CBS RADIO President and CEO Dan Mason is excited about broadcasting’s digital future. In a keynote interview at RAIN Summit West last week, Mason shared his thoughts on radio’s future. During the 30 minute “fireside chat” with RAIN Publisher Kurt Hanson, Mason outlined his perspective that digital is now an essential component for success for broadcasters.
Broadcasters should embrace personalization and explore sidechannels, said Mason. He mentioned Phillies Radio as an example of a sidechannel (HD, not streaming) that CBS RADIO is pleased with. Mason touched upon some other investments that CBS RADIO has made and is planning. He encouraged the audience to find him on Last.fm, where he listens to the Yardbirds, among other things.
He also said that plans are in the works to relaunch mp3.com in May. That’s big news – mp3.com was a free music download site that got into legal trouble with the record labels over licensing. Its history includes a huge IPO and eventual sale to record label Vivendi Universal, where it eventually died. CNET picked up the url, but it’s been inactive for several years. Now Mason says CBS RADIO will relaunch the site next month. A look at the site this morning shows the structure of a platform that will offer downloads, interact with Last.fm, and tie in videos, podcasts, entertainment news and more. (In an ironic sidenote, mp3.com’s original founder, Michael Robertson, also appeared at RAIN Summit later in the day on a panel discussion of The Future of Music.)
Later last week, Mason sent a memo to CBSRADIO employees that echoed the digital excitement he expressed at RAIN Summit West, commenting “never have I been more certain as to what an incredible opportunity we have before us.” and “the digital side of the business is just as important as our over-the-air operations.”
There were many impressive moments at RAIN Summit West, it was an event that in my opinion really exemplified the positive place that Internet radio is occupying. Listening to CBSRADIO President and CEO Dan Mason talk about the digital opportunity for broadcasters as a critical element to future success was one of those.
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.
Michael Robertson doesn’t mince words when he talks about the flawed business model that Internet radio must operate under. Robertson, a high tech entrepreneur, founded mp3.com, a digital music service that did not survive mostly due to copyright lawsuits by the music industry. He’s no stranger to the licensing game, and he pushes the envelope, believing that current webcasting royalty rates are prohibitive to a successful streaming business model.
Now he’s launching an Internet-radio-like service that he says won’t have to pay those royalties. “The crushing financial obligations which ate up 60% of Pandora’s total revenues last year do not apply here.” says Robertson. “Because this is the user’s own music we are not required to pay webcasting royalty rates.”
byo.fm will use Robertson’s other music platform mp3tunes.com to store a listener’s personal music collection, and stream it back to them, along with many other features that radio listeners find appealing, such as news, weather and sports, culled from the user’s favorite websites and delivered in a voice that they choose by text to speech technology. The service puts the user in the driver’s seat – letting them design playlists as well as news and talk features, and listen from anywhere with a connected device.