I’ve been away on vacation for the past week and a half or so – a vacation where I barely got online and didn’t check my email at all. After the first few days, it was surprisingly easy to do, and very relaxing. It turns out, last week was a big news week for Internet radio, with Apple giving the first preview of it’s nicknamed iradio product, and Pandora purchasing an FM station in Rapid City, South Dakota. I spent my first day back reading a lot and trying to get some perspective on both announcements.
iTunes Radio, it appears, will simply be Apple’s entry into the space, long awaited. After reading about it and talking to a few developers who have seen the interface, I guess it’s an Apple-esque, graphically interesting web radio interface that does the same things that Pandora does. Not a lot of innovation, but a well done product – possibly less than I would have expected from Apple, since I’m aware they have been actively working on this entry into the markeplace for at least a year and a half, when they contacted me.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there will be innovation with this product, and I’m hopeful that it will expand the marketplace for everyone. According to one thing that I read, Apple is planning to sell ads on its streaming radio platform using iAd, its mobile ad business. Consider that Apple knows about its users, which provides for effective targeting, and has a credit card on file for each one of them, which most of them are accustomed to using already to purchase songs and apps. That’s a system that could translate to expansive online revenues for lots of advertisers.
I don’t think Apple will mean a lot of trouble for Pandora, although certainly they will begin to share audience. Pandora’s got a large user base and a lot of happy customers. They may lose some share, but the number of people using Internet radio will continue to grow, and they’ll still gain listeners. Meanwhile, they’ll benefit from another major player in the marketplace who will help build advertiser investment. Look at it this way: it would appear that Apple’s game is to solve the conundrum of how to monetize the mobile audience, in particular the streaming audio mobile audience. I’d say that’s good news for the industry.
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!
Forty Five percent of Americans now listen to online radio occasionally, at least once a month, according to the newly updated Infinite Dial Study by Arbitron and Edison Research. That translates to 120 million Americans, and it’s a number that grew 6% over last year. The weekly number – Americans that listened to online radio weekly – grew 4% to 33% and roughly 86 million.
What’s more, those weekly listeners reported spending an average of 12 hours a week listening to radio online. Arbitron defines online radio as listening to AM/FM radio stations online and/or listening to audio content available only on the Internet – a definition that I concur with, since I think that’s how consumers define it.
But here’s the big news of the study: Consumers reported spending more than two hours more listening online than they did a year ago! Weekly listeners spend an average of 12 hours a week listening to online radio, versus close to ten hours last year.
The Infinite Dial Study is the best comprehensive snapshot of the growth of online listening. Arbitron and Edison Research have been updating this yearly study for more than ten years, providing the industry with cold hard data chronicling the growth of listening online. Arbitron VP Bill Rose and Edison Research President Larry Rosin will present their study at the upcoming RAIN Summit West on this Sunday April 7th. Hope to see you there!
With more than 5000 stations and 260 genres of music, Live365 may well be the most diverse streaming audio platform on the planet. Live365 offers a platform where folks who want to start their own radio station can do that for an affordable monthly fee that’s all inclusive – streaming, programming tools, royalty coverage, etc.. Monthly costs range from under $5 bucks a month for a station that you and just a few friends can listen to, to $99 or more for larger reach and even the ability to run commercials.
They’ve recently upped their game by offering a new app called Studio365 that lets their broadcasters to manage their radio stations from their mobile device. Among other things, it features a nifty tool called ShoutOut that enables the capability to go “live” on the microphone whenever and wherever a broadcaster may choose. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the Studio365 mobile app lets users create, preview, and manage Shout Out voice messages, set and update station ID and pre-roll messages, update station profiles including title, image, description, review current and historical station listening stats, as well as monitor their station.
Live365 has been around a long time, since 1999, enabling the long tail of Internet radio, with more than 5000 individual stations, including some nifty curated stations by the likes of Carlos Santana, Pat Metheny and Jethro Tull. They’re one of the true pioneers in the space. CEO Hong Lau will join a panel discussion on International Trends in Online Audio at RAIN Summit West, which is just a couple of weeks away – so if you haven’t registered, I hope you will. More info here…
While rumors of a streaming music service from Apple and Google have been prevalent lately, few expected the announcement last week that Twitter is developing a mobile music application that will let its users play and share songs. Last year, Twitter acquired the music recommendation website We Are Hunted, a site that charts the 99 most popular songs on a daily basis by tracking what the web has to say. It was a perfect match for Twitter, since it was a music discovery site already built to keep track of what music listeners were talking about and sharing on Twitter and other sources.
The new app, called Twitter Music, could launch by the end of this month. Various reports say that Twitter Music will suggest artists and songs, based at least in part on what a person follows on Twitter. Songs will be streamed via SoundCloud, which seems to be a perfect streaming partner. It’s easy to imagine the success that an application like this can have, given the popularity that lots of recording artists have on Twitter. Artists can offer their music on SoundCloud and spread the word on Twitter directly to followers.
Probably not coincidentally, SoundCloud has revamped its fee structure, making it easier for artists to open accounts and offer their music easily to fans. An enhanced Pro subscription also offers the ability to run ads, which they call “Moving Sounds.” Based in Berlin, SoundCloud has over 180 million users per month. It’s one very interesting streaming platform that is more focused on delivering quick hits – like songs and soundbites, than longer, radio station like experiences. Which is of course, entirely compatible with the way online consumers like it, on Twitter and Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr…
There’s been a lot of talk lately about car dashboards, and connectivity, and the threat that new technologies like streaming may pose for AM/FM, which currently owns all of that real estate. For those of you who read this blog, or attend RAIN Summits, it’s not news that connectivity in cars is impacting dashboards, with more listening options available. Nearly all the car manufacturers have announced partnerships with streaming platforms. Just yesterday Volvo released news that its new connected dashboard, with a 7 inch touch screen and voice activation, will feature TuneIn and Spotify.
The dashboard of the future won’t eliminate AM/FM, instead it will offer more options. Connected, interactive options that enable listeners to choose stations from a mix of delivery platforms. Streaming options alongside HD options alongside AM/FM options, alongside – dare I say it – maybe even satellite options. All-in-one dashboard players.
No one (okay, maybe someone) said, or thinks, that AM/FM will be eliminated from car dashboards. The NAB would never let that happen. More than 90% of the population listen weekly. (Although, that number may drop as other options become available).
After that article appeared came letters and statements from car manufacturers, eager to assure broadcasters that they are not eliminating AM/FM from cars. General Motors Chief Infotainment Officer Phil Abram told Radio Ink that:
“While we are excited about the possibilities of Internet radio services and other emerging services, we understand that AM/FM radio is still a significant source of news and entertainment. In fact, it is an expected feature. We can’t speak for other automakers, but to be clear, GM has no near term plans to eliminate AM and FM from GM vehicles. We are committed to providing consumers innovative services that dramatically enhance the driving and riding experience. We expect AM/FM radio to be one of the choices consumers have in our vehicles.”
There, now doesn’t that make you feel better?..
Muve Music, a music subscription service that is a division of Cricket Wireless, recently announced that they have more than a million subscribers in the US. Cricket sells prepaid, no contract wireless service for smartphones and cellphones.
The million mark for subscribers in the US is a number that in the past year Spotify and Rhapsody have mentioned as well. Other subscription services that are a factor are Pandora, with their Pandora One service, MOG and Rdio. No one really knows how big those services are, although I’d guess that Pandora One is well over a million, and MOG and Rdio are under. Sirius XM also sells subscriptions as add-ons to their satellite music customer base.
According to a recently released annual study of music sales by IFPI, the number of people paying to use subscription services grew 44 per cent in 2012 to 20 million globally. Subscription revenues are expected to account for more than 10 per cent of digital revenues for the first time in 2012. (again, that’s a global report). Subscription services are credited with replacing illegal download activity, and also with replacing music download sales.
With several services in the US hitting the million subscriber mark and subscription based revenues projected to make up 10% of digital revenues for the music industry, it’s certainly become a viable business model for streaming. The upcoming RAIN Summit in Las Vegas on Sunday April 7th will feature several speakers from subscription based streaming services, including Rhapsody CEO Jon Irwin, who will deliver a keynote speech. Speakers from SiriusXM and Spotify will join panels as well.
For more information on RAIN Summit West and to register, click here. See you there!
Connected audio in cars may be last year’s news, but the level of interactivity is challenging auto manufacturers to work with developers to create some pretty inventive applications. Enter Gracenote, an independent division of Sony, that collects data points on millions of songs and provides backend services that enable song recommendations to streaming services (for example).
Now Gracenote has found a way to tap into the Control Area Network of a Ford Focus and use the data to create song recommendations based on the way you are driving. For example, when the windshield wipers are on, you might hear a bluesy tune to match the rainy road, but when you’re driving fast down the highway, your playlist may serve up a song like the Beach Boys, and high beams might trigger Ray of Light by Madonna.
More than anything, this puts a whole new meaning on the “connected car” concept. Your car is not just connected to the Internet, it’s connected to the weather, and traffic conditions and the way that you are driving. Really, you have to marvel at the concept (while you kind of wonder about it’s usefulness).
Abacast has announced a new cloud based ad insertion technology that offers significant enhancements to streaming broadcasters. Generally, broadcasters deliver their online audio product in a single stream where all listeners are hearing the same thing at the same time. This is different than the technology that more interactive services like Pandora use, where each listener is hearing a personalized stream. The single stream approach, while cost efficient, has offered limited targetability of ads. With Abacast’s patent pending cloud-based ad insertion, each listener can receive individualized in-stream audio ads.
ESPN’s Digital Audio division will use the system to enhance the targetability of audio ads across its platform, “targeting listeners by device, location, age and gender in real time across live national broadcasts.” Abacast’s targeting capabilities make it possible to choose options that, for example, include “all smartphone listeners,” “all listeners in the top 20 DMAs that are on iPhones,” “all male listeners in the 25-34 age range in a group of zip codes,” “all listeners listening on the TuneIn player,” and more, according to Rob Green, Abacast CEO. Abacast’s cloud-based ad insertion is specifically designed for all broadcaster sizes and is deployed on the Abacast streaming network as well as on Akamai and Amazon.
“This was a huge hole in the radio industry,” ESPN Digital Audio senior manager Blair Cullen told Adweek. “Before, it was one stream to thousands of people, and it didn’t make sense that we were targeting women with a lot of the ads that were running. Now, hundreds of thousands of people are going to get different ad breaks. You could be in the same car as your friend wearing different headsets, and you’ll still be served a different ad than that person,” he said.
This is impressive news from Abacast that has game changing potential for single stream broadcasters with large, geographically or demographically diverse audiences. More targeted ad delivery nets higher cpms, and positions those services to better compete for digital dollars.