'm going to use it today rather than for the whole month. I don't want to commit for the whole thing, but then who knows what they end up spending. But it's really cool to get that global perspective, you know, cross-cultural perspective, of user behavior. Yes, definitely, definitely. You're right.

0:25:05 - Juan

And yes, definitely there's a lot of segments. And yes, definitely there's a lot of segments. You know there's a diaspora here. I live in Miami, you know, so I see people from all over around the world and definitely, you know, there are different, you know niche and there are different segments and opportunities. So, yes, yes, definitely.

0:25:24 - Dmitri

Yeah, it'd be cool to see how that emerges over time. And, you know, diversifying what the offerings are, you know everyone comments that a lot of the major DSPs just they're very similar. They might be competing on ecosystem. There's not a lot of different features, not a lot of different catalog, and so, you know, creating those payment models actually could differentiate in a way that could open up to new audiences or be more convenient or more affordable for some people, or maybe less affordable but more desirable in other ways. So it's super cool to see the experiments that you guys have been able to surface as a result. All right, we got to take one more quick break and when we come back I'd like to ask a kind of flip that question on its head and ask about musical trends that. You see, we'll be right back.

Hey Juan, I wanted to ask you similar to the question I asked you before the break. You've got this interesting bird's-eye view across different cultural groups, different national groups and how people are interacting as listeners. Have you learned about any interesting musical trends because of all this international work? Anything, we should be keeping an eye out for that you kind of have seen before me.

0:27:23 - Juan

Wow. Well, you know, my journey with the music industry began, like I said, about 20 years ago. We began putting together musicians with developers to create those early monophonic ringtones. From there we jumped to polyphonic ringtones, then into trutones, then we moved to downloading full tracks and now, of course, streaming is the game. But during these tech leaps I've had a front row Dimitri to the musical evolution as well.

For me it was fascinating to watch how tropical rhythms made their way south, influencing the birth of Argentinian scumbia villera, at the time when rock was the principle of music genre. And then there was the rise of reggaeton. It began with hints of reggae in Spanish, in Panama and then exploded in Puerto Rico. I've been lucky to witness the crossroads of tech advancements and musing trends over these years and, of course, as Latin American, it's incredibly rewarding to see our rhythms and sounds at a global stage.

At a point the global top 40 playlists started resembling what you typically are hearing in top 40 Colombia, shakira, j Balvin, bad Bunny, carl Jeep. So Pluma, maluma it has been amazing. But in response to trends, absolutely, I've seen a few. The rich origins of musical genres, when tweaked just a bit for contemporary tastes, can lead to unexpected global hits. With the power of digital platforms today, artists from any corner of the world have a shot at a global recognition. It's a time where an Argentinian team might be grooving to K-pop, or someone in Germany could be vibing with Mexican corridos or corridos. It's an incorrect world of music out there.

0:29:27 - Dmitri

I love it, man. I love the way you just described all that, and it's going to be super exciting to see what else emerges next. It just feels like the pace of this global cross-cultural convergence is just increasing and you get some really cool scenes as a result of that, and it's cool, in addition to sort of being in front row with these musical trends. I think the industry itself has all these shifts that you're a part of. I'm curious from your perspective, what's the future of music from where you sit in the industry?

0:30:01 - Juan

I believe the future of music is global and diverse. As technology keeps advancing and reaches more places, we'll see a rise in local content, collaboration between cultures and even niche streaming platforms for specific listeners. I really believe the time for niche and local services has arrived. Dimitri, not everything needs to be you know all you can need service with hundreds of millions of songs. Truthfully, most people don't need that. Services like the one we are softly launching now in Brazil, godbeats, centered around gospel music, have a bright future ahead. Apple saw this potential too with their classical music offering.

I believe that in the future, we can expect we're going to see more and more specialized platforms. For me, it's something that's going to happen. I also believe that it's crucial that platforms become more artist-centric. It's trending now to talk about this, but I agree. Comparing natural ocean sounds to a musical masterpiece like Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It just doesn't feel right. The direct connection of artists to their super fans through platforms will have a significant impact. There are many areas that we could discuss, like blockchain, metaverse, their role of AI. I remain optimistic, for industry can harness these new technologies and really understand what listeners want. From my early days with monophonic ringtones, I've constantly seen evolution, adaptation and progress. So I'm thrilled about what the future holds. At Quad Media we're eager to be part of that forefront of our industry next big steps.

0:32:03 - Dmitri

Amazing. It's great to hear you weave together where your company is but also what these other future pieces are. I can tell that you're not trying to be a one-trick pony. You're not trying to just do the same thing over and over again and bring it to different places, but really to think about what tools are going to get the job done. As these new tools emerge, I'm sure we'll see a Quad Media group continuing to evolve and adapt. This has been super fun. I'm really excited we're all going to get to meet you in person at the Music Tech Tonics Conference October 24th to 26th in Santa Monica. I'm excited you're jumping into the mix. What are you looking most forward to about the conference?

0:32:42 - Juan

Dimitri, I'm here to learn and to make new friends. I'm eager to meet industry friends, to network and have the chance to share what we are up to at Quad Media. I really look forward to discussing our achievement, lessons learned, exchanging ideas and hearing about all the happenings in the Music States base. I hope to make new friends and gain insights that I can bring back to my team, of course.

I heard nothing but great things about this event, so I'm looking forward to having a good time and enjoying myself being surrounded by this passion and innovation. I feel I'm in the right place with the right people. I look forward to meeting in person. Thank you so much for having me today. I really enjoyed this session, dimitri. Thank you so much.

0:33:40 - Dmitri

Thank you, juan Francisco Saveja Plata, with Quad Media Group. It's been a blast talking to you. I can't wait to see you in person in Santa Monica. See you soon. See you soon. Thank you. Thanks for listening to Music Tech Tonics. If you like what you hear, please subscribe on your favorite podcast app. We have new episodes for you every week. Did you know? We do free monthly online events that you, our lovely podcast listeners, can join? Find out more at and, while you're there, look for the latest about our annual conference and sign up for our newsletter to get updates. Everything we do explores the seismic shifts that shake up music and technology, the way the Earth's tectonic plates cause quakes and make mountains. Connect with Music Tech Tonics on Twitter, instagram and LinkedIn. That's my favorite platform. Connect with me. Dimitri Vietze, if you can spell it, we'll be back again next week, if not sooner.

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The Music Tectonics podcast goes beneath the surface of the music industry to explore how technology is changing the way business gets done. Weekly episodes include interviews with music tech movers & shakers, deep dives into seismic shifts, and more.


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