12/2/13: Google leaks “Music Pass” YouTube service

Brad Hill
December 2, 2013 - 12:15pm

Although we and most other observers have been presuming an imminent YouTube music service to be ordained fact, it is merely a widely-reported rumor. That rumor got a strengthened spine when the Android Police website performed a “teardown” (examination of code) on the latest version of YouTube’s Android app.

Scrutinizing code can sometimes reveal placeholders of functions planned for the future, but not yet implemented. To code-savvy snoopers, those strings are like Easter eggs. In this case, they offer scant but intriguing glimpses that could match up to the rumored music service. 

The findings:

  • A name: Music Pass;
  • A reference to offline playback, a feature usually associated with subscription listening platforms;
  • A feature referenced as “background listening,” which doesn’t make much sense in a video service, but is perfectly sensible for a music service;
  • A feature called “Uninterrupted music,” with this marketing string: “No ads on millions of songs.”

Android Police also found graphic icons associated with the placeholder features.

In light of these revelations, we continue to presume that Google is readying a music subscription service on its YouTube platform, and our core question holds firm. What added value will Google bring to the service which might persuade YouTube users to pay for a platform which is already free, opulently stocked with music, and the go-to source of listening for teens? We need more Easter eggs to answer that question.

Brad Hill
December 2, 2013 - 12:15pm

Tom Taylor’s NOW newsletter reports that Mike Pallad, EVP of Sales at Cumulus Media, is leaving Cumulus for iTunes Radio. Taylor’s blurb cites an internal call to Cumulus managers. As of this writing there is no official announcement or press release, but a RAIN source affirms the news.

Mike Pallad is deeply groomed and accomplished in broadcast, and his reported move to Apple, a giant tech company with a music outlet, is an indication of of the substance, seriousness, and scale of the advertising efforts at the major pureplays.

Pallad’s resume tells a story of executive ascension at Cumulus, Citadel Broadcasting before that, the Katz Media Group, and Emmis Communications. He has held positions ranging from sales manager of WQCD-FM (a New York smooth jazz station), to regional sales management, to head of all sales at Cumulus.

Brad Hill
December 2, 2013 - 12:15pm

AccuRadio, the Internet radio platform with over 900 home-curated genre stations, compiled user rankings in the Google Play store of Android music apps, and determined that AccuRadio is the highest-rated app among radio and music subscription apps. (Disclosure: AccuRadio CEO Kurt Hanson was the founding editor of RAIN.)

AccuRadio’s combined rankings in Android’s five-star system add up to 4.75 stars. Other streamers which landed in the top five included Songza, with its “life moments” concierge-style playlisting, and Digitally Imported, a boutique Internet radio operation specializing in the electronica genre.

John Gehron, COO of AccuRadio, told us, “It’s great when our in-house team’s work is validated by our listeners. Our tech team and music programmers have worked hard to make the user experience enjoyable.”

According to the press release, the study intended to be comprehensive of North America-based businesses whose apps have been updated within the last six months. The result is a user-ranking survey of 57 Android music and radio apps.

A few other points of note:

  • Music ID services Shazam and Soundhound were among the six most-reviewed apps in the cohort.
  • Pandora received twice as many user rankings (1.1-million) across all stars as the next most-reviewed app, Shazam (545,000).
  • In the top five most-reviewed apps, the lowest-scoring was Google Play Music, which came in 35th.
  • TuneIn and iHeartRadio, the leading digital radio aggregators, were the 7th and 8th best-ranked, respectively.
Brad Hill
December 2, 2013 - 12:15pm

From hyperlocal to global -- that is a core potential of the Internet. For Radio Sausalito, a small AM station whose signal is confined mainly to southern Marin County, webcasting is less about reaching a worldwide audience than making the signal available to local listeners wherever their daily routines take them. But for anyone who tunes in, the programming is unique and deftly curated.

Listening is accomplished via a pop-out in-browser player, or with MP3 and iTunes streams. We are hearing jazz this morning, heavy on Sinatra and other American Songbook selections, with some straight-ahead ensemble work tastefully mixed in. The program lineup is heavily slanted in the jazzy direction across several eras. Stay tuned long enough and you’ll also hear tidal reports and local music event news. There is something charming about listening to a jazz station that also discusses local migrating bird patterns.

Radio Sausalito archives and podcasts three of its non-music programs, one of which (“The Field Trip”) is an arts and entertainment review program.

The station was started by Jonathan Westerling 12 years ago in his home. The station operates with a volunteer staff, accepts CD submissions, and solicits donations in the tradition of a pureplay.

Brad Hill
December 2, 2013 - 12:15pm

Worthy of note:

  • Doc Searls, author and one of the first cognescenti bloggers (since 1999), has published a prescription for radio in the Internet era called “How to rescue radio.” In it, Searls seems taken aback by the changing definition of “radio,” and particularly offended by Apple’s iTunes Radio, which he calls, “...a body-snatch on all of radio, as well as a straight-up knock-off of Pandora.” He’s late to the game with that objection, and not exactly correct about the knock-off part. But the substance comes down the page when Searls lays out a multi-part plan for keeping broadcast radio prominent as users shift to digital and mobile. His suggestions are provocative, but not gratuitously so. Searls has clearly brought years of experience to his perspective of old media navigating new-media waters.
  • Music subscription services Spotify and Deezer are head-to-head competitors, but American listeners don’t feel the competitive tension since Deezer is not (yet) available in the U.S. (Many reports indicate that Deezer will migrate to the states early in 2014, perhaps on the wings of a telecom partnership.) For our European readers, Deezer and Spotify are both important pureplay platforms with large audiences across many countries. In that context, Liam Boogar’s comparative review in Rude Baguette (“France’s Startup Blog”) is interesting and well-done. Cut to the end: Boogar started out this piece of work as a Spotify subscriber, but ended up ditching Spotify for Deezer for what he perceives as better music-discovery tools.