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Sonos goes HD with subscription-based radio service

Sonos is kicking its streaming ambitions up a notch, with the launch of a subscription-based radio service called Sonos Radio HD.

Available in the US and UK, it costs $7.99 / £7.99 a month, and promises ‘high-fidelity audio’ of the Sonos Sound System radio station. There will also be exclusive artist-curated stations (Dolly Parton being the first) and a range of genre and activity-based stations that won’t be available on the existing, ad-supported Sonos Radio service that launched in April this year.

This is an extension of Sonos’s partnership with Napster – Sonos Radio HD is a ‘Powered by Napster’ service – but there’s another partner involved that’s interesting. Startup Super Hi-Fi’s technology is being used across the free and paid tiers of Sonos Radio, and heralds the company’s rebranding of its AI-powered tech as a package called ‘Conductor’.

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MelodyVR posts £10.5m operating loss for first half of 2020

Virtual reality startup (and future Napster owner) MelodyVR published its half-yearly results this morning. The company generated just £189.9k of revenues in the first six months of 2020.

Royalties and content creation costs amounted to £1.3m, while administrative expenses of £9.4m pushed MelodyVR to a £10.5m operating loss and £10.7m net loss for the first half.

The company’s filing outlined its plans for Napster. “We intend to develop a new application which will enable us to drive revenues by providing users with a premium, recurring, monthly subscription service,” it explained.

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Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo adds western music with Napster deal

Streaming is finally (if slowly) taking off in Japan, thanks in part to competition from local and global services. One of those belongs to telco NTT DoCoMo, via a partnership with Japanese firm RecoChoku.

The service is called dMusic, and it offers a mix of music, playlists and videos. Now it’s getting an infusion of western music courtesy of a deal between RecoChoku and Napster.

The partnership will add 50m songs from the Powered by Napster B2B catalogue to dMusic, and represents the latest deal for Napster in Japan, following Sony Music (for its Mora Qualitas hi-res streaming service) and tech firm Rakuten (for its Rakuten Music service).

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MelodyVR raises $15.3m to help fund Napster acquisition

Yesterday we reported on MelodyVR’s planned acquisition of streaming service Napster for $26.3m in cash and stock, and wondered why the company was describing it as a $70m deal. A separate announcement from Napster’s majority owner RealNetworks cleared that up: the deal also saw MelodyVR assuming “approximately $44m in payment obligations, primarily to various music industry entities”.

The cash portion of the deal is $15m, and shortly after our story was published, MelodyVR raised $15.3m from a new share placement – it’s publicly listed on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM sub-market – to fund it. The acquisition is expected to be completed later this year.

MelodyVR boss Anthony Matchett talked to Rolling Stone yesterday about the company’s ambitions to combine livestreamed performances and a streaming music catalogue. “Historically, the major recorded music streamers aren’t content creators. They may get content from the record labels but they don’t create new content like we do,” he said. They may pay massive sums of money to broadcasters for exclusive rights to a show, but again that’s not their content. We come at this from a different angle.”

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Music VR startup MelodyVR announces plan to merge with Napster

Music-focused virtual reality startup MelodyVR has announced plans to merge with streaming service Napster. To be clear: MelodyVR is the buyer, although the Napster brand will live on.

“Under the terms of the Merger Agreement, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company will be merged with and into Napster (with Napster being the surviving entity),” explained MelodyVR’s announcement to the markets this morning.

“The Company will pay consideration totalling approximately $26.3 million to the vendors of Napster to be satisfied in aggregate by $15.0 million in cash, and the issuance of approximately 200 million MelodyVR shares.”

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Indie artists have doubled their share of Napster’s top 100

Napster is the latest music-streaming service putting out some end-of-year statistics. However, it has chosen a different topic to the usual ‘most popular artists / tracks’ DSP data dumps.

Napster has been looking at its data for independent artists, and says that in 2019, 33% of its top 100 most-streamed artists were independent. That’s up from 15% in 2015.

Napster reckons that this says something positive about the people listening on its service. “We’re thrilled about this data and believe the trend shows Napster has a unique user base looking to dig deeper into music and are willing to explore outside of the mainstream,” as its director of label relations and licensing Keola Kama put it.

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Napster’s Angel Gambino talks tech, Ek and streaming’s evolution

Angel Gambino has been in the digital trenches since the late 1990s. Her career has seen her work in early social gaming (for Gameplay·com); test the digital waters for TV (at the BBC and Viacom); and forge content strategies for social networking (Bebo).

In 2019, she’s putting the lessons learned to work in her current role as chief commercial officer at music-streaming firm Napster. Music Ally spoke to Gambino about her career memories, from getting Bill Gates to work with the BBC to what happened when Rupert Murdoch beat Viacom to the acquisition of MySpace – via her warning to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek in the early days of the “difficult and ugly” process of getting his company up and running.

Gambino’s career started at the epicentre of the first dotcom boom in San Francisco in the late 1990s. She remembers “this hope, this energy and this belief” at the time that technology could change society for the better.