Why Deezer’s mouthy music claims don’t stack up

French music service Deezer has been around for a while, but while it’s popular at home it has struggled to gain much traction against its larger European rival, Spotify.

Faced with an inability to get more press than its competitors, Deezer is taking the gloves off today — making an announcement at the Le Web conference in Paris that it is launching an ambitious program to become the world’s leading music streaming service.

In a release, the company said it would spend the next six months aggressively rolling out around the world (right now it is only available in Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, where it launched a couple of months ago). That includes Ireland and the Netherlands this week, the rest of Europe this month, Canada and Latin America next month and “the rest of the world” by June”:

“Four years after having invented music streaming, and following its successes in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom, Deezer will roll out in a number of new territories every week starting 8th December 2011 to reach 200 countries by June 2012”

And there, in one short paragraph, the company has managed to outline my problem with it in several different ways.

Although Deezer is a perfectly adequate online streaming service that conforms to most industry norms (think Rdio, rather than Pandora) I have consistently been under the impression that it talks a great game but fails to deliver. Sure, it’s made a deal with French telco Orange to subsidize access for their mobile users and it has an interesting approach to rights (explicitly avoiding the complex United States market).

But it feels like there’s a chasm between what it says and what it does.

Here are my issues with that short statement:

  • It didn’t “invent music streaming”

    This claim is precisely the sort of thing that startups try to get away with and should be called out on. Deezer was founded in 2007, years after music streaming started to become popular. Spotify was founded in 2006 and Last.fm was popular enough to get sold to CBS before Deezer was even launched.

  • It’s already made a similar announcement

    Back in October, Reuters ran a story that Deezer planned to launch in 100 countries ‘in the coming weeks’. Sound familiar? Many weeks have passed since then, and yet none of those rollouts have happened yet. This seems as if it is either Deezer making the same bold claims, or missing deadlines.

  • There aren’t even that many countries in the world…

    In its release, Deezer outlines 210 countries as its target by June. It will do pretty well to achieve that, since it’s generally recognized that there are only 196 countries currently in existence. The United Nations has just 193 member states, plus the Vatican. True, Wikipedia lists a few more states claiming sovereignty which could fit — particularly Kosovo, Palestine and Taiwan. But even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and add every disputed territory on earth as a separate nation, that still only adds up to 204 countries. Plus there’s another important fact to take into consideration…

  • … and even then, a couple of big ones are missing

    Deezer has made great play in the past of its decision to avoid the US and Japan, the world’s two highest value music markets. This has helped them, sometimes, as we pointed out recently (“The minute that I tell the major music labels that I am not interested in signing for rights to the U.S., the negotiations over terms become much, much easier,” said Axel Dauchez, CEO of the French start-up Deezer). But ignoring the world’s two biggest music-consuming countries makes it very hard to claim that you are “the only truly worldwide music streaming service”.

  • As a service, Deezer isn’t entirely without merit — so why say these things? I’ve reached out to the company for an explanation of these bold claims.

    They haven’t got back to me yet.