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Cumulus acquires stake in Rdio, will launch free, ad-supported music service

Monday, September 16, 2013 - 10:55am

Major broadcast radio group Cumulus and online subscription streaming service Rdio have forged a deal that gives Cumulus a significant online outlet, and not only affords Rdio access to the broadcaster's music programming, but allows it to launch a free, ad-supported service in the U.S.

Cumulus will sell ad inventory for the free service. The new service will likely feature a combination of Internet radio and on-demand listening.

No cash changes hands in the new deal. According to a press statement, "Cumulus will obtain a significant equity stake in Pulser Media, Rdio's parent company, in exchange for exclusive content, media and on-air promotional commitments over a five year period."

"This is our digital play," Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey told The New York Times in a joint interview Friday with Rdio chief Drew Larner.

Cumulus operates 525 AM and FM stations. Cumulus station streams are available on Clear Channel's iHeartRadio platform.

Dickey told the paper, "We’re trying to be much more active in the audio ecosystem than just passively handing our streams over. That has severe limitations in terms of our ability to monetize."

Rdio launched in 2010 by Janus Friis, the co-creator of Skype. It's available in 31 countries. Its most direct competitors are services like Spotify, Google Music All Access, Rhapsody, and Mog.

The New York Times has more here.

Songza says it launched ad-free pay version in response to listeners' requests

Monday, July 1, 2013 - 1:40pm

Songza, the pureplay webcaster that offers the listener curated music streams based on their moods and current activities, is launching a $0.99/week premium version of its service, "Club Songza."

The subscription version of Songza is ad-free and offers twice as many "song skips" as the free, ad-supported version. It's also available on the web and mobile devices alike.

Songza CEO and co-founder Elias Roman told TechCrunch the move was a response to listener demand.

The ad-supported option will remain for Songza's nearly five million monthly active users, the company reports. Songza is available in the U.S. and Canada only.

To compare with Songza (about $4.30/month), Pandora's ad-free/higher-quality audio Pandora One service is $3.99/month, but only $36 for the entire year (so, $3/month for those willing to commit). Pandora listeners who listen for free on mobile devices are given the option of paying $0.99 for usage above the 40-hour/month cap. Apple's forthcoming iTunes Radio will be ad-free for iTunes Match customers, who pay $24.99/year (slightly more than $2/month). Premium versions of on-demand services like Spotify and MOG begin at $4.99/month (but those don't include mobile apps).

According to Hypebot (here), last week Songza also partnered with the Home Shopping Network to provide background music for the site's msotly older female shoppers. The deal includes HSN.com, with 12 million unique visitors monthly, Ballard Designs, Frontgate, and Garnet Hill.

Read more in TechCrunch here.

Spotify would offer free, ad-supported Internet radio in markets Pandora can't access

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 3:35pm

Global music streaming service leader Spotify will reportedly soon offer ad-supported streaming radio in every country in which it operates.

Pandora, the leader in Internet radio, hasn't successfully negotiated licenses to operate outside the U.S., (and recently) Australia and New Zealand.

Spotify's main service is subscription-based, on-demand streaming. They do, however, offer a free, ad-supported, non-interactive streaming radio service as well. And while the service hasn't generated many rave reviews (we don't know about actual usage), especially when compared to Pandora, the move gives Spotify access to an audience Pandora doesn't have.

Three anonymous sources told Bloomberg Spotify is close to finalizing deals with record labels for the service, which is planned to launch next month.

Read more in Bloomberg here.

Free Last.fm online radio to be limited to U.S., UK, and Germany - and only on its website

Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 3:15pm

CBS Interactive-owned music service Last.fm has announced it will shut down its online radio service in all but eight countries, "due to licensing restrictions."

While U.S., UK, and German listeners will still be able to use the Last.fm radio service free via the website, radio via the Last.fm desktop application in those nations will become solely a subscription-based service (ad-supported free radio via apps had been available to users in those countries). Mobile access to Last.fm radio (since April 2011) has been subscription-only, and will remain so.

Elsewhere in the world, Last.fm's radio service has been subscription-only since 2009. It will remain so for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Brazil. But elsewhere, Last.fm online radio will entirely cease on January 15.

The cost of licensing copyright sound recordings has always been, and continues to be, inhibitive to online music companies in the U.S. and elsewhere.

2012 marked the tenth anniversary of Last.fm's founding. It was purchased by CBS in 2007, and remains based in England.

Last.fm also announced an upcoming revamped desktop client.

Last.fm features a music recommender system called "Audioscrobbler," which compiles details of users' music habits ("scrobbling") -- on Internet radio stations, local files, or portable devices -- and builds a detailed profile of each user's musical tastes. It's this database that powers Last.fm's music recommendation capability.

Read the Last.fm announcement here.

Mobile music ad revs forecast to hit 86% by 2016; workforce of ad-supported Net economy doubled 2007-2011

Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 12:15am

The U.S. mobile music industry will see its ad-driven revenues gain share over the next four years, accounting for 86% of all such revenues by 2016, if eMarketer's forecast is correct. By that time, overall mobile music revenues will hit $1.68 billion (that's from $429.3 million this year), says eMarketer. 

Ads already account for nearly 70% of mobile music revenues (the rest are split between subscription fees (17.2%) and per-song download charges (14.1%)).

Read more on the study from eMarketer here.

Meanwhile, a study commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) shows the ad-supported Internet economy workforce doubled between 2007 and 2011 (from a million to two million). Taking into account jobs that indirectly benefit from the Internet, that number grows to 5.1 million.

Interestingly, "most of the job growth in the Internet economy happened not in the large companies like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, but in smaller ventures and one-man shops sprinkled across the country. These entrepreneurial outfits – a combination of eBay sellers, self-employed web designers and app makers — contributed 375,000 of the two million jobs directly produced by the Internet ecosystem. App-making alone accounted for the equivalent of 35,000 full-time jobs, though the work was actually spread out over many more part-timers," reports a The Wall Street Journal Digits blog (which you can read here).

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