Radionomy launched in Europe in 2008 and allows users to build their own online radio stations using pre-cleared tracks. It is now making a serious roll of the dice with a move into the US where the radio tide is turning towards Sirius XM and Pandora. Given how much the radio market has changed there in the last decade, can a UGC/Web 2.0 play stand out? VP of business development Thierry Ascarez argues that web radio will kill off FM stations, explains how it hopes to close the gap on Pandora and why a launch in China could be on the cards.
Explain what Radionomy is.
It is an entirely free and entirely online global service where users, or ‘producers’ as we refer to them, get all the tools to create a real radio station. By ‘real’, I mean it is not a playlist. We give them tools for programming and for the personalisation of that programming to give it an identity. They can create jingles and have access to content libraries of music as well as podcast libraries, weather forecasts, news flashes, horoscopes etc. They can also upload their own content such as music and podcasts.
How prominently does music feature and how do rights work here?
Most of the stations created so far are music ones – around 85% of them. The other 15% are mainly talk and sport stations. We deal with all the rights in advance. The producers of shows don’t have to care about the streaming issues of rights management. We have an agreement in the US with SoundExchange and in Europe we have a deal with Belgian collecting society SABAM. In our library we have 80,000 songs but the producers can also upload their own content.
Where do these 80,000 tracks come from?
Radionomy is backed by Music Magic – an in-store media provider. The producer of the station can make money with their station. We have a deal with the producer where we give them all the tools for free to curate their station but in exchange we ask for four minutes of every hour to insert adverts. We then split the ad revenue with the producer. In Europe we have our own ad sales house called Adionomy and in the US we have a deal with Target Spot to sell our audio space.
How big is the service now?
We have almost 7,000 stations and each day 50 new stations are being created. Every month we are streaming 42m hours of listening time.
What happens when users upload their own tracks?
When a producer uploads a track, there are guidelines they have to agree to where they are responsible for the content of their own station. They have the responsibility to upload legal content. As long as it’s legal, we are paying for the rights.
What if that content is not legal? Is it like the DMCA takedown process covering services like YouTube?
The copyright holder, if they are not happy [with a track being uploaded that has not been cleared], will come to us and we will contact the producer of the station to get them to remove the tracks from their station. If they do not remove the content, we will close the station.
Can you cache the stations for offline play?
The stations are streaming-only so there is no cache option for the moment. It is not music on demand so you cannot stop the programming. We could offer some sort of caching option but for now it’s only streaming.
Catalogue size is the modern arms race with Rdio, Spotify and others boasting of having 17m+ tracks. You have just 80,000. Are you worried?
Yes, they have a bigger catalogue than us. The thing with services like Spotify and Rdio is that they are music on demand and not radio so they remain playlists. Radionomy is based on programming by someone passionate about his or her music. Our catalogue is smaller, but programmers can upload the track they like too. Our content library is there to help programmers to start quickly and easily build their stations. After that they can upload tracks. The approach here is completely different. We are also looking to increase our catalogue as it’s important to have a bigger offering for our producers. We may be able to reach the catalogue size of Spotify if we have agreements with partners but this is not our focus for now.
You are trying to break into the US but Sirius XM – super-serves niches there. How can you compete?
Sirius XM offers satellite stations and we are completely online so you need a web connection. One of our true competitors is Live365. But there are two main differences here. It is not free and we are. Plus you have to download software to create your Live365 station. With Radionomy it is online so it is easier and quicker. We also think we are more social than Live365.
Our new platform has been built on a Web 2.0 approach so it is completely social and users can share and be on social networks. In comparison with more traditional markets, such as FM stations, what we are seeing in Europe – and which we hope could be the case in the US – are some FM stations coming to us as they have the experience in traditional broadcast but don’t have the experience in streaming like we do. Traditional stations are coming to us as they don’t know how to commercialise their online streams.
The online audience is different and regions do not apply. With traditional stations, you are working nationally or locally but online audiences are different because they are connected. They are coming to us to see if they can join the Radionomy network and we will help them grow their online audience. We can also help them with the online difficulties of streaming. We have some agreements with some European stations to do that.
Pandora is huge in the US but it has taken a decade to get there. How confident are you that Radionomy can make an impact?
Pandora is big here [the US]. Apple is rumoured to be planning something similar. We are excited about this as that means the radio market is booming. We have been here since 2008 and are excited there is so much buzz about online radio. You can say that radio has been the forgotten medium of the internet. There were things like internet TV and now everyone is interested in radio. Pandora runs on the Music Genome, which is an algorithm, and it remains a playlist. It’s cool but Radionomy is totally different because there is someone passionate about the music behind the programming. They will help you discover stuff you don’t know. It’s also real programming so you can have news and interviews within it. It’s different. It’s laid back and passive.
Spotify’s Daniel Ek said the URL is the new MP3. Is the URL going to become the new radio station?
We would like the opportunity to have Radionomy stations on Spotify. That would be a good partnership. We are more than just a playlist as it’s programming. Listening to a playlist is different to listening to a radio station. It becomes like a habit to listen to your favourite station. A playlist remains just music. I think the online radio station will replace the FM station for sure.
European radio is one thing but US radio is completely different. How will you change for the US?
It is definitely challenging for us to come to the US, especially from a commercial perspective – which is why we signed a deal with national sales house Target Spot here. To start from scratch and build our own sales house in the US was impossible. In Europe we had the opportunity to create our own sales house but in the US that was not possible. For the promotion and marketing side, it is a big market in the US and it is split between all the different states. We needed some help with the promotion.
What is happening to the European service?
In Europe we have plenty to do. We have a good presence in France. We have offices in Madrid and Frankfurt but have plenty of work to do there. Our plan is to consolidate in Spain and Germany. We have offices in China via Music Magic, so why not launch in China? At the moment it’s Germany and Spain and we may come to the UK. But first we have to really build our presence in Germany, Spain and the US.