New York Public Radio is setting the standard for excellent online content creation these days with a slew of interesting, high quality new programs. Some, such as Radiolab, rank in the top ten most downloaded podcasts on iTunes, while others offer a remarkable host of guests and really great content that other broadcasters would do well to take a look at.
While there’s often debate about the quality of broadcasters’ online content offerings, such is not the case at WNYC.org. Each week, Alec Baldwin hosts Here’s The Thing, a weekly talk show in which Baldwin interviews well known and interesting people such as Billy Joel, George Will, David Letterman, Peter Frampton, Herb Alpert, Kathleen Turner – the list is interesting and impressive, as is the show.
WNYC also produces and airs Radiolab – the podcast of that program ranks third in the iTunes list of most downloaded podcasts. The show is so popular they even charge $2.99 for their mobile app. All of the programming that WNYC creates also becomes part of the NPR portfolio of content, along with content created by other stations such as All Things Considered, This American Life and Morning Edition.
It’s not news that NPR does an excellent job offering excellent news and talk programming to its audience. It’s an impressive online offering that would challenge anyone’s idea that podcasting is dead. As NPR could tell you, it’s alive and well on their platform…
When my daughter, who is 17, wants to hear a song, she doesn’t turn to radio. Nor does she go to Spotify or Pandora. YouTube is her on-demand streaming service. A new study out from Nielsen says she is not alone. More teens listen to music on YouTube (64%) than radio (56%), iTunes (53%) and CD (50%).
Radio is still the primary machine for music discovery across all ages, but it looks like this study does not try to restrict the definition of “radio” to AM/FM.
The new Nielsen report offers insights on all aspects of music consumption including listening and purchasing behaviors; music discovery; live events; the use of social networking and mobile music apps; as well as how the economy is affecting music sales.
“The accessibility of music has seen tremendous expansion and diversification,” said David Bakula, SVP Client Development, Nielsen. “While younger listeners opt for technologically advanced methods , traditional methods of discovery like radio and word-of-mouth continue to be strong drivers. With so many ways to purchase, consume and discover great new music, it’s no wonder that the consumer continues to access and enjoy music in greater numbers.”
One of the takeaways of this study is that radio is a music discovery machine — curated programs and personalized streams work well for helping people find new music. But once they find it, they are inclined — especially teens – to turn to YouTube where they can WATCH it. When it comes to on-demand streaming, YouTube is (still) the elephant in the room…
Shazam is an app that you can use to tag songs and identify them. Hear a song and wonder what it is? Shazam identifies the song for you and offers you the lyrics. It also lets you preview and purchase the song, watch the video, and learn more about the artist. You can share songs with your friends as well. They have more than 175 million people using the service in 200 countries.
Shazam encouraged users to use Shazam to tag the halftime performances of artists and get exclusive content. Sponsored by Bud Light, the promotion offered both a Shazam logo on the screen and announcer promo telling the tv audience that they could use the app to tag artists and ads, enter contests and get special offers. Sponsor tie-ins included Toyota, offering a win a car sweepstakes, Cars.com which let viewers use the Shazam app to donate a buck to charity, and Pepsi which offered a free music video to viewers who used the app.
Shazam reported that football fans tagged content millions of times during the halftime show and ads. No word on how many folks downloaded the app during the show to use it, but I’m guessing there was a lot of traffic for that as well.
Simply by making music more interactive, Shazam was able to put itself at the center of one of the biggest tv events of the year. Here’s the Bud Light tv commercial featuring Shazam..
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…
Last thursday during an earnings call Pandora reported $67 million in revenues, a 117% increase over a year ago. They also reported impressive increases in listening – 1.8 billion listening hours, an increase of 125% over a year earlier. The report was the new public company’s first quarterly earnings report and it reported on earnings delivered during its fiscal Q2 – which ended in July.
This was a sturdy earnings report in the face of investment banker expectations that expected to see a report of $60 million in revenues.
The company also reported that mobile ad revenues accounted for approximately half of all ad revenues. This was good news as analysts have been focusing on Pandora’s ability to monetize an audience that is rapidly shifting to mobile device listening. During the call there were many followup questions regarding Pandora’s ability to monetize its mobile audience. Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy said that they have found that most mobile ads are part of “multi platform” ad campaigns, and that Pandora is optimistic that they will be able to leverage more and more of those dollars.
Kennedy also spoke about Pandora’s increasing ability to monetize audio at the local, regional and national levels. He said that while they were seeing audio ads from national ad campaigns, they are now expanding their base and developing audio based revenues from local and regional sources.
To a question about the revenues they are seeing from song download revenue sharing with iTunes and Amazon, Kennedy revealed that Pandora is one of the top 3 biggest link sources to iTunes. He said that is strong evidence that listeners are discovering music and purchasing it after hearing it on Pandora.
So, as the experts from RAIN: Radio and Internet Newsletter pointed out in their analysis on friday, Pandora had a strong 2Q earnings call where they managed to exceed revenue expectations and offer some excellent prospects for continued growth.
eMusic has always had a slightly left of center approach to selling digital downloads. eMusic offers music consumers the opportunity to pay a monthly subscription fee for access to their song catalogs and download a certain number of songs per month – $12 bucks gets you 24 songs, $32 bucks a month allows you to download up to 73 songs a month. That’s a lot of music for a pretty good price – certainly a lot cheaper than your average iTunes song.
They used to be primarily focused on independent labels, lacking the deals to add the big four record label’s music to their catalog. But that has changed in the last couple of years and now eMusic has deals with all four. They also started selling audiobooks a few years back as well.
Now they are launching genre based Internet radio streams as well. Join the club! According to Billboard, eMusic will offer streams of music curated by eMusic’s editorial staff. There are a wide variety of offerings from punk and alt-country to electronica and “fresh jazz”. Streams are available to eMusic U.S. subscribers for free for up to ten hours of listening per month. Non-subscribers may get to try them out soon as well.
So eMusic wants to take on Pandora and Spotify? I doubt it. It sounds like eMusic – and perhaps the labels it’s partnered with as well – are noticing that streaming has a positive effect on music purchases. They’re planning to add a buy button to the player, and they certainly have the buy in of their record label partners. Though it hasn’t been quantified in a while, I’ve seen data out there that shows Pandora selling lots of songs for iTunes and Amazon to their listeners.
Music sales are up this year, bucking a several year annual decline. Led by strong digital downloads of albums and songs, music sales in the US are up 1.6% through May 8th. That’s according to Nielsen. Physical album sales continue to drop, but the rise in online sales is compensating for the first time. Digital album and track purchases went up 16.8 percent and 9.6 percent respectively.
A contributing factor in this would be the release of the Beatles catalog online which drove catalog album sales to a 5.4% increase. CD sales were down, but only 8% compared to double digit declines for several previous years. And strangely enough, Vinyl album sales were way up – 37% year over year, after growing 14% last year.
So what does all of this mean? Well, the future’s not as bad as it seems. Perhaps precipitous drops in revenue are a thing of the past for the record companies.
Streaming music may be getting all the attention, but one streaming platform is getting plenty of traction with streaming talk programming. Stitcher lets listeners select from a long list of streamed radio and listen to it when they want, from lots of devices.
The platform has been around for quite awhile, and got a little bit of attention a while back when it landed a big deal with Ford – alongside Pandora, which got all the publicity. Now Stitcher also has deals with GM and Buick as well, with features that include voice activation. Stitcher started out positioning itself as a podcasting tool, which could explain why it stayed lower on the radar than some other streaming tools that have gotten more publicity.
Stitcher takes the best parts of podcasting – the ability to listen to high quality, mainly talk programming, on-demand, and makes it much more convenient by eliminating the need for syncing or updating. Listeners can create “stations” that include all the content they want, and then listen to it when they want. It’s a great option for folks who like to listen online but want more than their music streams.
Stitcher is also a great option for content providers. They’ve just announced a new deal with SModcast, one of the biggest podcast shows on iTunes that will create a 24/7 Internet radio station that will feature live and archived radio programs from Kevin Smith, Jennifer Schwalbach and Jason Mewes and be available on Stitcher’s free mobile and iPad™ apps.
Stitcher pulls content from more than 5000 media sources into a handy streaming tool that auto manufacturers have identified as a basic element for dashboards. That makes it an important platform for content providers who are looking for in-dash exposure as well…
Amazon has launched a cloud based music service that allows users to store their own music in music lockers and then listen to it on computers and other streaming devices. It’s been rumored that both Google and Apple are readying similar services, so this move by Amazon puts them ahead of the pack. They’re hardly the first – services like MP3Tunes have been offering a similar service for over a year.
But moving early gave them the nifty name – they’re calling it Amazon Cloud, making it difficult for Apple or Google to use the word Cloud in their branding. I’m sure part of their thinking in launching early is to capture the word Cloud and associate it with their product.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this new service is the legal stand that Amazon took in launching it. While rumors of Apple and Google’s cloud based music streaming platforms have been brewing, supposedly delayed by tedious negotiations with the record labels, Amazon just went ahead and did it, taking the position that the music loaded in the lockers is owned by the user and no further licensing is needed.
Michael Robertson, Founder of MP3Tunes, has been in a legal battle over such issues with the record companies. His post about Amazon’s new service on his blog cheers Amazon’s entry into the space. “I must admit, it’s great to have a giant corporate ally in the battle against the record labels that are fighting against user’s storing their personal music libraries online.”
Amazon Cloud is definitely intended to increase sales from the AmazonMP3 store. Songs purchased through the store are automatically loaded into your personal music locker in Amazon Cloud. The service is well integrated with Android, and not integrated with iPhone. It does sync with iTunes. Several reviews point out that it seems to be pretty basic, look for further developments and improvements.
In the marketplace of streaming music services, rdio is one to keep an eye on. The on-demand service was launched last year by Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström. Last week they revealed a new round of funding worth $17.5 million.
Rdio’s main selling point is its on demand feature that allows you to build playlists with any artists, albums, or songs that you want to listen to. Once you’ve built a playlist, you can stream it from your computer or other connected devices, and share it with your friends. You can also sync playlists to your mobile devices and listen during times when you are not connected.
On demand access to Rdio’s 5 million song library wherever you want it comes with a price – after a one week free trial Rdio charges $4.99 for access on your pc only, or $9.99 for web, mobile and other connected devices such as Sonos, a tabletop connected device that Rdio recently announced a partnership with.
Rdio’s integrated with facebook, so you can sign in with your facebook account and share music and playlists with your network of friends. In addition to playing music that you have placed in your collection or in playlists, you can choose to listen to Artist stations, or stations built from your Heavy Rotation or Collection. There’s also a recommendation feature that you can turn on or off.
Rdio’s got a lot going for it, with a nice combination of on-demand streaming as well as features that let you sit back and listen when you don’t feel like actively driving your listening experience. With kinda famous founders and the new money they’ve just rounded up, they’ve got staying power as well..