10/17/13: Revo SuperConnect replaces the radio but keeps the FM

Brad Hill
October 17, 2013 - 12:40pm

This is the season of wireless speakers. We have written recently about the Samsung Shape, the Bose SoundTouch, and the Sonos Play:1. Each one of these WiFi-enabled speakers can stream a music collection from a computer, and access whatever online music services are bundled into the controller apps. This product category clearly seeks to displace home radio receivers, just as online music services potentially bite into AM/FM listening generally.

A new, soon-to-be-released product from Revo, a Scottish audio device company founded in 2004, modifies that trend with a tabletop unit which combines over-the-air broadcast with Internet radio and music-service streaming. Mightily called the SuperConnect, it is a real radio with an FM tuner (accommodating DAB and DAB+), mashed together with WiFi streaming

Uniquely, the SuperConnect has baked-in Spotify Connect compatibility. Spotify Connect is a wireless flinging technology similar to Google’s Chromecast. It is designed for digital speaker systems to receive a Spotify stream playing on a smartphone. The user touches a Connect icon in the Spotify app, then selects which Connect-enabled reception device (like living room speakers) will pick up the stream. As of now, SuperConnect is the only radio receiver that works with Spotify Connect.

In addition to the unprecedented bundling of FM, WiFi, and Spotify Connect, the Revo SuperConnect contains an on-screen joystick controller that encourages the user to explore the far-flung universe of radio webcasts -- becoming the latest in a history of devices attempting to install borderless radio listening in the home. In this case, that function is not the main act, but an add-on to the main category of WiFi streaming, with a pioneering implementation of Spotify Connect.

Brad Hill
October 17, 2013 - 12:40pm

In the first methodology change after the acquisition of Arbitron, and its rebranding as Nielsen Audio, Nielsen has announced it will include radio online reruns in its ratings, according to Inside Radio and Audio4cast.

The decision is an inching movement toward measuring webcasts, and will be applied to a specific programming scenario -- when a station provides complete rerun loops online, as is the case with some morning shows. The online component must be unaltered, and include all content and commercials. The measurement will not stand alone, but will be bundled into the broader ratings picture

A 24-hour window applies: listeners who access the online repeat after that period will not be counted. This windowing limitation shares the same principle as Nielsen’s “Same Day” measurement of television viewing on DVRs -- in that measurement the 24-hour viewing day starts at 3:00am. The new radio-stream measurement applies to a different time-shifting opportunity for listeners that doesn’t involve home recording of the content.

Jennifer Lane of Audio4cast notes: “I’m sure this is the first of many changes that Nielsen will make to its measurement of audio.”

Brad Hill
October 17, 2013 - 12:40pm

Tunecore, one of several intermediaries that provide a gateway to digital distribution for independent musicians, announced on its blog that 330-million dollars has been paid out to musician clients during the company’s seven-year history.

Tunecore represents an interesting and significant service category in digital music. Its rise, along with that of CD Baby and others, emblemizes the replacement of old-world career agencies with technology platforms, just as digital listening has displaced analog music products. Tunecore and its ilk are distributors to retail outlets, but also have replaced A&R departments and artist managers to some extent. 

Tunecore’s essential business is putting recorded music into streaming music services like Spotify and Rhapsody, and download stores like iTunes and Amazon. Its clients are indie artists who own their own labels and fully control their recorded masters. The core values are distribution and bookkeeping. For relatively low fees, aggregators like Tunecore and CD Baby place music in large portfolios of commercial outlets, track streaming and purchasing, issue earning statements, and write royalty checks.

This middleman service is alluring to musicians seeking exposure and a toehold in the music business. However, for many who reside down the long tail of available music, those low fees are never recouped in fractional payouts from streaming and downloading. From that sad outcome stems much of the controversy surrounding the economics of streaming music services and the fairness of artist royalties.

Operating profit might be elusive for music services like Spotify which pay royalties, and for indie musicians who receive royalties. Intermediaries like Tunecore (which is privately owned and venture-funded) sit in a sweet spot between the two, passing content in one direction, funneling money in the other direction, and collecting a fee. It’s a valuable service. But some musicians wonder: Wasn’t the Internet supposed to eliminate intermediaries?

Brad Hill
October 17, 2013 - 12:40pm

Standard ads that play music: Startup F# (pronounced F-sharp, after the music note) has launched creative ad technology that puts a streaming music player inside an IAB-standard 300-by-250 ad box. The player is branded by the advertiser, and the music is curated in collaboration with F#’s recommendation research database. F# handles music licensing, and the units are DMCA-compliant, according to the company. It is easy to imagine strong engagement with these interactive ads, if they can overcome “ad blindness” which plagues the industry.

Video lead-in to an audio service: In an unusual marketing ploy, music service Rdio is dangling free access to Red Bull’s movie about Felix Baumgartner’s leap to earth from orbit, “Mission to the Edge of Space,” according to The Verge. Rdio operates a video rental site (Vdio), which is where the Red Bull relationship probably comes from,