11/04/13: YouTube searches for its music identity

Brad Hill
November 4, 2013 - 1:10pm

The YouTube Music Awards played last night with an anti-TV programming sensibility, to a small anti-TV audience. A reported peak concurrent audience of 220,000 individuals streamed the event. Total viewership finalized to 873,000 people, according to the live page. The thumbs up/down voting system registered 79 percent positive response.

The live audience represented less than one tenth of one percent of YouTube’s claimed 1-billion users.

YouTube is authoritatively rumored to be ramping up a music service that would formalize the platform’s unofficial status as the most-used online listening platform. Hosting a music awards spectacle makes sense in the double context of a music streaming site, and a social network. The relative lack of interest among users might reflect the futility of emulating old-media formats in new-media services. Despite the implications of YouTube’s name (a new kind of television “tube”), the platform’s core competency is facilitating and organizing user-uploaded content, not imitating TV shows.

Questions about the purported music service loom, the largest being how Google will add value to a platform which already has immense value built into it. (See RAIN’s analysis here.) YouTube’s runaway success has perhaps sent it running in directions unforeseen when Google acquired the thing in 2006. If the Music Awards show was a fun stab in the dark, well and good. But as a test of making YouTube something it is essentially not, the YouTube Music Awards didn’t seem to work. 

Brad Hill
November 4, 2013 - 1:10pm

Tom Taylor notes in his morning newsletter that all-Christmas radio is breaking out early on the broadcast side. Taylor’s interpretation: “Most are an attempt to lay claim to the local market’s Christmas image -- even if it irritates regular listeners.”

Local broadcasters walk on a thin November ledge between pushing Christmas upon listeners too soon, and attracting Black Friday ad dollars before it’s too late. Most online music services don’t have a sufficient local sales effort to worry about that conundrum, Pandora being the exception.

But a close look at activity in several music services this morning offers indications that users might be swinging into the holiday mood sooner than their in-house programming departments. Holiday listening stations don’t usually appear in the genre lists of music services this early in November, and that trend is born out. The following services lack a Christmas or Holiday preset in their “stations” lineups: iTunes Radio, Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, Slacker (even as a sub-genre of Christian).

Interestingly, user-generated 8tracks.com shows a Christmas tag fairly high up the genre list (Android app), and digging into the details on the website shows over 300 user-created Christmas playlists, dozens of them created in the last few days. Creator comments reveal an eager early-season jubilance: “The jolliest time of year is back!” Some of these playlists were assembled in mid-October, indicating some degree of appetite for the Christmas spirit even sooner than broadcast radio is willing to bet on.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Clear Channel-owned iHeartRadio is displaying a “Holiday” channel preset this morning in the Live Radio section. Some of the listed stations are pureplays, not live, but the interesting point is user comments -- many listeners are happy to find the early dose of Christmas tunes. “Start super-duper early! Why not?”

Note to Apple, Pandora, Rhapsody et al: The Christmas train might be leaving earlier than you think. When you have an unlimited programming slate, it makes sense to claim the space early.

Brad Hill
November 4, 2013 - 1:10pm

We are pleased to announce that veteran sales and marketing expert Henry Mowry has joined RAIN Enterprises as Account Director. He started on Friday, Nov. 1. Mowry will develop and manage sponsor and advertising relationships across RAIN Summits and RAIN Publications.

Mowry spent 22 years as Director of Sales at Radio & Records, from 1987 until the publication’s final issue in 2009. He was also Director of Sales at in3media.

“RAIN has been the leader for a very long time,” said Mowry. “It’s an honor to join the team, and be a part of the exciting new initiatives."

Mowry joins RAIN Enterprises at an inflection point, as the Summits and Publications businesses are merged into a single management structure under one brand. Jennifer Lane is the CEO of RAIN Enterprises.

About RAIN Enterprises

Comprising RAIN Summits and RAIN Publications, RAIN (Radio and Internet News) is the preeminent source of networking and information about Internet radio and online audio.

Since 2003, RAIN Summits have been the premiere educational and networking events for the webcasting industry. Geared to broadcasters on the web and Internet-only webcasters alike, the Summits attract speakers and audiences on the cutting edge of the future of radio and consumer listening choices.

The RAIN Newsletter and website furnish news and commentary about the emergence of streaming audio and radio’s adjustment to a digital world. The newsletter has been a crucial daily resource for thousands of readers during more than a decade of change in the radio and digital music industries.

Brad Hill
November 4, 2013 - 1:10pm

Audiophile alert. Also, classic rock alert. Oh, and vinyl bandwagon alert. VinylEars asserts to be the first all-vinyl online radio station, and that claim gets no contradiction from us. In support of that audiophilic priority, the station offers a 128k streaming bitrate … at the low end. We are tapping our feet to the 320k stream, and if your bandwidth is tight you can push it down a notch to 256k, which is higher-end than most pureplay radio.

Our morning has been soundtracked by Elton John, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Yes, Steely Dan, Joan Armatrading, The Beatles, John Cougar Mellencamp, CSN&Y, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, and other retro tracks. The VinyEars site does not explain whether there is an oldies programming agenda at work, or merely an oldies vinyl collection at hand. No matter -- the result is enduring music streamed with extraordinary fidelity.

The site’s goal is to accomplish a lossless stream -- no compression, as sensitive ears would hear directly from the record. That goal is probably at the mercy on the back end by bandwidth cost, and on the front end by consumer bandwidth capacity.

Pureplay Buffet: All of last week's Pureplay of the Day selections in one place. A feast of listening! [See it here]