D Story

Pureplay of the Day: The World of Blues

Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 11:50am

We love us some blues rock. It inspires euphorically ungrammatical declarations.

Not since we bestowed Pureplay of the Day on BellyUp4Blues have we found an Internet station with the same outstanding quality of programming, paired with a more immersive website.

Inspired by radio (“ON AIR NOW”),The World of Blues (www.theworldofblues.com) engages human DJs to present its playlists -- only two of them so far, but 24/7 human hosting is the station’s aspiration. The site is ambitious, shaping up as a info-social music portal. Registration is encouraged, which is unusual for a pureplay music channel. Registering gives you access to the chat room, where listeners can hang out in a decidedly old-style social environment. A listener map shows where in the world current listeners are located.

Playlists are archived, which assists music discovery, and a nifty scrolling module continuously updates the last-ten played tracks. The site proudly publicizes its recent library additions, and also facilitates indie-musician submissions.

The whole experience is engaging, in a Web 1.0 sort of way … the lack of modernism somehow harmonizes with the bluesy music. But the main thing is programming. This morning we’ve heard Bill Perry, Walter Trout, Dan Aykroyd (!), Dave Fields, The No Refund Band, Mitch Woods, and others. This is nicely-curated, straight-ahead blues rock for people who are serious about their feel-good music.

Two non-U.S. music services make gains

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 12:15pm

Bloom.fm, a British subscription music service that launched almost exactly a year ago, reached 500,000 registered users. Bloom operates a freemium model with a no-charge service supported by three subscription levels, the least expensive of which costs one British pound per month. Users pay more for additional “borrowing” (downloading for offline listening) privileges, up to 10 pounds a month.

Bloom.fm houses a music library of 22-million tracks. It is a mobile-only service for now, with apps for Apple and Android devices, and a web app on the way according to the site FAQ. Bloom apps live up to the service name with music genres represented as flower petals.

Meanwhile, Paris-based service Deezer announced today having acquired five-million paying subscribers. Deezer’s music library has grown to 30-million tracks. Deezer is not available in the U.S. but competes with Spotify in Europe.

TechCrunch notes that Deezer was at the two-million subscriber level a year ago, so has more than doubled is paid usage. Spotify disclosed six-million paying subscribers in March of this year. Alongside the subscriber growth announcement, Deezer is releasing an app upgrade that includes a new music discovery feature that bears some similarity to Spotify. 

Pandora’s October audience metrics vs. the recent study of iTunes Radio threat

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - 11:50am

Pandora released disclosed its audience metrics for October last night (see RAIN coverage here). The much-watched measurement of “active listeners” slipped 2.5% from September, from 72.7-million to 70.9-million. That metric is significant for the first full month in which Pandora and iTunes Radio operated concurrently. We wanted to circle back with Michael Graham of Cannacord Genuity, who authored a study of the near-term threat that iTunes Radio posed to Pandora. (See our original interview here.) Graham predicted that Pandora risked losing one percent of its listeners to iTunes Radio.

This morning we asked Graham how the just-released October numbers match up with the research prediction. His response: 

We were a little surprised by how many active listeners we lost, but were also surprised by how strong the listening hours were. The drop-off in listeners is more than we estimated might happen. The part we didn’t predict is this: [Pandora] lost a large number of low-engagement iOS users who, we believe, were added more recently, then decided to try iTunes Radio. We believe this because the average number of hours per active listener expanded sharply, from 18.8 during September to 20.5 during October. Part of that can be explained by the listener cap on mobile coming off. But the bigger part is likely that the listeners who went over to iTunes Radio were low-hours listeners. We believe that the overall number of listening hours is in good shape."

A research note from Cannacord Genuity in response to Pandora’s metrics also mentions non-iOS Pandora use: “We are somewhat surprised at the 1.8 million sequential decline in active listeners. That said, we believe growth from Android listeners was strong, and we believe the company may be seeing some stabilization on the iOS side already.”

(Graham is an analyst for the investment firm Cannacord Genuity, and he discloses that the company is bullish on Pandora. Research on this topic supports the company’s Buy recommendation.)

Pureplay of the Day: VinylEars

Monday, November 4, 2013 - 1:10pm

Audiophile alert. Also, classic rock alert. Oh, and vinyl bandwagon alert. VinylEars asserts to be the first all-vinyl online radio station, and that claim gets no contradiction from us. In support of that audiophilic priority, the station offers a 128k streaming bitrate … at the low end. We are tapping our feet to the 320k stream, and if your bandwidth is tight you can push it down a notch to 256k, which is higher-end than most pureplay radio.

Our morning has been soundtracked by Elton John, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Yes, Steely Dan, Joan Armatrading, The Beatles, John Cougar Mellencamp, CSN&Y, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, and other retro tracks. The VinyEars site does not explain whether there is an oldies programming agenda at work, or merely an oldies vinyl collection at hand. No matter -- the result is enduring music streamed with extraordinary fidelity.

The site’s goal is to accomplish a lossless stream -- no compression, as sensitive ears would hear directly from the record. That goal is probably at the mercy on the back end by bandwidth cost, and on the front end by consumer bandwidth capacity.

Pureplay Buffet: All of last week's Pureplay of the Day selections in one place. A feast of listening! [See it here]

RAIN Hotspots: Week of Oct 28 - Nov. 1

Sunday, November 3, 2013 - 11:35am

Here are the top five, most-read article this week, published at any time.

Dave Allen blog-debates David Byrne about Spotify (10/21): Continued interest in Spotify verbal wars puts the longest-running of this weeks Hotspots in the top position. [READ]

Edison Research documents the “barrage of new” (10/28): RAIN talked with Larry Rosin, head of Edison Research, about the company’s recently released video interviews of new-car buyers struggling to understand their digital music systems. Where does radio fit in? [READ

Survey and Interview: iTunes Radio little threat to Pandora (10/29): RAIN spoke with the author of a survey studying the experiences and intentions of iTunes Radio users who also use Pandora. Is there room for both services? [READ

REVIEW: New Rhapsody features in Android (10/30): An important update to Rhapsody’s Android experience offers sound equalization and backskipping in Radio mode. How do these features stack up? [READ

Microsoft’s new Web Playlist dismantles traditional “station” listening (10/22): RAIN readers show persistent interest in Microsoft’s Xbox Music feature which can turn text-only websites into music playlists. [READ

Pandora becomes Chromecast-enabled

Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 12:30pm

Distribution. For most music services, the important distribution channels outside the computer are mobile and cars.

Developing for mobile means creating apps for the two major device platforms: iOS and Android. In some cases format-specific app designs are made for phones and tablets.

Extending into cars can mean enabling mobile app transfer to a digital dashboard, or forging automaker-specific business deals for placing the music service natively in the car’s audio entertainment system.

Distributing into the television might be lower priority for music services, but when a distribution link makes it easy, there’s no reason not to do it. Google makes it easy to bundle into Chromecast, and Pandora has done it. The Internet radio service joins video platforms Netflix and Hulu as Chromecast options.

Chromecast is a thumb-sized HDMI device that plugs into the TV. It looks like a flash drive, and costs 35 dollars -- one of the most startling bargains in technology, considering its mighty power. Chromecast enables streaming of any Internet content being viewed on any device using the Chrome browser. Chromecast partners (like Pandora, as of now) get a Chromecast icon in their apps, giving the user one-click transfer to the television away from the device’s browser.

Listening to music on the TV might not have mainstream uptake, but in living rooms equipped with home theater sound systems, it could catch on. Pandora is taking the lead here, as it has with in-car distribution.

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