Robertson

Robertson: iTunes Radio will demonstrate the benefits of Net radio at broadcasters' expense

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

Michael Robertson suggests it isn't Pandora that'll feel the pressure from Apple's new service, but rather broadcast radio and higher-cost on-demand music services.

Robertson is the serial music tech entrepreneur behind MP3.com, MP3Tunes, and Dar.fm. He called Apple's new offering "a frontal attack on FM radio and will accelerate the deterioration in their business... FM cannot compete with the benefits of internet delivered music."

Apple's presence in the space, as many have suggested recently, should actually help the streaming radio industry by educating consumers on its inherent advantages, wider selection, personalization, and more. And that includes one area in which AM/FM has been king for a long time: in the car.

"A new feature in (Apple's) new iOS 7 which mirrors your iPhone display on a car's dashboard could have a bigger impact on driving net radio adoption... because it makes your smartphone a better car radio," Robertson wrote.

He also suggests Apple's visibility and offering of a free service will put price pressure on music subscription services that don't offer a free tier, like Rhapsody. "There's still value in those offerings," he says, "but those providers will have to work hard to keep delivering value."

Read Robertson's essay in Hypebot here.

New DAR.fm function allows listeners to share audio snippets from talk radio

Monday, February 18, 2013 - 12:10pm

DAR.fm is the online radio service that allows users to record streamed audio content to listen to later (like a DVR, but with audio, thus the service's name). DAR creater Michael Robertson has now introduced a "sharing" function he says caters to the Internet's "short McNugget-size" media appetite.

While listening, DAR.fm users can click a Share button to select a short segment to to upload to YouTube, along with a short description, and then share the link to the snippet on social media.

"Rarely does one see links to interesting radio bits on Facebook or Twitter," Robertson wrote in his blog, introducing what he's calling "Project Friendship" (yep, as in "My Little Pony"). "For the first time it's as easy to share a radio clip as it is a web page, picture or video clip."

Try the new "Share" feature at DAR.fm.

Robertson's UberTalk gives an "on-demand feel" to political, sports, and music programs

Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 6:55pm

Serial entrepreneur (and frequent RAIN Summit speaker) Michael Robertson (MP3Tunes, DAR.fm) has launched UberTalk, a portal for online talk radio designed to allow listeners to find the content they like, regardless of its originating broadcaster.

"My premise is radio stations are a quaint artifact of regional spectrum licensing which made sense when slicing up AM/FM spectrum," an arrangement which "makes little sense on the world wide web. A more logical way of looking at radio would be to focus on the content which is what attracts people," Robertson said today.

So, instead of sorting and searching by station, UberTalk steers users to find the programs they like, with a design that mimics the television "EPG," or electronic program guide. Listeners can find shows through the popularity-based rankings, or by category (sports, politics, etc.) and tune in instantly (via the site HTML5 player) to any show currently airing on any of thousands of radio stations.

Robertson explains, "Due to rebroadcasts and time zone shifts this means that many popular shows are available all throughout the day making radio programs more on-demand feeling." To listen to shows that are not currently airing, UberTalk uses time-shifting functionality from Robertson's DAR.fm.

Try UberTalk here

Robertson warns radio: NAB needs to get involved, or you're screwed

Monday, May 14, 2012 - 11:35am

If the current music royalty arrangement is a "mountain" between webcasters and profitability, Michael Robertson says broadcasters have two choices: go around the mountain, or blow it up.

Robertson is founder and CEO of DAR.fm (which enables recording/time-shifted listening of online radio). He spoke on the panel "The Streaming Music Landscape" at RAIN Summit West in Las Vegas.

The first option, according to Robertson (left), entails radio creating an entirely new model that allows webcasters to avoid the high royalties. Fellow panelist Paul Campbell is founder/CEO of Amazing Radio in the UK, and is doing exactly this sort of thing. A terrestrial station, Amazing Radio plays only independently-owned music. In exchange for the promotion the publishers and performers receive by being aired on Amazing, they waive their royalty claims (allowing the station to perform the music for free).

Radio's second option is get far more involved in the royalty-setting process than it has to this point. "Unless the NAB gets off their ass and gets on the Copyright Office and influences those rates," Robertson exhorted, "as your business goes digital, you guys are screwed."

While Rhapsody Chief Product Officer Brendan Benzing thinks the "renaissance around consumer demand" for curated audio online will shine a brighter spotlight on untenably-high royalties webcasters pay, Robertson was less optimistic. "None of this other stuff matters unless royalties are radically changed," he said. His optimisim lies in the news of Sirius' lawsuit against SoundExchange (see background here). "That is the most important development this year for the Internet radio business. Fantastic development. You better hope Sirius wins."

After Robertson (also founder of the MP3Tunes.com, which recently declared bankruptcy, more here) brought up public earnings reports from Pandora that showed the company pays fully 50% of its revenues for royalties, moderator Ted Cohen (right) asked why that's so out-of-line. Cohen, TAG Strategic Managing Partner, said, "Look at physical retail, durable goods, where 60-65% (of retail revenue) goes to supplier. Is 50% that eggregious?"

The difference, according to Robertson, is in the nature of the business involved, and radio's important role as a copyright "intermediary" between creators and the public. "Look at broadcast radio, which pays about 5% (of its earnings for musical content, in the form of composer/publisher royalties to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC). Would any radio station have a business if they paid 50% of revenue? No." The problem, he Robertson insisted, is that lawmakers now see the purpose of copyright not to benefit the public (as many interpret the Constitution to mandate), but rather to benefit copyright owners. And what the rate structure fails to take into account is the importance of "distributors" of copyright -- those entities like webcasters and radio -- that are necessary for the public to reap the benefit of copyright by broadcasting and streaming that content.

On the topic of distribution, Robertson advised broadcasters to "pay attention to mobile. That's where the majority of your listening will come from in the future." He said, "Get your signal everywhere, don't do exclusive deals. Any digital guy that comes to you (to make a deal), as long as it doesn't cost you any money, you should do it."

That is, of course, once the royalty matter is solved. The Internet radio business "is a rocket," Robertson said. Right now, "unfortunately, it's a North Korean rocket."

See the entire video of this panel, and all our RAIN Summit West content, at RTTNews here.

Deal brings audio recording and time-shifting tech to IBS college and high school stations

Friday, May 11, 2012 - 12:25pm

DAR.fm has partnered with Net radio platform provider Backbone Networks to provide time-shifting and recording technology to the nation's largest network of college and high school radio stations.

Now, Backbone announces, "sporting events, news and other community focused programs can be captured and then played back at a convenient time for listeners on PCs, smartphones or tablets making it accessible to a wider audience."

DAR.fm (think "DVR," but with "A" for audio instead of "V" for video) is entrepreneur Michael Robertson's company which enables online radio listeners to schedule and record live content for listening at different times and/or on other devices (much like a DVR works for television). Robertson was a panelist at our recent RAIN Summit West event. See video of his panel (and all the Summit content) here.

The Intercollegiate Broadcasting System is a not-for-profit association of educational institution-based broadcasters and webcasters. Its IBS Student Radio Network is operated by Backbone Networks.

Read the press release here

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