Trebel trades ad views for free music downloads

Photo courtesy of M&M Media

Released in the App Store last week and currently available to Tech students for free, Trebel Music is a service to deliver free music downloads to college students.

“Think of it as premium Spotify without a subscription,” said Gary Mekikian, CEO of M&M Media.

Rather than attempting to compete with paid services such as Pandora and Spotify, Trebel Music aims to compete with legal-grey-area torrents and YouTube-video-to-audio converters.

“Trebel is for the college student on a budget,” Mekikian said. “We’re legitimizing the free download experience so users can choose and play the songs they want whenever they want for free.”

The service offers free, legally downloaded music with an ad-free listening experience, all while benefitting artists. Trebel does so by serving static ads while users search for music and video ads while users download songs. Viewing these ads nets users “coins,” a virtual currency, which users spend in order to listen to songs and playlists uninterrupted. Additionally, users can spend a larger sum of coins to legally own a song. The amount of coins that are spent on an artist’s music directly translates into ad revenue for that artist.

Trebel Music is currently in its “early release phase” after having been piloted at five universities, including Tech.

“Georgia Tech is one of the largest, most diverse and socially active campuses in Georgia,” said Mekikian. “Our goal is to develop long-term relationships with students who understand the value in what we are doing and are excited to be part of a new technology at an early stage.”

Students who sign up with their university emails — which is currently the only way to sign up — can see a live feed of the most downloaded and most played songs on campus. Additionally, users can see their friends’ activity feeds, send songs and playlists or even send coins. Playlists can be imported from other music services, and the user’s existing song library can be played as well.

The prototype that became Trebel Music was created by then-17-year-old Juliette Mekikian and was presented to several major labels. Co-founders Gary, Juliette and Grace Mekikian, backed by those major labels and several indie labels, are releasing M&M Media’s first product.

The main feature of the app is the playback screen, where a circular disc containing the song’s album art spins as the song plays. This disc can be rotated manually to scrub through the song.

To browse again, the player can be sent to the background, and the song will continue to play. If available, the lyrics and music video can be accessed from the playback screen. These features highlight the app’s design for mobile devices, which over 85 percent of Trebel’s target demographic own and from which 44 percent of all Americans listen to music, according to Nielsen.

“My generation is the social media and mobile generation,” J. Mekikian said. “What sets Trebel apart from other music services is that its designers are predominantly the college students and young adults that comprise its audience. Trebel is by millennials for millennials.”

The plan for Trebel is to have a wider rollout in December to include even more of the 3000 colleges and universities in the U.S. Eventually, it will expand to U.S. high schools before finally going international.

As the service is in early rollout and at the mercy of record label law, there are songs not currently available to download (recent, popular songs from major labels are, though). Users can essentially place a vote on these songs, and the most voted for will be explored from a legal perspective. However, the app does still try to find the associated music videos of these songs to play.

This app is currently available in the App Store, with a Google Play version coming soon and a desktop service planned for 2016.