Internet radio

"MySXM," SiriusXM customized streaming, filters music by Style, Era, and Popularity

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 - 1:20pm

SiriusXM's custom streaming radio service is still in beta, and PCMag.com's Jeffrey Wilson can't wait for the official launch. He concluded his review, "MySXM gave me the personalization features I longed for while delivering the unexpected ability to filter my channels by favorite music eras."

The "MySXM" -- this is only for Internet streaming, and only for the desktop -- is currently limited to 40 channels. After launching a channel, the listener can customize the stream by adjusting three "sliders." The sliders scale the proportion of music of different Style, Popularity, and Era (in the image, the "My 70s on 7" channel can be balanced between "Soul/Disco" or "Rock" for Style).

SiriusXm hasn't yet announced when they plan to officially launch MySXM, but it will reportedly be available only on the desktop to start (though it seems likely to be ported to mobile devices as well).

Read the PCMag.com review here.

Decadio is like a time machine to radio of different decades

Friday, January 25, 2013 - 11:40am

The so-new-it's-still-under-development webcast Decadio (who doesn't love a clever portmanteau?) is a series of audio channels focused on the music and sounds of each decade from 1910 through today.

Sight8, the company designing Decadio, explains, "Decadio allows listeners to simply select a frequency on a dial and feel transported in time, hearing voices from the past to the present, both familiar and unknown."

You "tune in" using a sliding radio band that's really a timeline (see the image). Listening to "1930s," we heard music from Louis Armstrong and Django Reinhardt, and vintage radio ads for Dodge and Jello Chocolate Pudding. Sliding up (through audible static!) to the 1970s, we heard Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, and Fleetwood Mac. In between decades, there are small audio nuggest to discover (we heard a radio report about the Beatles at Shea Stadium).

To be true, it's not yet a finished product, but you can request an invitation to try it here -- or simply watch a demo video (and read the press release) here.

Corker of Tennessee urging opposition to IRFA in Senate

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 12:20pm

The Hill reports Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee is circulating a letter in the Senate strongly critical of the Internet Radio Fairness Act (IRFA), a bill proponents hope will make Internet radio royalty fees more equitable to those of similar forms of radio (read more on the IRFA here).

While the IRFA would simply give Net radio the same royalty-setting standard (known as "801(b)") as cable and satellite radio, Corker's letter says the bill would "force American property owners and creators to provide a subsidy to digital radio services, primarily Pandora." Leading webcaster Pandora currently pays more than half of its revenue for royalties, while cable and satellite radio pay less than 15% of revenue.

The Hill points to the Center for Responsive Politics site (here), which shows "As a senator for Tennessee, Corker's constituents include representatives from the country music hub of Nashville. Corker received $201,241 from the TV, movie and music industries during the 2012 election cycle."

Read more in The Hill here.

NPD Group says mobile and in-car availability of streaming services accelerating decline of CD, radio listening

Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 1:10pm

Market research company The NPD Group's new study shows people are using Internet radio and on-demand music services more, and that growth seems to be cutting into time spent listening to CDs, broadcast radio, and music downloads.

NPD says fully half of U.S. Internet users 13 and older -- 96 million people -- listened to music on a Net radio or on-demand music service within the past three months.

Internet radio's audience is up 27% year over year, NPD says, while the on-demand music audience is up 18%. This growth coincides with a drop in the number of consumers who listened to music on CDs (down 16%), music on AM/FM radio (down 4%), and downloads (down 2%).

"Although AM/FM radio remains America’s favorite music-listening choice, the basket of Internet radio and streaming services that are available today have, on the whole, replaced CDs for second place. We expect this pattern to continue," said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at NPD.

By the way, to the point of faster growth of Internet radio listening compared to on-demand serivces, remember that many of these services have been adding their own customizable radio features. Spotify, Xbox Music, MOG, Rdio (which just partnered with The Echo Nest on this) all offer "Pandora-style" custom streaming radio... and the industry awaits a rumored Apple entrance into the space.

NPD's findings come from its "Music Acquisition Monitor." They say since 2009, "the percentage of Pandora users who also listened to AM/FM radio declined by 10 percentage points, those listening to CDs on a non-computer device fell 21 percentage points, and listening to digital music files on portable music players also dropped 21 points." [See the chart. The lime-green line is AM/FM, CDs on a non-computer device is gold, and digital music files is the lighter blue.] 

Which stands to reason, as Internet radio usage continues to migrate away from being a "desktop-only" experience. NPD says, "34% of Pandora users are now listening to music on the service in their cars -- either connecting through an in-car appliance, or listening via car-stereo-connected smartphones or other personal listening devices."

And one final note -- and this goes to the heart of the question of whether Internet radio and similar services offer promotional benefit to artists and labels: These music streaming consumers "noted a significant positive effect on their overall discovery and rediscovery of music. In fact 64% of these services’ users reported rediscovering older music, and 51% were learning about new music."

This is important because as Pandora and the webcast community struggle with sound recording royalties amounting to most (or all) of their revenues, the rationale for broadcasters' immunity from these royalties has been the traditionally-accepted notion that radio play is "promotional" for labels and performers. The music industry -- the beneficiaries of net radio royalties -- have argued that streaming radio offers no promotional benefit. 

Crupnick adds, “AM/FM radio has traditionally played a significant role in helping consumers learn about new music from well known artists, as well as finding new ones; however, Pandora and other music services are an increasingly important part of the music-discovery process."

Of course, if time spent with Internet radio and on-demand services is truly cutting into time spent with more traditional modes of music listening, some will argue that people will begin purchasing less music. So, while the promotional power of newer services might not help record labels, keep in mind that record sales for all but the luckiest few of performers have never been a significant source of revenue. Newer online music services then could still offer promotional benefit to artists who earn money via touring, licensing, merchandise sales, and more.

Karmazin says Net radio business needs "a whole lot more commercials"

Friday, November 2, 2012 - 11:10am

SiriusXM CEO Mel Karmazin called ad-supported customizable Internet radio "a race to the bottom in terms of business model," as the quality of the user experience depends on a low spot load.

Karmazin, who announced last week he'll step down as SiriusXM CEO in February, spoke on his companies Q3 earnings call yesterday (his comments were reported by Billboard.biz).

"Those companies (ad-supported, personalized webcasters, such as Pandora) which can grow users and provide good customer experience usually have the worst business models," he said. He said fixing their businesses would take "a whole lot more commercials, and that means harming the customer's experience."

It will be interesting to see if SiriusXM puts Karmazin's idea into practice when the company launches its own online custom radio, which he promised it will by the end of the year.

"Not because we think it's a good business," he qualified, but because customers want it.

Read more in Billboard.biz here.

A successful Apple Net radio service isn't a certainty, nor necessarily easy, say tech journalists

Friday, October 26, 2012 - 1:35pm

Two noted technology writers today consider the likelihood of Apple launching an Internet radio service, and challenge the notion that it would mean death to competitors like Pandora.

Peter Kafka writes for All Things D, the tech blog of The Wall Street Journal. He suggests that because Apple can create great devices doesn't mean it'll be a slam-dunk for it to own the ad-supported Internet radio space.

"Selling Internet ads turns out to be a difficult, labor-intensive process — maybe even more so for Internet radio ads, which require lots of face time with local buyers," Kafka reminds us. "Pandora has been plodding away at this for years, with some success. But it seems hard to imagine Apple spending the same kind of effort."

Bloomberg's sources report that record labels want a cut of that ad revenue, and even some of the ad inventory itself to promote their artists (read more in our original coverage here). But Greg Sandoval at CNet spoke with other unnamed sources that say the labels aren't yet satisfied with what Apple's offering, which makes an Apple "iRadio" launch (that's the shorthand we've been seeing) anything but a done deal.

"Some decision makers at the big record companies want Apple to sweeten the offer," as Sandoval paraphrases the "music executives" with whom he spoke. "CNET's sources say that some of the sector's leaders don't believe the cut Apple put on the table is big enough."

Part of the problem may be that Apple expects not only relaxed restrictions on how it can use the music (see "sound performance complement" note in our Bloomberg coverage here), but also wants a discount on royalties.

"Sources said Apple has offered to pay a lower royalty rate than Pandora pays even though it wants to provide iTunes users with the ability to do more with the music than Pandora's customers enjoy," wrote Sandoval.

And even if Apple were to launch its own streaming radio, Kafka thinks keeping it within the Apple-verse leaves ample listening opportunities on other platforms for Pandora.

"It’s unlikely that (Apple's) going to make that one available for Android users. Which means Pandora will still have plenty of room to play."

Read Kafka in All Things D here and Sandoval in CNet here.

An interesting footnote: Regarding yesterday's news of the official launch of the Internet Radio Fairness Coalition to support the Internet Radio Fairness Act, Sandoval in CNet says "CNET has learned that the top record companies plan to quietly gather next week to discuss their strategy for fighting the legislation. In addition to the representatives from the top three labels, invitations were sent this week to some of the music industry's top music managers."

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