Upoc Scores Big in Deal with Music Labels

Convinced the market is ripe for text messaging as a wireless promotion tool, some of the biggest names in the music business have inked deals with New York-based Upoc to create content-delivery platforms.

Upoc, which builds software that allows the delivery of text and audio messages across competing wireless carriers, announced deals with Capitol Records, Columbia Records Group, Epic Records Group, TVT Records and Virgin Records America.

The labels plan to use the Upoc technology to promote new album releases by sending text and audio messages to any mobile phone, two-way pager or wireless PDA.

Once the platforms are built and launched (they are already being tested on Upoc’s Web site), music fans can opt-in to receive promotional messages from stars like Aaliyah, Dave Navarro, Def Jam and Destiny’s Child.

For instance, voicemails from Dave Navarro, in which the Jane’s Addiction front man sends blips of behind-the-scenes info on his daily life, are already being distributed on Upoc.

“This partnership is critical for us as it lends credibility to what we are doing,” said Upoc co-founder and CEO Gordon Gould in an interview. “The larger (record) labels have always been early adopters of new technologies to market their acts. They’ve looked at other wireless avenues and eventually chose Upoc so this is big for us.”

He said music fans could also enter contests, start fan clubs, respond to messages and create chat groups though the Upoc Mobile Messaging Platform.

In addition to individual artists, the deal with Virgin also creates the ‘Virgin Records Urban channel,’ which would provide updates on artists such as Mariah Carey, Teddy Riley, Ideal, as well as new releases, contests, tour dates and emerging artist updates.

Upoc makes money from an ASP-fee related to developing the specific application and also charges monthly service fees. Depending on the deal, Gould said the company was open to revenue sharing partnerships. The company also gets a slice of the pie from partnership revenues with wireless carriers.

Short Messaging Systems (SMS) technology, which is wildly popular in Europe and parts of Asia, has been slow to catch on in the United States, partly due to the lack of interoperability between competing carriers.

A Sprint PCS subscriber, for instance, cannot send an SMS text message to an AT&T subscriber, limiting the potential for the explosion of the service.

The absence of interoperability has helped to boost the popularity of Upoc’s service, which has attracted approximately 95,000 subscribers since launching in November 1999.

Upoc’s technology allows messages to be delivered across all wireless carriers, which Gould cited as a “short term advantage.”

Upoc, which was incubated at the former Ericsson Cyberlab, employs 45 at headquarters in New York City.

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