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Sony Unveils Spotify on PlayStation: 'Much Better' Than Its Failed Music App

Sometimes, it's better to leave things to the experts. That's what Sony learned in trying to build its own streaming-music service.
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/ Source: NBC News

Sometimes, it's better to leave things to the experts.

That's what Sony learned in trying to build its own streaming-music service: After four difficult years, the company announced in January it would shutter its Music Unlimited app, and instead partner with the popular Spotify. That new Spotify-powered PlayStation Music service launches Monday in 41 countries.

The app, which is available for PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles, is designed to work with gamers: Users can stream Spotify tracks in the background as they play video games, and among other features they can use a mobile device to control the music via the regular Spotify app without interrupting the game.

"It's a much better product. We aren't afraid to say that," Eric Lempel, Sony's global head of marketing, told NBC News at a meeting and product demonstration in New York City last week.

"It was really a no-brainer," Lempel added. "We're in 41 countries on day one, and Music Unlimited was in 19 [after four years]."

Sony has been working to expand the PlayStation's reputation not only as a video-game console but as a media hub. The company launched its Playstation Vue online-TV service earlier this month in three cities, and Lempel reiterated twice during the briefing that the the console is the No. 1 device used to stream Netflix.

Music is a necessary feature for any would-be media center, and Lempel said it was important that PlayStation have "a best-in-class experience" this time around. So Sony, which had announced in January that it would partner with Spotify for PlayStation Music, handed over much more control to Spotify than it typically would.

Lempel said Sony began discussions with Spotify before it shuttered its own Music Unlimited streaming service, which cost $10 a month for a catalog of 22 million songs. Spotify's 64 million users have access to more than 30 million tracks, and both ad-supported free Spotify subscriptions and $10-a-month paid accounts can be used with PlayStation Music.

"Honestly, a lot of these 'partnerships' are pretty low effort. We'll throw a couple guys on it, and that's it," Miles Lennon, a product management leader at Spotify, told NBC News. "But for this [project], we had PlayStation engineers consulting with us every step of the way. Eric is here all the time. It really was this major joint effort."

"We want to be ubiquitous. We want to be in your living room."

Both Lempel and Lennon declined to comment on financial terms of the deal. Lempel said the announcement garnered Sony "one of the most positive reactions we've ever seen. And ours is an audience that will tell you if it's not happy."

Sony hopes PlayStation Music, Vue and other media services will help "capture people in gaming households who are not gamers," Lempel said.

For Spotify, said Lennon, "it's about music and the home. We want to be ubiquitous. We want to be in your living room. We're asking: "What's the smallest number of steps someone can take from putting their key in the door to listening to Spotify?"

Lempel insisted the PlayStation experience will always be about gamers, and it will be a focus for PlayStation Music specifically: "We had a lot of good ideas [for Music Unlimited] that never saw the light of day, and they were focused on our core audience. We have that chance now with Spotify."