Pandora to release day pass for ad-free listening

Pandora is looking to add a paid day pass to its service later this year, company executives revealed during Pandora’s investor day Thursday. The day pass will give users a way to listen without advertising interruptions, and they won’t have to subscribe to the company’s Pandora One subscription plan.

[company]Pandora[/company] Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips told investors Thursday that this could make Pandora a good source of music for a summer BBQ party, where users don’t want to annoy their guests with ad breaks. He showed off a slide that featured a sign-up page for a 24-hour plan for $0.99, but added that the company will be testing the price as well as the question whether the day pass should be for one or three days.

pandora one day pass

A Pandora spokesperson confirmed plans for the day pass Friday, sending me the following statement via email:

“Pandora is committed to delivering an effortless, personalized experience and we recognize some consumers may want an ad-free experience but don’t necessarily want to commit to a subscription. This offering will allow consumers to choose and explore what is right for them or suits a particular event or experience. Pricing and exact timing are yet to be determined but we expect it to be available later this year.”

Pandora currently offers an ad-free subscription tier dubbed Pandora One for $4.99 a month that also offers 192 kbps playback on the web as well as more skips per day than the ad-supported version of the service.

However, Pandora still makes most of its money with its ad-supported service; in Q4, the company generated $220 million in revenue from advertising, but only $47.9 million from subscriptions. Moreover, ad revenue grew 36 percent year-over-year, whereas subscription revenue only grew 24 percent year-over-year.

Slacker relaunches its radio service to finally land a hit

Online radio service Slacker relaunched its website as well as its iOS app Wednesday, and is scheduled to follow up with an updated Android app by the end of the year, in an attempt to reinvent itself and finally explain consumers what it is all about.

That’s been a problem in the past, admitted [company]Slacker[/company] CEO Duncan Orrell-Jones during an interview last week. Slacker didn’t do a very good job of positioning itself, said Orrell-Jones, who joined the company as its new CEO at the beginning of the year. Part of that was the company’s self-elected image, which looked stuffy when compared to its competition, complete with a logo that looked like that of a classic rock radio station.

NEWSlacker-WEB-player-expanded-hip-hop-r-b

But part of the problem was also that Slacker tried to be a little bit of everything: Personalized radio like [company]Pandora[/company], on-demand streaming of full albums like [company]Spotify[/company] and curated radio stations like Sirius XM. But it didn’t really explain what its key differentiator from its competition was.

slacker tyler oakley

Tyler Oakley is one of a handful of new Slacker celebrity DJs.

With its relaunch, the company now wants to put a bigger emphasis on the humans behind the streams. Slacker isn’t just using human curation, but actually has on-air hosts for some of its radio programming, and the company just teamed up with a number of online personalities, including YouTube star Tyler Oakley and Machinima pioneers Rooster Teeth, to bring more personality to its programming. “We are going to double down on having that human element,” Orrell-Jones told me.

Slacker is also adding a bunch of non-music programming, including podcasts from the Nerdist network and shows from ESPN, ABC and a variety of other [company]Disney[/company] properties (that’s no coincidence: Orrell-Jones is a long-time Disney veteran).

The goal of all of this is to turn Slacker into a service that more closely resembles the best of the radio world and less the complete automation of a personalized streaming service. Orrell-Jones likened that experience to listening to This American Life, or other radio programming that leads to driveway moments, where you don’t want to leave the car after arriving at home because you are immersed in a story.

NEW-Slacker-Web-Stations-Genre

The hard part for Slacker is to convince consumers that this is an experience worth paying for, especially in a world where there are tons of great and free podcasts. The company is offering a free, ad-supported tier that’s also available on mobile devices, and just like Pandora allows limited song-skipping. Orrell-Jones said that this tier is making the company some money, but that the ultimate goal was to get people to sign up for a premium tier. Slacker offers ad-free streams with unlimited Song skips for $4 a month, and full on-demand album streams for $10 a month.

Of course, there’s another tier, but it’s not being marketed by Slacker itself. The company is also powering Samsung’s Milk Music service, which has gotten some traction since it launched earlier this year the U.S. Asked how this fits into Slacker’s strategy, Orrell-Jones told me that the company obviously would like more people to use its own service, but added: “But we’d also like to be part of a winning solution.”

Check out a few more screenshots of Slacker’s new mobile apps below:

This post was updated at 11:02am to clarify that the Android app won’t be available for a few more weeks.

As expected, Last.fm is shutting down its radio service

Last.fm, the CBS-owned (S CBS) digital music outlet, will close down its streaming radio product by the end of April (hat tip to Engadget). Last.fm announced in its forums Tuesday that it wants to concentrate on “scrobbling”, meaning music recognition and recommendation, going forward, and that it will rely on YouTube (S GOOG) and Spotify for its music player. The move was widely expected after Last.fm rolled out a YouTube-based radio player in January.

Last.fm launches YouTube-based radio to cut down on costs

http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2014/01/lastfm-to-go-youtube-powered-in-last-ditch-survival-effort.html

Pioneering digital music site Last.fm just launched a radio product powered by YouTube videos that will help to keep the music streaming, without adding to Last.fm’s music licensing bill, according to hypebot. Last.fm was one of the first sites to analyze listeners’ music collections and generate personalized radio streams, but the site has been on a steady decline ever since CBS bought it for $280 million in 2007.

Pandora gives up on law to reform music royalty rates

Pandora pushed for a law to equal the playing field when it comes to the rates that different types of radio service must pay to license content, but it came up short. The outcome could hurt the service when its current contracts expire in 2015.

Online radio will start serving ads based on your web browsing

Websites show you ads based on other sites you visited. Now, online radio stations will start playing you songs based on the same information. This could spike growth in the radio ad industry and mean it won’t be weird to hear a tofu ad after a country song.

Radionomy enters the US with new browser-based online radio service

Radionomy relaunched Tuesday with a radically simplified website that offers access to more than 6000 individual radio stations, programmed by DJs and music enthusiasts. The company also officially entered the target the U.S. market and now wants to compete with radio services like Live365.com.