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.

Rhapsody VP Maples finds expert-curation key to minimizing audience churn

Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 11:20am

We've read (and written) lots on the increasing importance of "music curation" (what radio pros call "programming") for music subscription services.

It's great to offer tens of millions of songs, but how does a listener start? Millions have grown up with the radio and developed the habit of "lean-back" listening -- flip a switch, and "music!" Music subscription services are doing more and more to offer customers effortless experiences of music they'll enjoy (we've recently covered Spotify's new "Browse," Rdio's "Stations" -- and Beats Music's very mission as a service "heavy on curation").

Jon Maples, who's VP of product-content at musis service Rhapsody, today shares some of what his company has learned about how music programming impacts customer usage.

Beyond solving what Maples calls "the catalog problem" for the user ("What do I listen to?"), good music curation can help maintain an audience by minimizing "churn."

Churn is that rate at which customers abandon a service. Since it's expensive to constantly acquire new users, business naturally want to minimize churn. Maples says the key is to keep listeners active -- give them reasons to keep coming back and using the service.

"It seems obvious, but if a customer uses the product more, they are less likely to leave. In fact, we've found if we can get a customer to play more than 50 tracks a month, the churn rate drops in the double digits," he writes. We've "utilized curation as a driver, so that every time our members fire up the service, they're going to get something new to play."

He points to Rhapsody's "Featured" section, and the prominence of the service's curated playlists, stations, and posts. And it's important to apply that expert programming across as wide an offering as possible -- "speaking to a wide variety of tastes and interests," as Maples puts it. "Our best customers listen to more than 200 subgenres a year."

Rhapsody SVP/Product Paul Springer will speak on the "Streaming Music Trends" at RAIN Summit Orlando on September 17. More information and registration is here.

Read more from Rhapsody's Maples in Hypebot here.

CNet: With music services so reliant on mobile, bundling makes sense

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 12:20pm

A CNet report says Beats Electronics is negotiating with AT&T to launch its music-streaming service Daisy bundled with mobile data plans.

The goal for Beats would be to build up a large audience in a very short time -- in a sense, to "catch up" on competitors like Spotify and Google. Key for AT&T is Beats' "well-established brand," says CNet. AT&T might see it as a worthy partner to drive phone and data sales plans.

Beats owns the online streaming service MOG now. The company says they'll differentiate their new service by making it more focused on "curation," that is, programming designed by musical experts.

CNet writes, "With mobile at the center of all music offerings now, partnering with a big carrier makes good sense. There is also precedent for successful tie-ins, although no big examples in the United States. Spotify, for instance, captured a huge chunk of the Swedish population when, in 2009, it tied up with telco Telia -- an example that music label execs point to as showing the potential of bundling with wireless carriers."

Read more in CNet 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, with 12 million unique visitors monthly, Ballard Designs, Frontgate, and Garnet Hill.

Read more in TechCrunch here.

New music service from search and ads giant Google aims to compete with Spotify

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 11:55am

FROM TODAY'S EARLY EDITION: First broken by The Verge (here), now both The New York Times (here) and The Wall Street Journal (here) are also reporting that Google is expected to announce a subscription streaming music service later today at Google I/O, the company's annual developers conference.

The company reportedly has finalized licensing deals with all three major record label groups. The new service will reportedly resemble services like Spotify more than traditional webcast services (like Pandora -- which presumably will be the model for Apple's "iRadio" service that's expected).

The new Google streaming service will reportedly not include a free version. The fee isn't known at this point, but is expected to be similar to that of Spotify and other services like Rhapsody and Rdio, $10 a month.

The new service is actually one of two music services Google reportedly has in the works. Google-owned YouTube is also said to be developing a music service, and negotiations with labels continuing.

Music radio can survive Google music streaming, says Del Colliano

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 11:55am

Jerry Del Colliano in his Inside Music Media suggests Google is "looking to deliver a deathblow to music radio" with it to-be-announced-today streaming music service.

But Google's will be a subscription service. Sources say there won't even be a free option. And that's radio's opportunity, Del Colliano suggests.

Being "the curator of music discovery for free." Radio can't compete with the customization and on-demand features online services from well-funded companies can offer. But radio can continue to be the "music authority for popular genres."

But, should these services successfully pull away radio listeners, as Colliano says is their intent, music subscription could become the norm for discovery for new generations of fans.

"Damage radio and a streaming subscription becomes as essential to a Millennial as a subscription to Netflix or Hulu," he warns. "It's about being the Netflix for music."

Subscribe to Inside Music Media here.

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