As you have probably heard, Google has put their newest streaming music offering into play, calling it (awkwardly) Google Play All Access. Personalizability, interactivity, it’s all here. It’s called “Radio without rules”, according to Chris Yerga, Google Engineering Director, Android, who debuted the new platform at Google I/O, a conference for developers in San Francisco.
Indeed, the new Google Music service is all things – offering a deep catalog of songs available on-demand, as well as all the interactive bells and whistles like new music recommendations, playlist building and sharing, the ability to integrate your own music into the mix. In fact, listeners can add their own music and albums from the service into one library, in one nifty interface.
On the web browser, the offering is the same, and available across all your devices. For $9.99 a month.
So the race to capture subscribers who are willing to pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to all music is on. Spotify has been trying to get folks interested in that for a while by charging a fee for mobile access to their on-demand platform, along with other services like Rhapsody and Rdio.
Google’s ability to integrate its service is of course much deeper – they’re already doing business with just about everyone. The interface looks good, and studies have shown that music lovers are willing to pay a fee for access to music. And people love listening to music online. It’s consistently one of the favorite online activities. So this could be a hit for Google. Could be. But I’m wondering about a few things as well. First, Google is the company that gives content away to consumers and monetizes the traffic – youtube, Gmail, Google voice, consumers are not exactly trained to think about their credit cards when they see that Google logo. Second, Google has had a few stops and starts when it comes to announcing amazing new online music platforms. Like Google Music take one (Discovery), and take two (Music Beta).
One thing that is consistent is Google’s inability to come up with a spicy, enticing name. Google Play All Access? It’s a horrible name for a pretty nifty streaming music interface…
It’s a week for streaming services to boast about the size of their audience, with both Slacker and iHeartradio making announcements that they have grown. Slacker, which relaunched with a new design and offerings in February, had a nice showing in the March ranker of Webcast Metrics that we saw last week. Now we’re hearing more details on that from a press release which reports that six million new listeners have signed up since that relaunch in Feb, with 3.5 million of them on mobile devices. Slacker has also picked up 100,000 paying subscribers since their relaunch, a 1.6% conversion rate.
In the release CEO Jim Cady says that “Slacker is the only digital music service that is gross margin positive on every listener – whether they’re ad-supported or a paid subscriber.” Gross margin positive is good – an indicator that a business is operating efficiently and shows promise. So this is a good thing. I’m not sure how Cady can be sure that they are the only digital music service that can say that – given that only Pandora’s accounting data is public. Some other cranky folks might argue that satellite services are digital as well.. But nonetheless, Slacker says they are doing well, and that’s good for them and the industry. (Now if only they would change their name..)
Not to be outdone, iHeartradio told us yesterday that they have reached the 30 million mark in terms of listeners, which is a very big number especially given the fact that they were at 20 million 7 months ago. iHeartradio has enormous capacity to ramp up its audience via its extensive network of AM/FM listeners.
Mobile was the fastest growing segment of streaming audio consumption in the March 2013 ranker just released by Triton Digital. Mobile listening accounted for 56% of all audio consumption in March 2012. According to the report, we have crossed the threshold where over half of all listening is consumed on mobile devices.
In March 2013, Pandora began capping mobile listening at 40 hours per month. As a result, we see a 3% drop in mobile listening for Pandora during the Monday through Sunday 6:00am to midnight daypart from March to February. During the same time period, we see a 23% increase in Pureplay mobile listening and a 5% increase in listening to AM/FM streams.
Slacker meanwhile picked up 18% during the February to March period, which could be a result of the capping by Pandora. In mid February Slacker launched a new interface with more personalized tuning options, as well as a tv ad campaign aimed directly at Pandora, which was timed perfectly with Pandora’s decision to cap mobile listening at 40 hours per month.
RAIN: Radio and Internet Newsletter points out that “While Pandora did slip 4% overall from February, its AAS is still 39% more than 12 months ago. Among broadcast streamers, Univision had a strong March (up 22%), as did the NPR Member Stations group (up 16%).” Read more of their analysis here.
While these numbers refer to US listening, streaming audio measurement, as well as Mobile streaming strategies, will be panel topics at our upcoming RAIN Summit Europe in Brussels two weeks from today. Hope to see you there!
Traffic to SoundCloud is ramping up quickly. According to a monthly report by comScore Media Metrix, the number of unique visitors to the site grew 26% from Feb 2013 to March 2013 and landed them in the top ten fastest growing sites on the web (for US users). SoundCloud, which enables anyone to share audio in much the same way that users share video on YouTube, saw nearly 10.5 million users in March.
SoundCloud is based in Berlin. They are well funded, and count both Fred Wilson and Mary Meeker, two investors who pay quite a bit of attention to the online audio space, as investors and board members.
Want to hear more about SoundCloud ? VP of Business Development Dave Haynes will be joining us at RAIN Summit Europe coming up in just a couple of weeks, on May 23 in Brussels. He’ll join a panel discussion called Mainstream Mobile, hosted by James Cridland. Come to the conference and join the conversation. Hope to see you there!
RAIN Summits, the premiere educational and networking events for the Internet radio and online audio industry, have announced the agenda for RAIN Summit Europe on May 23 in Brussels. The largest gathering of its kind in Europe, RAIN Summit Europe’s speaker list features a diverse list of web radio professionals from most countries and provides an excellent opportunity for the industry to share expertise.
RAIN Summit Europe will take place at the award-winning Hotel Bloom! in Brussels. The pan-European conference will be a day-long event, including thought provoking panels and presentations, insightful speakers, and engaging networking opportunities. Executives from many different European countries will share thoughts and ideas on the future of radio in the digital world.
RAIN Summit Europe will feature a list of speakers who are experts on various aspects of the field of streaming radio. Featured speakers at the conference in May include:
- David Deslandes, Deezer, France
- Simon Gooch, SBS Radio Sweden/Radio Play, Sweden
- James Cridland, Media UK, United Kingdom
- Ali Abhary, Spectrum Medya, Turkey
- Kjartan Slette, WiMP, Norway
- Christian Schalt, KISS FM/Radio Service Berlin, Germany
- Jan-Willem Brüggenwirth, 538Group, Netherlands
- Jean Pierre Cassaing, Havas Media, France
- Alain Reyes, NRJ Audio, France
- Joel Ronez, Radio France, France
- Steve Whilton, Last.fm, United Kingdom
- Caroline Grazé, NRJ, Germany
- Lubor Zoufal, Lagardère Active ČR, Czech Republic
- Paula Cordeiro, RTP, Universidade Tecnica de Lisboa, Portugal
“This agenda features an excellent complement of speakers from across Europe for a full day of panels, presentations and networking that endeavors to advance the business prospects for online audio,” said Jennifer Lane, President of RAIN Summits.
“In Europe today, Internet radio is an extremely vibrant and fast-growing media segment, with many of the top AM/FM broadcasters actively participating in the category along with a number of innovative entrepreneurs,” said Kurt Hanson, Publisher of RAIN: Radio and Internet Newsletter. “Last year’s RAIN Summit Europe, in Berlin, attracted a very high caliber of both speakers and attendees. This year, we’re excited to bring RAIN Summit Europe to the business capital of Europe, Brussels, and our agenda is shaping up to be our best yet!”
For more information on the agenda and speakers, visit the RAIN Summit Europe website
Developers at The Echo Nest have put together a fun tool to demonstrate their ability to create music profiles for individuals based on the music they like or say they like. The way it works – you can either type in a few artists, or allow access to your facebook likes and it stereotypes you based on your musical selections.
Without much thought, I typed in a few of my favorites: Joan Armatrading and the B52s (from my college days), Dar Williams, Jack Johnson and Michael Buble. Up pops my musical listening persona, which I was fairly disappointed in: I’m a Sheltering Suburban Mom who likes Cabernet and 50 Shades of Grey, at least according to the game. And I thought I was so cutting edge.
The Echo Nest, on the other hand, is cutting edge. I’ve been to their offices in a trendy renovated warehouse in Davis Square in Somerville (not far at all from the now infamous Watertown). The company was started by a couple of smart MIT guys who originally thought they were building a streaming service like Pandora, and then decided that they would instead go into the backend business of powering personalized music services. Somewhere along the way they hired CEO Jim Lucchese, a smart and likeable guy. Now they are powering the likes of Spotify, iHeartradio, MTV, Vevo, and others.
Personalized music experiences are becoming a standard offering of most of the bigger music services. Go on and play What’s Your Stereotype, it’s easy to understand how your listeners will like it. And I dare you to tweet it, or post it below when you’re done..
Jim Lucchese is one of the smart people who often speaks at RAIN Summits. Our next conference is RAIN Summit Europe in Brussels on May 23.
AOL Music announced, or at least its laid off employees announced on friday afternoon that it will shut down. Shortly after that, AOL Radio’s twitter account explained that the streaming service operated by Slacker would not be shutting down. The shut down encompasses the main site that offers free music videos, song lyrics, downloads, and music news and includes sites Noisecreep (hard rock and heavy metal); The Boot (country); The Boombox (hip hop/R&B); as well as Spinner and AOL Music.
AOL Radio and reportedly Shoutcast will survive the cuts. In June of 2011 AOL Radio paired up with Slacker in a deal that moved their channels into Slacker’s portal of offerings. Slacker picked up the traffic and also the costs of streaming those channels.
Shoutcast, which AOL acquired back in the late 90s, is another story entirely. That portal gives bandwidth to more than 50,000 global stations. They have a very large audience and are quite possibly the biggest streaming portal online. (It’s never been clear to me what the business model is for Shoutcast, but that’s another story.)
AOL has certainly been through changes, struggling to retain or regain brand prominence in recent years. In 2011 they bought Huffington Post and have placed more emphasis on becoming a top notch news portal. AOL Music is likely a victim of that transition.
RAIN Summit Europe is Thursday May 23 in Brussels. Register here!
In the UK, royalties from online services jumped by 32% last year, according to a report from PRS for Music, the Performing Right Society in the United Kingdom for composers, songwriters and music publishers. In fact, royalties from online services (including both streaming and downloading) now produces more revenue than radio, according to the new report.
The growth figure reported by the UK body is very similar to the percentage increase recently reported by SoundExchange, the licensing and collection organization for performance royalties in the US. The 2012 reported figure for royalties collected in the US in 2012 was $502.2 million, a 35% increase over the 2011 number.
What’s different of course is that in the US, performance royalties are not paid by broadcast radio services, so a comparison of online versus royalties from radio sources cannot be made.
On May 23 in Brussels we’ll be discussing the business of Internet radio and online audio at RAIN Summit Europe. View the speaker list and agenda here.
New research presented by Russ Crupnick of NPD Group at RAIN Summit West underscores the promotional value of AM/FM radio relative to song sales. More than half of the folks surveyed named “announcements on AM/FM radio” as the primary thing that would make them shop more for new music.
Given the drastic drop in song sales revenue in recent years, that’s an important fact. In 2005, 73% of the US Internet population bought at least one cd, and in 2012 that number was 35%. Some of those purchases were replaced with song downloads, which jumped from 9 to 23% in that same period.
Meanwhile, the same population said that they stopped illegally downloading music because they could listen to it on the radio – online (45%) or on the air (33%).
So what does all this mean? One way to look at it is that radio – both on-air and online is one of the most important weapons the music industry has for driving revenue…
Rain Summit Europe is Thursday May 23rd in Brussels. Join us for a great day of panels and presentations, plus excellent networking at the largest gathering of online audio professionals in Europe. Hope to see you there!
Last week Pandora announced a significant milestone when they reached 200 million registered listeners. The fact that the number of registered listeners leapt from 100 million to 200 million in two years makes it still more impressive. Remember, Pandora’s user base is largely in the US, although they have recently expanded to a few other places such as Australia.
During a presentation last week at RAIN Summit West in Las Vegas, hundreds in the audience got a first look at updated trends in Infinite Dial 2013. Arbitron SVP Bill Rose and Edison Research President Larry Rosin offered some stats on Pandora, which has an impressive brand awareness recognition rate of 69% among adults 12+ in the US, a number that grew 10% since last year’s study. iHeartradio showed impressive brand awareness in the new study as well, with 45% brand recognition, a jump of almost 15% since last year.
The study also reported that close to half of the folks surveyed had downloaded the Pandora app onto their cellphone. This fact reveals the steam engine driving both the growth in audience and brand awareness for industry leader Pandora – their amazing success with mobile apps. As usage of smartphones and tablets has soared, Pandora’s been right out there in front, gaining front page status on those devices. 21% of cell phone owners now saying they have used their phone to listen to a stream in their car, yet another indication of the growing importance of mobile devices.
We’ll be discussing mobile devices, connected cars and a lot more again on May 23 in Brussels at RAIN Summit Europe. Have you registered? Hope to see you there!