Tag Archives: terrestrial radio

Battle of the Blah: Streaming Pandora, Live 365, Spotify or iTunes Radio sucks

Streaming iTunes Radio is like Chinese Water Torture.

Streaming iTunes Radio is like Chinese Water Torture.

Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of music on streaming services.

Ever since I was banned from using my personal computer at the job, I’ve had to rely on other means for getting my music fix on.

You see, I have a massive sizeable music library, far too big for an iPod or portable music player.

And as I am loathe to allocate precious memory space on my phone to music, I’ve had to rely on alternate means to soothe my inner savage beast.

Back in the day, I used to rock Pandora hard.

I made a few stations based on artists I liked and was content for a hot second.

But when I realized that was listening to the same 15-20 songs over and over again, it quickly lost is luster.

Then there was last.fm.

Same difference as Pandora – except you could scrobble.

Someone suggested 365 Live as an alternative, and for a while I was content.

I’d primarily listen to their Classical or Jazz stations, and every once in a while stray to their Reggae offering (mistake).

I came across Spotify one day, and decided to give it a try.

In addition to their genres, you could create your own playlist or listen to radio stations built around artists or songs you like.

The problem with Spotify, aside from the annoying ads every three songs, is the repetitious nature of its playlists.

If you listen for more than an hour or to the same station multiple times, invariably you’re going to hear the same songs over and over again.

Now there’s one thing I don’t understand, each of these services claims to have millions of songs, but all of them suffer from repetition.

They all have ads (in the free versions) that pop up more frequently than terrestrial radio, and although they don’t last nearly as long, they’re annoying nonetheless.

For all that, I might as well simply listen to the actual radio.

At least then I’m under no delusion that I’ll experience variety.

But a few weeks ago, after I got my iPhone 5s, I noticed something new in iTunes.

Radio.

Do my eyes deceive me?

I don’t remember iTunes having a radio.

Scanning my memory banks, I did recall some mention of iTunes Radio at the WWDC.

But it was buried in the iOS 7 hoopla, and quickly faded from memory.

Having discovered the radio button in my dock, I decided to give it a go, and quickly created several stations.

The good thing about iTunes Radio is the absence of a learning curve.

Hit any one of the preset stations and you’re off.

Making a new station is as simple as pressing a “+” button and typing in the name of the artist or song you want to create a station around.

iTunes Radio does the rest.

Initially, I was pleased.

iTunes Radio seemed robust and the music was varied and (at first blush) non-repetitious.

But then it happened.

The commercials.

The repetition.

The random song unrelated to the artist or genre I had selected.

Worse than that though, was the spotty service.

Streaming iTunes Radio seemed to be worse than the other streaming services I used.

Now, to be fair, all streaming services suffer from some defect in playback.

But iTunes Radio seems to drop at an inordinately higher rate than Spotify, Pandora, Live365 or last.fm.

Waiting for iTunes Radio to connect (or reconnect as was often the case) was like Chinese Water Torture.

The anticipation was unbearable, especially when you were in the groove.

Despite my initial enthusiasm, iTunes Radio was no better than the rest.

It does provide you with the ability to purchase songs you hear on the fly, but so what?!

In the final analysis, streaming music apps are often more trouble than they’re worth.

I resign myself to the fact that I just have to devote some of my device’s precious memory to storing music.

Because streaming is for the birds!

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Filed under apps, mobile, music

Radio killed the Internet star. Inequitable royalty calculations are hurting artists.

Reading an article in the NY Times recently about a brewing royalties dispute left me stymied.

Apparently, there is a bill circulating that would reduce the amount of money streaming radio stations pay for the right to broadcast music.

The proposal would bring streaming royalty rates in line with those paid by satellite and terrestrial stations, which are about five times less.

The issue has come to a head as Pandora, arguably the most successful model for streaming radio, struggles to stay afloat in light of royalty rates which amount to half of its profits.

Pandora argues that the rates for streaming radio services should be calculated on the same basis as satellite and terrestrial services.

The current calculations render widely disparate results, such that many streaming services are grappling under the oppressive weight of these fees.

Fundamental to the argument being made by streaming services, like Pandora, is the fact that the exorbitant rate charged streaming services is a barrier to entry.

By stifling new entrants, it reduces the overall number of streams and thus, the royalties artists could potentially earn.

Fewer streaming services, fewer streams, fewer royalties.

It’s not rocket science.

But the music industry doesn’t see it that way.

They argue that streaming services are profiting handsomely, and the efforts to reduce the rate is driven by greed and the desire to increase profits at the expense of musicians.

They point to the ad-supported nature of most streaming services, in support of this position.

This argument would have merit if streaming services were paying the same royalties as satellite services and then sought a reduction.

But the issue is that streaming services pay a disproportionately higher share of their revenues for the right to stream than similarly situated non-Internet services.

And there is no rational basis for the disparity.

Currently, streaming services pay a fraction of a cent each time a song is streamed whereas satellite services, like Sirius, pay a fixed percentage of their revenue to artists and labels.

The two different standards exist because at the dawn of the Internet age, no one knew how big streaming over the Internet would get.

A fraction of a cent per stream seemed reasonable when they were few, if any, true streaming models to base a formula upon.

But services like Last.fm, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio and their progeny, have demonstrated that streaming radio is growing and viable.

And where streaming revenues were thought to once be a thing of folly, they are now very much a reality.

An entirely new market has developed around it.

However, this fraction-of-a-cent revenue model has proven to be inequitable in its application.

And it should be abandoned in favor of one that continues to provide revenue for streaming services and consistent royalties to artists and labels.

This issue is far from over, and I’ll definitely keep you posted with any updates.

If you like your streaming services, I’d suggest you contact your elected officials and make a stink.

Because if the music industry has it’s way, streaming radio will go the way of the record labels and be extinct before you know it.

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Filed under digital advocacy, music, technology