5/22/13: RAIN Summit recap: Rhapsody chief Irwin's quest for The Ultimate Stream

Paul Maloney
May 22, 2013 - 6:20pm

Streaming music service Rhapsody has committed to providing "liner-note-style credits" for every track in its 17 million-plus library, including the names of producers, engineers, composers, session performers, and more (you can read more about this in The New York Times here).

There are likely several reasons why Rhapsody would commit to such a huge undertaking, but one might just be that enhancements like this help make service the center of (listeners') music experience," to quote the company's Jon Irwin. Irwin, Rhapsody International president, gave the second of two keynote addresses at the recent RAIN Summit West event in Las Vegas.

Liner note-style credits would also help the listener and the artist to "connect in a meaningful way," to again paraphrase Irwin -- fundamentally necessary for creating the experience for which consumers will pay. 

The streaming music/Internet radio space is certainly crowded, yet Irwin maintained that none of these companies are "really killing it" from a customer experience perspective, or from a profitability perspective (and he includes his own company in that assessment). "Nobody has nailed it across all content types and all listening modes," he said, to offer what he termed "the Ultimate Stream." That is, the various types of content (music, news, sports, comedy, live radio) a listener might want at different times, in any listening venue or device (in the car, the mobile phone, at home).

Irwin listed what he thought the necessary qualities of the perfect music service interface. It would (be):

  1. deeply personal
  2. drop-dead simple
  3. connect fans to artists, personalities
  4. new yet familiar
  5. easier than piracy
  6. guided by trusted sources
  7. needs to be embraced by artists and personalities.

Yet creating that is just half the challenge. There's the question of creating "a rational business model" he mentioned. That is, balancing the need for momentum and growth, yet "making sure you're following a sustainable business model, in which you're delivering enough value to your listeners so that they'll pay you for the service" (either by accepting ads or paying a subscription fee).

One solution he offered is for streamers to partner with services with which consumers already have "trusted billing relationships" -- like mobile carriers. Rhapsody itself has partnerships with moblie carriers Metro PCS in the U.S., and E-Plus in Germany. The cost to the consumer is decreased (as its subsidized by the carrier), and it's easier to pay because it's rolled into a bill they already pay. Parntering in this way "takes you down off that $10 price point, you can get actual and perceived reductions in well over 50% for consumers and still give them a great experience," Irwin said.

We have audio of Irwin's speech (and all our RAIN Summit West content) available for free via SoundCloud. Look for the links in the right-hand margin of kurthanson.com. Irwin also published an op-ed summarizing his speech in Hybebot here.

Paul Maloney
May 22, 2013 - 6:20pm

Radionomy has brought on former TuneIn Director of Content Scott Fleischer (pictured) as Premium Content Director (beginning in June). As he did at TuneIn, Fleisher will create broadcaster- and content provider-partnerships for the service. Belgian-based Radionomy provides a webcasting platform for professional and amateur webcasters. Fleischer's career experience includes a stint with this publication.

(Radionomy CEO Alexandre Saboundjian will speak at RAIN Summit Europe tomorrow in Brussels, on the Growing Your Online Audience panel.)

Meanwhile, music streaming service Slacker announced today it has named John Hayase its new Chief Product Officer. Hayase will oversee the development of Slacker’s digital music service across all platforms. Most recently VP/Client Solutions with ElasticPath, his career path includes time at EA and Boeing.

Paul Maloney
May 22, 2013 - 6:20pm

Fred Jacobs and Jerry Del Colliano both note this week that radio's "systemic" ambivalence towards the younger set will likely eventually have disastrous results for AM/FM radio.

Jacobs actually refers to "Generation Z's" (today's under-18s), Del Colliano "Millennials" (young adults), but they make a similar point: "When radio loses generations of listeners, its relevance in the world of media options is going to be called into question," Jacobs wrote in his JacoBlog. Del Colliano says what most broadcasters are doing now, in terms of attracting younger demos, is a "losing formula... driving the essential next generation away from radio."

So, what do broadcasters need to do?

"If you want to know what you’ll be doing in a couple of years or so, study teens," Jacobs wrote. To illustrate, he cites the increasingly popular Snapchat photo/social platform -- mostly ignored by radio.

On his Inside Music Media blog, Del Colliano cranked out ten action steps for broadcasters to better speak to teens and young adults, including reformulating the approach towards "morning shows," reinventing radio's "formatics," and building content designed around a "two minutes or less" attention span.

"Fix what's on the air, buy more years and then personally escort your newfound Millennial listeners to your next business -- digital content," he advised.

Jacobs concludes: "Because if you don’t do the research and take the time to listen and learn from Gen Z, you lose powerful insights into what may be right around the corner – your corner."

Read Fred Jacbos' JacoBlog here, and register for Inside Music Media here.

Paul Maloney
May 22, 2013 - 6:20pm

"The past is about radio. The present and future are about audio."

That's not Pandora founder Tim Westergren saying that, or even RAIN publisher Kurt Hanson. That's John Shelton, president/CEO of Strata, the leading buying and selling platform for all types of media.

Shelton wrote an op-ed in MediaPost to explain his company's decision to transition to use of the term "'audio' to encompass all of the current audio platforms in use, including traditional radio, online streaming radio, and music streaming Web sites, such as Pandora and Spotify."

He cites his company's surveys that show "a consistent decrease over the past 18 quarters in ad buyers’ interest in radio advertising," while American's use of online radio and other digital platforms is growing rapidly.

"Some traditional stations are actually seeing growth again -- not due to traditional listening but Internet streaming," he wrote. "Advertisers should take note." Some apparently have, as he cites the RAB's 2012 digital revenues figure of $767 million, up 63% from 2009. Likewise, first-quarter ad buys on Pandora through Strata were up 35%.

Read Shelton's piece at MediaPost here.