Rdio launches free on-demand music streaming in Canada

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 1:10pm

On-demand streaming service Rdio today began offering Canadians six months free but limited access to its service, without ads. This is for full use of the service, including on-demand listening, playlist creating, social media sharing, etc. 

Free streaming is available through the Web or Rdio's desktop apps for Mac and Windows. A meter at the top of user profile pages lets people know how much free music they have remaining each month.

Rdio's subscription plans range from $4.99/month to the $22.99/month for three people "family" plan.

Survey indicates Pandora listening not taking away from time with AM/FM

Friday, November 30, 2012 - 1:00pm

Vision Critical's new research indicates Pandora listeners spend more time listening to broadcast radio than non-Pandora listeners. What's more, on average, Pandora listeners' say their time spent with AM/FM radio has held steady over the last two years.

The charts from the research summary show that while non-Pandora users in the U.S. report spending just under 13 hours a week listening to broadcast, the average Pandora user tops 19 hours a week with terrestrial radio -- 50% more than the non-Pandora fan. The second chart shows that even over time, the average Pandora user reports spending slightly more time with AM/FM now than 2 years ago (or at least, is not spending significantly less time with AM/FM).

It's probably not controversial to say the typical Pandora listener is more comfortable with technology than the average person. So, perhaps it's not surprising the survey revealed Pandora listeners as much more likely to listen to AM/FM on digital devices than non-Pandora listeners.

A recent NPD Group study (here) seemed to show Net radio usage is cutting into music listening on more traditional media -- including AM/FM. Note that the Vision Critical study didn't ask about the format of respondents' on-air listening (music, news, talk, sports, etc.).

Pandora listeners in another recent survey (conducted on the webcaster's behalf) strongly favored the service over AM/FM regarding which was more "unique and different," "innovative," "engaging," and "connects me withe the music I love" (study here). But Pandora listeners told Vision Critical AM/FM has the edge in "easy," "convenient," and "helps me feel connected."

Vancouver-based Vision Critical surveyed more than one-thousand U.S. adults for the Canadian Association of Radio Broadcasters, "to better understand the potential impact on Canadian radio tuning in the event that Pandora, or a service like it, is launched in Canada."

See the Vision Critical summary report, "What Pandora Means for Radio," here.

RAIN Analysis: Naturally, we wanted to follow up on this with Vision Critical SVP Jeff Vidler. After all, the results of this study seem counterintuitive in light of Arbitron reports showing radio listening per capita declining -- declines that seem to correspond Pandora's gains.

Vidler suggested three hypotheses:

1. Interest in music is not a "zero sum" game. Flash back 100+ years ago and the consensus was that recorded music would kill live music performance. Then, radio was going to kill the recorded music industry. Then, in-car 8-tracks/cassettes/CDs were going to kill radio. But today, music is bigger than ever. Each new technology and platform simply provides a new way and a new reason for music fans to indulge in music — it’s additive. So it would seem to be for Pandora.

2. The enduring lure of broadcast radio is connection, not music. Pandora listeners, like most other folks, want to feel connected to other people, to what’s going on in their community and elsewhere. Broadcast radio does a great job at that. And, as music fans, they also want to feel connected to the music that other people like. Broadcast radio performs well there too. (The recent success of CHR radio may be the best evidence of this.) So, on this basis, it’s not that surprising that they might be above-average listeners to broadcast radio.

3. Arbitron isn’t capturing the full gamut of online AM/FM tuning. Do PPM meter-keepers, who listen through their headphones on their PC at work, or on the app on their smartphone, always remember to plug in their headphone insert? The study indicates that Pandora listeners are way above-average in listening to AM/FM on digital platforms, so it’s possible that Arbitron may not be capturing all their listening."

All three hypotheses make sense. The third is particularly interesting -- maybe apparent losses in per-capita AM/FM listening in recent years are really just an artifact of increases in headphone-based listening! -- KH

Songza gaining traction in Canada since August launch

Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 9:00am

Today Songza has announced that since its August launch in Canada (here), they've exceeded 900,000 iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad installs in Canada, accounting for the majority of the over 160,000,000 streams served so far to one million registered users there. And, according to company metrics, the average time per visit for Canadians is 3.66% longer than that of U.S. listeners.

Songza is the webcaster known for its "music concierge" interface that offers playlists based on the time of day and a listener's likely activities.

Songza reveals that when listeners browse by "Mood," "Mellow" is the top choice on both sides of the 49th Parallel. (Americans’ next most-popular mood category is "Happy," while Canadians’ is "Sexual.") The top "Activity" stations for both Americans and Canadians are Working- and studying-related; but the third most popular for Canadians is "Cardio Workouts" while it's "Partying" in the U.S.

One month in, CBC's online music service facing funding, royalty, and content pressures

Friday, March 30, 2012 - 12:15pm

Just a month after the launch of the Canadian Broadcast Company's brand new online music service, CBC Music (you can see our coverage of it here), the service is facing the pressures of cuts in its funding, calls from songwriters and publishers for higher royalties, and from artists questioning the CBC's dedication to Canadian art.

Canada's government has announced its new budget, which slashes CBC funding 10% -- dropping more than $100 million of its $1.16 billion -- which a article suggests "will no doubt have a tremendous effect" on CBC Music.

Meanwhile, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) is calling to revisit CBC's "flat-rate" royalties deal. Commercial radio and other online services in Canada pay royalties "per-song;" as it technically doesn't earn any profits, the CBC gets the flat rate. SOCAN argues the sheer volume of music CBC is offering for free makes a flat fee unrealistic. Some artists and competitors agree.

"As there is a new format [live-streaming] and the CBC is currently paying a nominal fee, it only seems fair that a new rate be negotiated," said singer-songwriter Jim Cuddy. "What concerns private industry is that in the face of massive cutbacks CBC sees fit to launch a new service that won’t generate meaningful revenue," said Rob Braide, of Stingray (more in RAIN here), a commercial webcaster.

Read more about SOCAN's calls for new royalty terms in the Globe and Mail here.

Finally, while Canada's "CanCon" law requires broadcasters to play at least 35% Canadian-produced content, this doesn't apply to online programming, including the CBC's new service. "Therefore (there is) no requirement to direct that percentage of overall royalties to the Canadian music industry... even though CBC Music uses tax dollars for its royalty payments," writes While some maintain the mandate of the CBC itself ensures its relevance to Canada's people and music, some would like a content requirement formalized for online.

"We come at everything with a Canadian perspective and the focus is much more heavily Canadian than it would be on most surfaces," CBC spokesperson Steve Pratt explains.

But artist Paul Banwatt disagrees: "The whole point of CanCon is the recognition that we're a small population and we want to make sure that our voices, with distinctly Canadian things to say, aren't drowned out. Cultural expression crosses borders more easily now than ever, so you would think the need for protection is at its height."

Read more from here.

CMW speakers: "As an industry, we need to embrace digital media... the opportunity is now for radio to reinvent itself"

Monday, March 26, 2012 - 11:40am

Canadian radioCanadian radio's digital future is coming and, though what that future may be remains unclear, it's up to broadcasters to shape it. That was the "big idea" put forward by broadcasters -- most of whom have launched some type of new Internet service -- at last week's Canadian Music Week in Toronto.

Digital music is "a very important space," said Bell Media Radio president Chris Gordon. "We don't know which way it's going to go at any time, but these are valiant efforts that are going to be invested in, until they prove that they're profitable or not." Bell Canada is acquiring Astral Media (RAIN coverage here), which recently launched a new on-demand web music service, offering "niche format channels" and "personalized streaming music" (more here). 

Astral Media VP Rob Farina said the company has hired more than 100 new staff members to tackle such digital endeavors. "As an industry, we need to embrace digital media to strengthen the relationship and value of our brands to the consumer," he said. "I don’t believe it will always be towers delivering our signal, with more audio and streaming options heading to the dashboard. The opportunity is now for radio to reinvent itself."

Daniel Anstandig recently argued Bell's acquisition of Astral would result in "a more integrated media hub than anything the world has ever seen before" (RAIN coverage here). That mimics thoughts shared by CBC Music executive director Chris Boyce, who said, "We think our biggest opportunity is music content across all of our platforms: TV, radio, digital... Our goal with CBC Music is really quite simply to connect Canadians with the music that they love." CBC in February launched a new online music service featuring 40 web-only radio stations (pictured; more coverage here.)

CBC Music's recently launched music service

"We continue to learn about this digital space. Anybody who says they are an expert in this digital space is lying," said Corus Radio VP Dave Farough during CMW's "Social Radio" panel. Farough said Corus recently merged its interactive and radio divisions ("We realized that we’re not radio and interactive – we’re ‘this’ now. It really is all one big pot, if you will."). To illustrate that focus, he said Corus now expects on-air talent to be content creators, too, especially online.

"To those old dogs that refuse to learn the new tricks in our business, I say to them: Get another job. Go find another industry, because this is the way it is," Farough said. "The Internet is here to stay, and let’s embrace it and use all of the tools at our fingertips, instead of fighting against it." has more coverage here.

Canadian media merger may result in an unprecedented combo of content and distribution in electronic media

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 11:45am

Last week we reported on Bell Canada's $3.38 billion acquisition of Astral Media (here).

The deal (if fully approved by regulators) would bring together the power of Astral's content (it operates 22 television services, 84 radio stations in 50 markets, and more than 100 digital media properties) with the distribution muscle of BCE (which also holds various television and radio properties, but also owns major local telephone and DSL services, and is one of Canada's "big three" mobile providers).

This week, Daniel Anstandig (in his Connected column for Radio-Info) analyzed the merger, which he thinks could very well result in "a more integrated media hub than anything the world has ever seen before."

This assembled team would have a formidable electronic media reach (subscription and broadcast television, radio, web, mobile) across most of the country. And what a stock of content to distribute: Television like HBO Canada, MusiquePlus, Family, Disney Junior, the CTV network, and BNN. Radio like CHUM-FM/Toronto, NRJ, EZ Rock, Boom, and Virgin Radio. And as Bell Canada holds a stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, count pro sports among that.

"This merger creates new possibilities for media innovators," Andstandig writes. "Future 'programmers' at this company will have the opportunity to create dynamic multi-dimensional experiences for consumers. With so many distribution channels on the same ledger, future brands at Bell can easily be transposed across multiple media."

Read Andstandig's Connected column in Radio-Info here.

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