9/9/13: Here are the finalists for the 2013 RAIN Internet Radio Awards

Paul Maloney
September 9, 2013 - 11:45am

Right after the July 4th holiday we opened the competition for the fourth annual RAIN Internet Radio Awards, and began accepting applications from radio stations, pureplay webcast services, and stream aggregators from around the world. Judges began reviewing those submissions last month, and last week we revealed those semi-finalists that had made it to the second round of consideration.

Today, we'd like to announce those services that have advanced to the round of finalists, from amongst which our judges will choose the winner of each category's award.

The RAIN Internet Radio Awards were created to recognize the achievements of webcasters and broadcasters in our innovative and quickly-growing field. This year, we added a fifth award, for International Excellence in Online Audio. As always, we'll announce the winners and present the awards at the RAIN Summits fall event in conjunction with the RAB/NAB Radio Show -- this year in Orlando on September 17th.

Congratulations and good luck to all the 2013 finalists:

Best Single Stream Webcaster

Best Streaming Broadcast Station

Best Overall Digital Strategy

International Excellence in Online Audio

Best Overall Online Radio Service

Read more about the RAIN Internet Radio Awards here. All of our latest info on RAIN Summit Orlando, including speaker list, panel and presentation descriptions, and registration link, is here.

Paul Maloney
September 9, 2013 - 11:45am

Apple tomorrow will hold its press event at which (most expect) it will unveil its new iPhone models. Shortly thereafter, the new mobile operating system will go live, and with it, the long-awaited iTunes Radio Internet radio service (more in RAIN here).

ITunes Radio represents a shift in direction for Apple's music interests. Apple's most successful musical service, undoubtedly, has been its iTunes Music Store, with which it has become the world's largest music retailer. And while iTunes Radio doesn't mean Apple is abandoning download sales by any means, it likely shows that Apple understands the "disruption" in music consumption, as music moves from a "product" to a "service." Billboard's Glenn Peoples (online, and in further detail, in the magazine) describes Apple's move in terms of Clayton Christensen's influential book The Innovator's Dilemma.

[RAIN publisher Kurt Hanson has written and spoken about applying the book's ideas in Internet radio in the past, like here and here.]

Peoples wrote: "In order to succeed in the streaming marketplace, Apple has to risk killing the music download business it has dominated for the last ten years. With the launch of iTunes Radio, Apple shows it understands the future of music is streaming. iTunes Radio is not necessarily an iTunes-killer -- Internet radio is generally believed to complement music purchases -- but is a first step toward the kind of streaming service that could eventually replace the iTunes Music Store."

Read more online here.

Brad Hill
September 9, 2013 - 11:45am

Microsoft waded boldly into new waters today by extending its Xbox Music service to non-Windows mobile devices, and eliminating subscription fees from the desktop web version.

The maneuver comes one day before Apple’s iPhone/iOS 7 event on Tuesday. The timing seems intended to counter the soon-to-be-launched iTunes Radio service, while also driving a stake into the ground occupied by Spotify and Rdio.

As of today, Xbox Music has a familiar two-tiered model. Unsubscribed users (the free tier) can hear music through the desktop interface, but not in the mobile app. Subscribed users (the payment tier) can listen to the "Radio" portion of the service (formerly called Smart DJ), and will, in future versions, be able to download tracks to their smartphones for offline playback.

By releasing Xbox Music apps on iOS and Android platforms, Microsoft is implicitly acknowledging the distant third-place position of Windows mobile devices, and that Xbox gamers likely do not carry Windows phones. Stepping into competing ecosystems is a necessary distribution tactic to fully engage the existing Xbox user base.

While it’s easy to interpret the expansion of Xbox Music as a "Watch out Spotify" moment, Microsoft’s service is currently rudimentary compared to the more sophisticated Spotify client and app experiences. Entrenched users of existing services have invested in their favorite platforms by developing social relationships, making service-specific playlists, and downloading subscription tracks for offline listening. This "service equity" immunizes the platform from user churn to some extent.

At the same time, Spotify and all other independent listening platforms have reason to fear the usage clout of the major ecosystem companies -- Apple (iOS), Google (Android), Microsoft (Windows 8.x), and Amazon (Prime, if it ever gets into Internet radio) and their massive built-in audiences.

Paul Maloney
September 9, 2013 - 11:45am

A blog called Music Machinery has published charts of Google search trends for several major online music services, which indicate which are growing in popularity, and those whose best days appear to be behind them.

The graphs represent trends in the number of Google searches for the service since 2005. Each is an "index." Instead of real numbers of searches, the vertical axis of each graph runs from 0 to 100, with 100 representing the service's "peak search interest" moment. Thus, services can't be compared to each other for raw popularity using these charts -- they only show trends over the past eight and a half years.

Interestingly, iTunes looks pretty flat since 2010. That may represent the saturation of its install-base (while iTunes does exist on the web, most users have it installed on their device, and thus have no need to search for it on Google). It will be interesting to watch how this trend changes with the introduction of iTunes Radio later this month.

It's not surprising to see Pandora's steady growth since 2006, but it is also perhaps leveling off. Some other services showing steady growth: Spotify, Rdio, SiriusXM, iHeartRadio, SoundCloud, Songza, 8tracks, and Shazam. Not so good for: Last.fm, Rhapsody, Deezer, Grooveshark, Turntable.fm, MOG, and Playlist.com.

Look at these grahps here.