RAIN 11/21: Radio One launches curated, socially-focused web music service

Michael Schmitt
November 21, 2011 - 1:05pm

Radio One's BlackPlanet RadioRadio One subsidiary Interactive One today announced the launch of BlackPlanet Radio, a socially-focused music site with user-created playlists. The site is powered by on-demand music service Songza.

BlackPlanet Radio (found here) features Radio One's 53 radio station streams plus playlists created by Radio One experts and figures: DJs, artists, celebrities and others. Those playlists are organized by mood (like funky, sweet and cocky), activities (House Party, Being Creative), decades and genres.

Users can create their own playlists as well and share them with friends via Facebook. However, users can't listen to their own playlists -- only their friends can. "The restriction circumvents being classified as an on-demand music service, which would require paying significantly higher music royalties," writes Inside Radio.

Interactive One president Tom Newman says the feature lets users "play DJ." Radio One's president Barry Mayo stated, "We believe the best digital music radio services will tap into people and communities -- not just rely on algorithms."

"In some ways it’s a throwback to the way radio was programmed in the early days of FM," commented Inside Radio, "when musically knowledgeable DJs picked the music and developed fans based on their ability to artfully weave it together. Only now listeners can get in on the action too and rise above the fray as tastemakers."

Radio One purchased BlackPlanet parent company CommunityConnect in 2008 for around $38 million (find more coverage from Mashable here).

You can find Radio One's press release here. To read more of Inside Radio's coverage and analysis, subscribe here.

Paul Maloney
November 21, 2011 - 1:05pm

Last week Amazon made big news when the latest version of its Kindle e-book reader, the Kindle Fire, shipped. Actually, all the new functionality of the Kindle Fire makes it more like a tablet computer than a mere e-reader. And apparently, it's a really good Internet radio device.Kindle Fire

"The Kindle Fire is almost perfect for my favorite kind of media: Internet radio," wrote industry observer Matthew Lasar in Radio Survivor. "Its relatively small size, nice WiFi interface, attractive display, and simple speaker outlet make it a great dedicated broadband radio device."

The device is built on a "forked" version of the Android mobile OS, and as such, can run various Android apps (available in the Amazon Appstore). It can stream video, and offers a full-function web browser and built-in e-mail application. 

Taking advantage of the Kindle Fire's smaller size and lower price-point, it's more logical to use it for a dedicated, specialized purpose like Internet radio than, say, and Apple iPad, reasons Lasar. Internet radio Android apps also apparently work well, and look good, on the device.

"Pandora looks much classier on the device than it does on either my Droid X or my desktop screen. Leaning the Kindle horizontally against a paper book (oh the irony) just above my keyboard gives me easy access to the standard Pandora choices: like, dislike, skip, pause, and next. There’s plenty of blank space across the screen—no visual crowding, even with the ads... Ditto for TuneIn Radio... (It) looks and sounds great on the Kindle Fire. For me, TuneIn’s desktop interface is too big and its smart phone interface is too small. But on Kindle Fire it looks just right—just like an Internet radio interface ought to display."

Our own AccuRadio, by the way, worked and sounded great when we accessed it through the Kindle Fire's web browser (AccuRadio does not yet offer a dedicated Android app). What works even better is the beta version of our new AccuRadio user interface, available at new.accuradio.com

And, if you're a fan of on-demand streaming service Rdio: You can access it through the Kindle Fire. Or, might want to pick up the new Kobo Vox tablet, as it comes preloaded on that device (read more here).

Lasar, who wrote the Radio Survivor piece, teaches U.S. history and broadcasting/telecommunications policy at the UC Santa Cruz. He's written two books about Pacifica Radio, and also writes for Arstechnica.com. Read his column in Radio Survivor here.

Michael Schmitt
November 21, 2011 - 1:05pm

Roqbot's iPhone appCrowdsourcing company Roqbot has partnered with The Gap to let customers program the music in the chain’s Chestnut St. store in San Francisco.

It works like this, writes Eliot Van Buskirk at Evolver.fm: "Every person who checks in using the Roqbot [iPhone or Android] app alters the music programming with their Facebook Likes and Profile listings, Last.fm scrobbles, Pandora bookmarks, and/or the music on their smartphone."

Customers can also request music directly from an approved pool of music.

"For The Gap and other retailers apparently to come, customizing music based on customers’ taste is an easy way to keep shoppers happy, and possibly to make them shopping longer," writes Van Buskirk, who has more coverage here.

Paul Maloney
November 21, 2011 - 1:05pm

Former Live365 exec Rags Gupta suggests the reason we see on-demand music services starting-up in Europe (and not, say, Silicon Valley) is that it's simply easier to license the content there than in the U.S. As such, "investors in Europe aren’t as jaded when it comes to music startups as their U.S. counterparts," writes Gupta. "Index Ventures stands out in this regard. Bolstered by their success with Last.fm, they’ve added Songkick, SoundCloud, and RJDJ to their portfolio in recent years."

This apparent hospitality towards on-demand start-ups doesn't translate to Internet radio, unfortunately. Fragmented licensing regimes from country to country make it a virtually impossibly expensive and complex matter to license music separately for every country. This means many U.S. webcasters (e.g. Pandora) simply don't make their streams accessible outside the United States. 

Last.fm (purchased by CBS for $280 million) and Spotify (now with more than 2 million paying customers across the 8 countries in which it's available) are two obvious examples of music start-ups coming out of Europe. Another is French-based Deezer.

"The minute that I tell the major music labels that I am not interested in signing for rights to the U.S., the negotiations over terms become much, much easier," Deezer CEO Axel Dauchez recently told Reuters. The company apparently has no plans to launch in the United States. 

Read Gupta's piece in GigaOm here.