Electric Jukebox is like Spotify for rich, old people

Simplified, TV-based music streaming service is half the monthly price but requires £179/$229 initial outlay

Now this was not your average tech launch.Would-be Spotify rivalElectric Jukebox was today announced by host Alexander Armstrong (pictured below, looking glum, next to some chairs) and CEO Rob Lewis, at the HQ of BAFTA, with contributions from Culture Minister John Whittingdale, Stephen Fry, Robbie Williams, various other music biz luminaries, and - just for the sake of age balance - Aleesha Dixon.

The service, immediately dubbed "Spotify for old people" by me, there, is about half the monthly cost of most music streaming services at a flat £60/$60 per year. However, you have to pay £149/$199 upfront, up to Xmas, or £179/$229 after it. That includes your first year's sub.

The situation is this: CD and music download sales are nose-diving, but revenues from Spotify, Apple Music, Rdio et al have come nowhere near filling the hole in the music biz's finances. Electric Jukebox's solution is to reach out to non-techies by simplifying streaming and making it a communal experience with family and friends again.

Yes, really: the idea here is that so many people will buy Electric Jukebox that huge revenues will be generated, despite the fact that the monthly subscription is considerably less than what users pay for Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music and so on.

Here's how Rob Lewis, CEO, is hoping this will happen: an Amazon Firestick-style dongle that plugs into your TV. He reckons it will take "two minutes" to setup. This will attract those music lovers previously put off by the complexity of Sonos, Bluetooth speakers, streaming from phones and the whole nightmarish gamut of modern musical tech tribulations.

Instead, these users will be able to instantly stream music via voice control - yes, the reason the remote control looks like a microphone is because it is one - and a very simple menu system.

Will they be willing to pay at least £149 for the privilege? That's the punt that these tech (Lewis launched the world's first ever streaming service, way back in 2007), music and finance veterans are taking. And Aleesha Dixon.

Dixon is onboard, alongside Stephen Fry, Sheryl Crowe, Robbie Williams (and his spouse, curiously), as an expert curator. These celebs will be sharing their playlists with Electric Jukebox users. So, according to the launch demo, you'll be able to enjoy, for instance, Dixon's playlists, including "Workout" and "Hangover". Fry appeared on video to joshingly declare that, "I believe I have the best music taste in the world," and now you can share in it. Small sofa!

For your £60 per year, you'll also get access to millions of tracks, in the usual Spotify style. An ad-supported, subscription-free version will be available for cheapskates, with "certain functions" (TBC) not available.

Details of which labels and artists are onboard will be revealed at a future date.

From the brief, limited demo given today, the service and interface seem fine. The upfront outlay is likely to put off those of us who are already familiar with streaming services that don't require a dongle, and techy audiophiles are unlikely to warm to the idea of listening to music through their telly.

However, Electric Jukebox is not for such people. This is a service aimed at families, those who grew up with big collections of CDs and records but have been disenchanted by digital music, and old people who simply can't get on with all this new-fangled streaming nonsense and anyway all this modern music, it's just noise isn't it? You can't even tell if it's a boy or girl singing half the time, if you can call that singing, and don't even get me started on this 'hip-hop' nonsense. Now get off my lawn.

Oh, and my absolute favourite thing about Electric Jukebox? A deal with Getty Images means that you can enjoy beautiful photography of ancient ruins that ISIS hasn't got around to dynamiting yet, whilst enjoying the music of Aleesha Dixon. At last!

Duncan Bell
Duncan Bell

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years and fitness ever since he became middle aged and realised he could no longer rely solely on his boyish good looks. He used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."
Pre-lockdown Duncan was widely regarded as the best-dressed man ever to work for T3 – admittedly not saying much. Post-lockdown he is looking forward to wearing clothes other than shorts and hoodies again very soon, assuming he can still fit into them. He currently writes about cycling, fitness tech that isn’t too heavy, and all things kitchen and home related.