Deezer goes free for mobile users, adds Flow personalized radio

Deezer, the French-based streaming music service that launched in Canada last year, has expanded its mobile reach by allowing users on Android and iOS to listen to an unlimited amount of music for free. Echoing the ad-based listening model that debuted last year on the web, Deezer believes it can effectively turn these users into paid subscribers by adding value to their experience.

“A majority of our listening is happening on mobile,” Justin Erdman, Managing Director of Deezer Canada, tells me. “We’ve had a growth factor of four since June 2013,” he says, hinting at the paid base in this country is approaching a million users.

Deezer has taken a hands-on approach to competition for streaming music in Canada, noting that there are some compelling upstarts working very hard for ear time. He calls Songza, which also opened a Canadian office last year, “a crippled service,” noting that with a new feature called Flow, Deezer can accomplish the same thing.

The move to ad-based mobile playback has likely been in the works for awhile for Deezer. Its web-based promotion has been successful, according to the company, and its Premium+ plan, which allows for ad-free mobile listening and a la carte offline storage, is currently discounted by 50% to $4.99/month. Deezer has also recently revamped its iOS and Android apps, and introduced a new “feed” called Hear This, which suggests the best music for you based on editorial suggestion and algorithms.

Deezer is introducing a second new feature today, too, called Playlist Radio. Meant to turn finite playlists into unlimited radio stations, the feature is available only to free users and, as with Flow, allows six song skips per hour — the same as Songza.

The third salvo isn’t mobile-related, but Deezer has released a standalone Mac app, which pairs with iTunes to combine local and streaming music playback.

“Our churn rates are very low,” says Erdman, “and once [a user] stays for three months they tend to stay for a long time.”

Deezer may not have the same brand recognition as Rdio or Songza in Canada, but the team is working very hard to get there.