Not to be outdone by recent enhancements by Spotify and Pandora, Last.fm has rolled out a new interface for Last.fm Discover that is easily the best looking offering I’ve seen by a streaming station. It’s based on HTML5 and was developed in tandem with Microsoft to showcase the new capabilities that HTML5 in Internet Explorer 9 can offer.
Last.fm Discover is a customizable, personalizable offering that focuses on new music and artists. Launched a few months ago, the offerings are influenced by Last.fm’s charts of what listeners are scrobbling and listening to on Last.fm.
The site is very playful and inviting – perfectly suited to the Discover theme – rolling green textured hills invite you to explore the various music genres. It’s a fun and inventive look that feels more like a game – listeners can’t help but poke around, relax, hang out and discover new music. Once you select a genre, it shows you some artists and endless options for listening to similar artists, or taking a new direction. It’s addictive – I found it hard to stop clicking. (The screenshot reveals my affection for K pop..)
While much of the new site can be seen in any browser, the experience is enhanced in Internet Explorer 9. In fact, I’m a Chrome user and this got me to open IE for the first time in a while. “What we want is to see more and more websites using as much of HTML5 as possible and one of the reasons for that is we want websites to be more like apps in the way they feel,” explained Ian Moulster Microsoft product manager.
I really like this new development – I think they’ve done a great job of breaking the mold when it comes to streaming station interfaces, developing a look that matches the station’s theme of discovery. So we’ll see if it gets Last.fm a little more traction in terms of listening. Last.fm has been surprisingly stagnant in terms of audience growth and general awareness here in the US compared to Pandora and Spotify.
BRS Media has launched a new platform to support its top level domain registry for .FM. The new site, Get.fm, will showcase how .FM domains are fast becoming the premier channel to deliver news, information, music, entertainment, and social media to the masses on the Internet.
Indeed, some of the Web’s most innovative online addresses are now broadcast through .FM domains. Turntable.fm and Last.fm are among a long list of well known music sites that use .FM as their domain registry. “The .FM TLD has some of the most recognizable and innovative brands in streaming and social media today,” said George Bundy, Chairman & CEO of BRS Media Inc. “.FM is increasingly attracting premier broadcasters and media companies including Last.fm, Turntable.fm, Blip.fm, Ping.fm, Digster.fm, Shuffler.fm, Headliner.fm and thousands more; as a result, the Registry’s brand and services are now also evolving to meet the growing demand and creativity of our clientele head on.”
George Bundy is one smart guy. Early on he saw an opportunity and bought the rights to sell the .FM top level domain. Since then he has built BRS Media into a highly successful business that ranked as one of the 5000 fastest growing private companies in the country for the 4th year in a row. In addition, BRS Media ranked in the Top 75 Media Companies, that featured prominent companies like: Pandora, FriendFinder and Demand Media.
Next year BRS Media will introduce, manage and market a new top level domain – .RADIO, having been selected by ICANN as the exclusive representative of that extension.
Music consumption is increasing, and this heat map clearly shows where and who has the traffic. In case you thought Pandora was the big boy, let the visual speak for itself – the real elephant in the room is YouTube. 31% of all videos on that site are music now, and it’s the number one music consumption destination on the web – at least according to this info based on data from Compete.
ITunes is not web based and therefore does not qualify for this comparison. Grooveshark, which has been growing audience faster than its been obtaining licenses from big labels, grew traffic 236% in 2010. By comparison, Pandora grew only 116%. Shoutcast grew 180%. AOL Music, Last.fm, Slacker and MOG all grew, as did rdio – by a whopping 3680%. But given that rdio just launched last year, that growth was from nothing to tiny, as the heat map reveals.
There are a lot of other sites on the map that aren’t so much streaming music platforms as they are music download sites, or artist communities, or other types of music platforms. It’s the best snapshot I’ve seen so far of the way that streaming music platforms stack up globally. You can get a better picture, along with mouse over data on each site, and a growth chart, here.
When the record labels told Joe Purdy he could have a record deal as long as he changed his sound, Purdy decided to build his fanbase online instead. Eleven albums later, you can hear all of his music on his website and buy songs for download there as well but you won’t find his music available for sale in a record store anywhere.
Purdy’s story is one of online success. No record label, indie or otherwise. No record stores selling his stuff. His distribution is completely online.
He took his music direct to his fans, and it’s worked out just fine for him thank-you-very-much. His songs have been featured on TV shows like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, & House, not to mention in a Kia ad that aired in the Superbowl. You can hear his music on Pandora, Rhapsody, Last.fm and other popular streaming platforms.
He writes, sings and produces all his music himself, and he’s sold lots of music from his website, without any label. What’s more, all his songs are available for streaming on his website for you to listen to before you decide to buy. He says he treats his career like a small business, and it seems to be working out just fine. Yep, Joe Purdy’s alive and well, with a thriving musical career online..
In the last twenty years there has been a huge transformation in the way we listen to music. It started with the Sony Walkman which enabled us to carry ten or so songs of our choosing in our pocket. From there we moved to mp3 players – my first one only held about ten songs – to larger and larger iPods, to iPhones and other connected mobile devices. With those, today’s music lover has access to millions of songs in a wide variety of genres by an enormous number of artists.
Now the challenge is to find the music they want to listen to.
Platforms like Pandora’s Genome and iTunes’ Genius systems have created music recommender systems that attempt to analyze current personal music tastes based on data provided by the listener, and recommend similar new artists or tracks. But what if you want to listen on another platform, or find music that is more eclectic than those platforms might be?
There’s a lot more to be done on the creation of music recommender services, according to WOMRAD, the Workshop on Music Recommendation and Discovery, recently convened in Barcelona, Spain. Tools can focus on social tagging, human interaction via computer, content analysis and time of day listening patterns to analyze data and enable better management of larger and larger music collections.
The documents presented at this symposium are available here.
Ironically, Sony last week announced that it has stopped making the Sony Walkman. RIP…
- Some iTunes special promotions aren’t so special (news.cnet.com)
- Apple introduces iTunes Sidebar, brings back Genius (macworld.com)
Several recent articles have questioned the survival of broadcast radio in the face of Internet radio. In an article last month, the NY Times pointed to the fact that Internet radio stations like Pandora, Slacker and Last.fm allow listeners to customize their listening experience as one reason that Internet radio has grown in popularity with listeners. New devices that enable in-car listening will make listening even easier – Pioneer and Alpine are two manufacturers that have introduced new in-car devices. Other companies have introduced apps that make it easier to use your iPhone to stream your favorite Internet radio station in your car.
Perhaps the most ironic article I have read about the growing challenge that Internet radio presents to traditional AM/FM listening is one in AutoTrader.com, owned by Cox Enterprises – the same company that owns 86 radio stations. The article asks:
“are we witnessing the gradual death of traditional broadcast radio? Far from being shackled to, say, Clear Channel’s corporate playlist or a DJ’s whims, Internet radio stations put users in the driver’s seat and allow them to create unique channels based on criteria such as artist, genre, or song. Yet, a savvy, $4.99 app from Livio Radio, which turns the iPhone into a digital receiver capable of receiving over 42,000 AM/FM and Internet stations, will give users access to more broadcast radio stations than ever before, right down to tiny local stations clear across the country.”
While it’s a little strange that this article appears in a Cox owned publication, the point is right on – if streaming technology is viewed as simply an additional channel to the AM/FM dial, then Internet radio presents not a threat but an opportunity to radio broadcasters. Already in the business of producing audio content, stations now have the opportunity to extend their audience base and increase both listeners and time spent listening on a new channel.
Here’s the thing. Internet radio isn’t going away.
But that doesn’t have to be a threat to broadcasters who are willing to extend their platform and offer streaming as an option to their listeners. The mistake broadcasters make is thinking that they have a choice when it comes to streaming, and proclaim streaming as too expensive. If a station’s listener wants to listen online, and that station is not offering its programming online, they will find another station online to listen to.
Isn’t that a good enough reason to stream?
Apple has announced that it will shut down on demand music streaming service Lala at the end of this month. Many believe this is the next obvious step to Apple’s launch of a web-based iTunes type service. Apple bought the service in December.
Lala’s offering is/was pretty neat. Listeners can have an unlimited number of one time listens to any song in their library of 8 million songs. For ten cents they can listen to that song on demand as many times as they want, or they can buy it for 79 cents.
This kind of cloud based offering must certainly be something Apple is planning, given their huge success with iPhone and recent launch of iPad. So even though some sources say there will be licensing snags between Apple and the record companies, I’m thinking there’s definitely an iTunes.com launch coming. I’m not thinking too hard about when or where, but I am wondering why they shuttered Lala now.
There’s a pretty intriguing game playing out with a whole bunch of streaming services that are shifting their models. Last.fm stops on demand streaming and Rhapsody opens their on demand streaming up to include actual downloaded playlists onto iPhones. Spotify, the long awaited on demand service, has still not even launched here in the US. If nothing else, this move by Apple seems to offer an advantage to Rhapsody, and a definite disadvantage to Lala’s listeners…
Last week CBS owned Last.fm announced that they would stop streaming songs on demand. They’ll also stop hosting videos for on demand streaming. Instead, according to the Last.fm blog, they’ll focus on connecting listeners to services that provide “jukebox-in-the-sky” on demand services, such as Spotify, MOG, and Hype Machine for songs, and VEVO for video.
Last.fm will also continue its personalized radio station streaming services, which provide listeners with the ability to interact, but not request specific songs.
This seems to be another step in CBSRadio’s 2010 journey to profitability in the streaming space. After a few years of streaming everything everywhere, this year CBSRadio is fine tuning its streaming business model and brand identity. Not long ago, CBSRadio began blocking its non-US listeners from streaming in order to control streaming and royalty expenses.
This move last week indicates that CBSRadio intends to focus on what it has determined are Last.fm’s core competencies. “Our scrobbling data shows that, for some time now, people have been using multiple music services and devices, then coming back to their Last.fm profiles to answer the question “what should I hear next?” and to see / show off all their listening united in one place.”
Some recent research has shown that free on demand streaming services are bad for online music sales. Here in the US, the record companies have blocked Spotify from entering the market with their free on demand service by refusing to license it. Instead, Spotify will likely turn to a monthly subscription model like MOG.
The new vision for Last.fm is perhaps even broader than it was: “our vision is for Last.fm to efficiently connect any user to ALL of the relevant streaming options in their country for every track we know about, as well as being able to personalise listening preferences Last.fm-wide.”
This seems to me like a smart move for Last.fm. CBSRadio has identified the best strength of Last.fm in that it connects listeners around and about music. They can do that, provide channel streaming services, and leave the tricky on-demand stuff to other services. It’s actually what Google Music is doing with Pandora and a few other services, except that Last.fm will be providing its own streaming option as well. Which Google Music is not doing (yet).