Robertson’s Daring Service Makes Broadcast Streams Interactive

Michael Robertson is one of the most active entrepreneurs in the digital audio space. He’s started, funded and sold several online companies, including digital music company mp3.com to Vivendi/Universal, and VOIP/telecom Gizmo5 to Google. He’s the founder and CEO of mp3Tunes, a cloud based music storage and streaming service.

Now Robertson has launched a new business aimed at listeners who want to timeshift online listening. DAR.fm is a service that allows listeners to store audio from their favorite Internet radio streams via its Digital Audio Recorder, and then stream it back on demand. Users can schedule using just a web browser and then listen from a PC, iPhones, Android, internet radios and other devices. There is currently a list of 600 stations to choose from, no doubt this will expand as the service gains traction.

“Radio hasn’t changed much in 100 years and young people are listening to radio less.” says Robertson. “My hope is that DAR.fm modernizes radio by making it on demand, interactive and available on more than just your am/fm devices.” He adds that this is an “alpha” service that may “stop working or behave oddly” while they are fine-tuning the service.

Robertson is right – making traditional radio more flexible for listening could have a revolutionary impact on radio listening. A tool like this could essentially give listeners some of the control that online only stations have been able to build into their platforms. Broadcasters in particular could benefit – since their streams are often simple retransmissions of their over the air broadcasts and don’t offer listeners any interactive options, adding the ability to skip, playback and pause the recorded material.

There is one twist – while the service itself is legal, there’s a part of the DMCA that prevents streaming stations that use the webcasting compulsory license from promoting the recording of their streams. This  was probably adopted, as were many of the other DMCA restrictions on streaming, to make it harder to slice up the streams into song segments – to prevent digital piracy (though, these days, there sure are easier ways to pirate songs if one is so inclined). It  shouldn ‘t mean that Robertson and DAR.fm can’t operate or listeners can’t use the service, but it could impede stations from promoting it. Which would be a shame since it’s an interesting tool that could grow audience. On the other hand, perhaps the record labels will understand this and let it be…

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