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RAIN 5/17: Slacker debuts on-demand subscription service

Posted on: 05/17/2011


Slacker today unveiled its long-awaited on-demand music subscription service. The Premium Radio service costs $10 a month and gives users on-demand access to Slacker’s 8-million-song catalog. Users can create playlists out of specific songs, mixing in pre-made radio stations as well.

The Premium Radio service also includes features found in Slacker’s $4/month Basic subscription package: no ads, unlimited song skipping and station caching.

The features are also available on Slacker’s numerous mobile apps, which received an update today. About half of Slacker’s audience comes from mobile devices.

The move puts Slacker in direct competition with other music subscriptions services like Rdio, MOG, Rhapsody and Spotify. But, notes USA Today, Slacker may have a “secret weapon that the others haven’t had: Slacker’s 25 million registered users.”

That’s “the largest base any subscription service has had to market to,” continues USA Today. And even though Slacker says only 5 million of those are active listeners, “that’s still a very large group.”

Slacker’s pre-existing Basic $4/month package has around 300,000 subscribers.

Slacker took the opportunity of their on-demand service’s launch to offer some tough words for broadcast radio.

“If you look at where broadcast radio is going, it looks like they’re trying to become what online radio used to be,” said Slacker’s senior VP of marketing, Jonathan Sasse.

“What we’re trying to become is what broadcast radio used to be, which is radio that’s expertly programmed and tailored to you…Radio done right can be really good. And broadcast radio is really missing out, because they’ve just turned into generic hit machines.” (See our story below for a response to this critique.)

Slacker also offers a free service of customizable radio supported by ads. Users can create new stations based on an artist, like Pandora, or select one of Slacker’s many pre-programmed genre stations.

Slacker’s move has generated press from the L.A. Times, the Today Show’s website, CNet, Billboard, Engadget, USA Today, Evolver.fm and other publications.


Some radio professionals are feeling a little chafed by comments made by a Slacker exec at the launch of their on-demand service. Katz Marketing Solutions president Bob McCurdy applies the salve in a commentary piece for MediaPost today.

McCurdy’s point is that despite the doomsayers, broadcast radio will “outlast” its digital competition, as “terrestrial radio is competing aggressively online against these new streaming challengers.” He suggests AM/FM’s platform distribution (on-air, simulcast stream, and Clear Channel’s and CBS’s “control/variety/choice” services, Thumbplay and Last.fm) give it a leg up on Internet-only competition.

His conclusion: digital listening options aren’t going to kill broadcast radio. Seems fair, and likely accurate.

But for audio entertainment, radio isn’t the only game in town anymore, that’s indisputable. How much dominance terrestrial radio ends up ceding remains to be seen. And how truly aggressively (and intelligently) radio competes on the digital turf will determine much.

Read McCurdy’s commentary in MediaPost here.


Hitlantis is a new iPhone app from Finnish startup Cognitive Maps that offers a dynamic visual approach to music discovery. Artists are displayed as bubbles “floating around a central sun,” which changes depending on which music genres you’ve selected. Users can zoom in and navigate around this virtual map to select artists, view their biographies and listen to their music.

The free app even includes a streaming radio feature which takes you on a virtual tour around the Hitlantis “map.” Music Ally has more coverage right here.


Federated Media announced yesterday that WRBR and WBYR of South Bend and Fort Wayne, IN will “launch with Social Radio’s personalized listening platform which they say is part Pandora, part Google Analytics and part Facebook,” reports Radio Ink.

Social Radio offers a digital platform called SongCast which delivers a customizable stream of music which can reportedly be personalized by either the broadcast station or the listener. Radio Ink has more coverage here.

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  1. Wow, if Radio does not think its asleep at the wheel, then it really is doomed. I dont know very many people that watch broadcast tv anymore let alone radio. Its all podcasts and streams.

    BK · May 17, 05:57 AM · #

  2. Slacker has come a long way since I started using it about six years ago. I’m glad they finally came out with an on-demand service.

    Deanna · May 23, 09:43 AM · #

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