6/3/13: Townsquare buys AOL Music sites and brings some staff along

Paul Maloney
June 3, 2013 - 11:40am

Broadcaster Townsquare Media has acquired AOL Music online properties The Boot (country music), The BoomBox (Hip Hop and R&B), and NoiseCreep (metal). They've also picked up a comic book-related site, ComicsAlliance.

These properties, according to a Townsquare press release, will be added to the company's portfolio of music and entertainment websites, which includes sites like Loudwire, Taste of Country, PopCrush, ScreenCrush, and Okayplayer. Townsquare has also hired some of the AOL Music staffers from these sites.

Peter Kafka at AllThingsDigital writes, "This is a full-circle move, since Townsquare Media's executive vice president Bill Wilson created all four sites when he used to run AOL's content business, back in 2008 and 2009. Wilson says comScore pegs the four sites' total audience at 3.5 million U.S. uniques; The Boot is the biggest, with 1.4 million."

Wilson came to Townsquare in 2010, along with several former AOL staffers. He led Townsquare's acquisition of MOG's music blog ad network (see RAIN here).

Just over a month ago (see RAIN here), AOL Music was shut down by the corporate parent, and AOL has been selling off content assets it considers "non-core."

Kafka noted, "Uncertain for now is the future of (AOL Music properties) Winamp, the once-famous media player AOL acquired when it bought Spinner and Nullsoft for $400 million in 1999, as well as music site Spinner.com itself."

"Adding these premium brands to Townsquare Media’s comprehensive offering propels our scale beyond today’s 52 million U.S. monthly unique visitors," Townsquare Media Group Chairman and CEO Steven Price said in the press release.

Townsquare owns and operates more than 240 radio stations, and runs over 250 associated websites. Read more in All Things Digital here.

Paul Maloney
June 3, 2013 - 11:40am

Apple has reportedly taken a step closer to launching its online radio service, by securing licenses from both label group Warner Music and music publisher Warner Chappell. Some observers are still looking for a launch at WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference), which begins June 10. Earlier reports had indicated that Apple already had a deal with WMG (see RAIN here).

CNet's Paul Sloan writes today, "The deals reached so far offer far better economics for the music labels and publishers than what they get from Pandora, the product that most closely resembles iRadio."

CNet's sources say Apple -- which had been rumored to be getting a discount -- will pay labels and performers the same per-stream rate as Pandora (currently either $.00120 per song per listener or 25% of gross revenue, whichever is higher; more here). Interestingly, Billboard writes, "The agreement with Warner calls for Apple to compensate the company at higher rates than what is currently paid by most Internet radio services such as Pandora... around 0.16 cents ($.00160), similar to the rate Universal Music Group received."

The new service will net publishers "more than twice the ad share revenue they currently receive from Pandora," says CNet. The New York Times writes, "Publishers... paid about 4% of Pandora’s revenue... want as much as 10% from Apple."

Apple apparently will also share ad revenue with labels, and promises a more seemless way to purchase music via iTunes.

Notably, Apple will supposedly be allowed to enable listeners to "rewind" songs (prohibited by the DMCA's statutory license and all current SoundExchange licenses with various classes of webcasters -- see RAIN's royalty round-up here).

Among major labels and publishers, Apple still needs to secure deals with Universal's music publishing arm (the company already has an agreement with Universal Music Group) and both Sony Music and Sony/ATV (publishing) (more in RAIN here).

Read more in CNet here, The New York Times here,  and in Billboard here.

Paul Maloney
June 3, 2013 - 11:40am

Inside Radio today has an extensive piece on the "tangle" of Internet radio advertising sales.

"Different vendors often touch the same stream and multiple third parties pitch the same ad inventory to buyers," Inside Radio writes. "Increasingly, broadcasters are installing filters and scheduling rules to help untangle the digital ad web for traffic departments and buyers." What's more, companies like TuneIn and AdsWizz themselves will run ads in the streams they aggregate (and those ads could be coming from rep firms like Dial Global or Katz360, which may also be repping the original streams in the first place!). Broadcasters move inventory from vendor to vendor. Webcasters often get less revenue (as more "middle men" are part of the process), and it's harder to make sure listeners aren't getting overloaded by repeated airing of the same ads or campaigns.

"We’ve created a big mess for buyers," Eric Ronning, EVP and chief digital revenue officer at rep firm AdLarge, told the news source. "We’ve unintentionally created a trick welcome mat."

Subscribers can read more at InsideRadio.com.

Paul Maloney
June 3, 2013 - 11:40am

Audio from the recent RAIN Summit Europe event is now available on SoundCloud here, with links on this website (look in the right-hand margin of kurthanson.com).

The recent Summit conference, in Brussels May 23, was RAIN Summit's first full-day European event. It featured speakers like Media UK managing director and "radio futurologist" James Cridland (from the UK), Havas Media head of radio Jean Pierre Cassaing (France), 7digital CEO and founder Ben Drury (UK), and Radionomy CEO Alexandre Saboundjian (Belgium). Panel discussions explored topics like ad sales, listener measurement, mobile and in-dash listening, and social media.

You can see the RAIN Summit Europe full agenda and speakers list here. Audio from this spring's RAIN Summit West (April 7 in Las Vegas) can be found here.

Look for details of RAIN Summit Orlando (including the keynote speaker), September 17, in RAIN soon!