Ever since services like the original Napster brought free (albeit illegal) music downloads to the world, the music industry has been quick to point the finger at pirates but slow to realize that digital content is clearly the way forwards. Since then, download services such as iTunes and streaming services like Spotify have introduced new business models to the masses and Orange is the latest to come up with an innovative new way to listen to tunes on the move.

Teaming up with 4Music, the most watched music channel in the UK, it has agreed a deal with Universal Music to offer free streaming of tracks to Pay As You Go customers using the new Orange Monkey plan. The service is aimed primarily at 16-24 year olds and for a minimum top-up of £10 per month, which includes 300 free texts, users will be able to select from pre-set or custom playlists and have the tunes streamed directly to their phone.

Playlists can be viewed or up to eight unique collections created via Orange Monkey online, with hundreds of thousands of tracks available as well as exclusive music, pre-release tracks and artist interviews. These can then be played on a computer, selected from a phone or shared with friends who are signed up to the service. Additional benefits, such as the ability to find out more information about a current song by press ‘5’ on the handset while it is playing and the creation of ‘favorites’ for later inclusion adds further appeal.

Tom Alexander, CEO of Orange UK, said “Unlike some music services which are either restricted to high-end more expensive handsets or have download costs, Monkey is for everyone. All you need to do is top up to get free music on any handset or online. Orange, Universal Music and 4Music will benefit from the success of Monkey - and each partner will contribute by doing what they do best. Universal Music has the best content and artists; 4Music has the best capability to reach the target audience and has the most respected editorial voice in this space; and at Orange we’ve got a great brand, great distribution and know how to develop and sell innovative mobile propositions.”

Orange is confident that this combination of expertise will make Monkey a success, and most will certainly see it as a welcome move in expanding the range of legal digital music services available to the public.