Last week in an interview with CNET, Michael Robertson talked about how his TiVo-for-radio service DAR.fm is good for the radio industry. DAR.fm lets subscribers record shows from a listing of 5000 stations and 20,000 programs. Those shows are then streamed or downloaded to a personalized list of devices.
Robertson’s goal is to build a better distribution platform to keep radio relevant. No stranger to the idea of ruffling a few feathers, Robertson is well known to the industry as the guy that built MP3.com and got sued by all the major record labels for copyright infringement. He later sold the service to Vivendi Universal for $385 million.
Now Robertson’s pursuing his vision with DAR.fm, focusing on the intersection of technology and the radio industry. “It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens in the radio business over the next three to five years,” Robertson said last week in an interview with CNET. “This is a car accident waiting to happen. You have traditional broadcast radio, Sirius XM (satellite radio), and the Internet start-ups such as Pandora. They are all approaching the audio business with different assets, different royalty structures, and they’re going to realize that they’re all in the same business. They think of themselves as separate right now but everything is going IP.”
On April 15th RAIN Summit West will take place in Las Vegas and host an entire day of interesting conversations about topics like this. Michael Robertson will participate on a panel called The Streaming Music Landscape. Other interesting panels include Innovating the News/Talk Format Online, Personalizable Radio, Charting Digital Audio Ad Dollars, and others. You can get a look at the complete agenda here. See you there!
Coldplay released a new album this week and didn’t license subscription services such as Spotify to play it, a strategy that is raising concern for on-demand services. There’s been a debate brewing about the wisdom of offering brand new releases through on-demand subscription services and whether that has an impact on song and album sales.
After withholding their new album Mylo Xyloto from Spotify, Coldplay sold more digital albums that ever before in the UK – something that doesn’t bode well for on-demand services like Spotify. DMN reports that Coldplay sold more than 200,000 units in the UK alone, 40% of which were digital sales. Figures from US sales were not yet available.
Services like Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and MOG offer on demand song plays for a monthly subscription fee. But artists have been unhappy with the payouts from these services, and some are removing their new albums, or even their entire catalog from the playlists of some streaming services.
In a story on this topic, CNET quoted artist and indie label owner Sam Rosenthal pointing out that 5000 song plays on Spotify would earn him $6.50. An artist would earn $.20 per song download on iTunes, or $1000 for the same number of song sales.
But does an on demand song play on Spotify replace a song download? That’s a good question and one that no one can really answer. In the CNET article, Jon Irwin of Rhapsody claims that rather than cannibalizing song sales, on demand services are cannibalizing piracy – that inexpensive subscription services appeal to the younger listener who used to download all their music illegally and now pay a monthly fee instead.
Unfortunately, higher song sales for Coldplay after holding back their new album from Spotify doesn’t help on demand services make that point…
I’m a fan of Chumby – mainly because of its name. Chumbys are tabletop internet radios and a lot more – they’re actually tabletop internet ready devices, designed to be a digital photo frame and alarm clock that also allows you to listen online, check news and weather, watch videos, play games.
Last year Sony licensed their unique dashboard for its Sony Dash. Now Best Buy has a new device – the Infocast – which uses the Chumby dashboard as well. Its on Best Buy’s house label Insignia, sells for $169, and would make a downright smart conversation starter on the desks of Internet radio executives. It looks more than a little like an iPad if you ask me.
The Infocast has an 8 inch touchscreen that is larger than the Chumby or Sony Dash screens. It has access to Pandora and Shoutcast, New York Times, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Photobucket. It even has a sharing feature that enables folks to share apps, photos and more with friends that have similar devices.
CNET calls it a best of breed, and I’m thinking it sounds like a winner for tech savvy family members this Christmas.
Michael Robertson thinks people should be able to listen to their digital music anywhere on any device. That’s exactly what MP3tunes sets out to do.
Robertson, the founder of MP3tunes, is a huge advocate of cloud based music services. He’s no stranger to the vengeance that record labels have when it comes to protecting digital song copyright law (as they define it.) In fact, he’s actually taken it on the chin before against the record companies – in the late 90′s he founded MP3.com, which he eventually sold to CNET after losing an expensive legal battle with Universal. His new service MP3tunes is currently involved in a lawsuit with EMI over copyright infringement issues.
“I think ownership is critical important in the digital age and worth fighting for.” said Robertson. “I think consumers should be able to choose where they want to use their digital property as they can with their physical property. I don’t want a corporation to be able revoke or limit access – as we’ve seen happening with Apple and Amazon.”
MP3tunes currently has over 500,000 registered users who upload their entire music collection to servers and access it from wherever they want. MP3tunes works on multiple smartphones platforms: Android, iPhone/iTouch, (iPad version waiting for approval) and many Internet radio devices (it’s compatible with devices that use vTuner and Reciva firmware.) This week they’ll introduce a deal with Roku that will enable access to music lockers on televisions.
Currently, the business model is a freemium model that offers listeners smaller sized lockers for free and charge a subscription fee for more storage space. But additional revenue sources like e-commerce and advertising may be in the cards as well.