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Tuning Into Interactive Web Radio

I ended today's column with a series of question marks--I didn't want to tell you all what to think, mainly because I wasn't sure what I thought about how people might elect to listen to music if they could tune into a reasonable approximation of their tastes anywhere and everywhere.

That does not mean that I agree with the SoundExchange folks on this. I think the actions of this group--a non-profit set up to collect royalties paid by Webcasters and other digital music services and channel them to musicians and record labels--have often shown the music industry's self-defeating greed at its worst. (For the record, SE executive director John Simson still doesn't think the organization erred by asking Webcasters to pay such steep royalty rates, saying "I don't think that we asked for too much" in an interview Tuesday.)

But: I can't rule out the idea that an interactive-music site could, for some people and at some point, take the place of a music collection. I can't rule that out because I know there are people who treat music like a commodity, or at the very least feel no strong urge to pay for a particular song if they can listen to their favorite flavors of music when they want to.

(One thought that I didn't get into in the column or the accompanying podcast--but maybe should have: Free interactive-radio sites might wind up displacing only one type of music spending--subscription fees paid to services like Napster or Rhapsody that let you rent all the songs you want for a fixed fee.)

Here's your chance to prove me wrong. Do you listen to sites like Pandora or Last.fm? If so, where does that listening fit into your broader music consumption? Are you spending less time listening to your own purchased music as a result, or do you listen to more music overall? How many CDs/downloads have you bought because you heard an artist's work at one of these sites?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 16, 2007; 9:51 AM ET
Categories:  Music  
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Comments

I use Pandora from time to time as it reveals new artists who I would never have heard otherwise (no radio playtime) and also back catalog of artists that I've overlooked before. The consequence is that I buy more new CDs, especially since I will usually explore more of an artist's repertoire after one good CD experience.

Posted by: Mike | August 16, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Ditto what mike said.

Posted by: Pat | August 16, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I listen to Pandora because they play artists whose style is similar to the artists that I have selected in my personal channels. This often gives me the opportunity to listen to musicians with whom I am not familiar or don't have a chance to hear often.

Posted by: Steve | August 16, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I have XM at home and at work listening to the Radio via a PC isn't practical. So
Web RADIO just doesn't work for me.

Posted by: Michael | August 16, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I am a subscriber to Napster. I find it suits my needs best.

Posted by: michele | August 16, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I'll listen to Pandora at work when I'm not in the mood for whatever is on my mp3 player or I've left it at home. It's a great service -- I know I've personally spent at least $120 THIS YEAR buying cds/downloads from artists that it introduced to me, as well as attending one concert (for the band Say Hi To Your Mom).

I don't often use it at home. I have a large music collection that's now all digitized, so I'm never left wanting for anything there. (I'm sure I've got songs I haven't even listened to in years!) I do get tracks from eMusic, but a large portion of my collection still comes from the old fashioned way. Digital downloads just can't replicate the fun of going to a store like Sound Garden and the thrill of discovery as I find something in the used bin that I didn't even know I was searching for.

Posted by: Adam | August 16, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I hardly ever listen to commercial radio, not even public radio. I listen to Pandora when I'm not playing my own CD's. On Pandora I get to customize my channel and hear the kind of music I like, and I can learn about artists I would not have heard otherwise. I've bought several CD's since starting to listen to Pandora.

Posted by: Marsha | August 16, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

As I type this (while I should be working) I'm currently listening to Pandora. I probably spend 4-6 hrs a day listening to Pandora and it's a great resource for listening to music from artists that either don't get air play on conventional radio stations or hear more of an artist's album since conventional radio. And yes, I still buy CD's of artists I like and download songs from iTunes when I only want to hear a few songs from one album or I want to listen to songs from 'back in the day'.
I think record companies are missing out on a good opportunity to use free internet radio to expose people to new artist that don't get enough exposure from radio or music video channels (do those still exist?).

Posted by: k-gotham | August 16, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

About 6 years ago I was addicted to Launch.com, which did something similar. I discovered some new music along the way, and got an unusual mix that you don't normally get. So that was nice. (I stopped because my office put into effect a policy of no streaming web content, and I just don't listen to web radio at home.)

Currently I discover new music by volunteering at an indie radio station in Chicago. That's certainly not something most people can do, but I do hope that I'm a resource to my listeners when I'm on the air.

Posted by: Tony | August 16, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I paid the low price for a Pandora subscription and enjoyed creating many music channels, but stopped short when I found out that each music channel requires Pandora to pay a huge amount of money (I heard $500) in royalties for each of those channels. How can this business model survive?

As an old disk jockey, I found their software (to find similar sounding music and artists) innovative, but I frequently was unable to force it to come close enough to the sound of the artist I was interested in, and frequently the software would select music that was surprisingly far from what I was interested in. While it's possible to eliminate those unwanted automatic artist or song selections, it takes more time than I want to spend on it in order to mold the playlist of a channel.

Having said that, I do think they are brilliant at what they do, and look forward to aditional improvements.

Posted by: Bill | August 16, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

John Simpson has no motivation to disagree with the performance copyright royalty rates the CRB judges voted into existence last March.

Until Congress reverses this burdensome wrong, SoundExchnage will always state the new copyright rates are fair. The March CRB ruling gives John Simpson a bargaining position of strength and a self-imagined sense of having the moral high ground.

If negotiations between webcasters and SoundExchange are to find a compromise point, in terms of the actual royalty rates to be paid by webcasters, The March CRB ruling will have to be set aside first.

Only the US Congress will be able to provide a level playing field for meaningful negotiations between Internet Radio and SoundExchange.

Posted by: Richard | August 16, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I would like to listen to Pandora all the time but I find that I don't. The best time for me would be at work, but it stops playing if you're not actively responding to the music.

I have a very demanding profession and I step away from my desk on a regular basis. I love Pandora and I will listen to it if it continues to develop. People at work are there to work and it really needs to be hands free. The essence of radio is once you go through all the trouble to find a station... you set it and it plays.

I'm working over here! (exclaimed in NYC accent!)

So, I listen mostly to my CD's. I too have spent nearly $200 on music discovered on Pandora. Both in stores and online. I have also sought out concerts of bands found on Pandora. But the honeymoon's over. Time is the one thing I don't have a lot of and who ever develops a system for BUSY music lovers... wins!

It would also be great if I could revisit/ replay the stuff they played while I was away from my desk. Like I said, I'm busy.

Posted by: Mark | August 16, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Rob, I listen to Pandora commonly during the day when at my desk. It is a neat way to hear new music and hear music of varying moods. In the last year, I have purchased 20 new CD as a result of bands I hear only from listening to Pandora. Sound Exchange is shooting themselves in the foot here, in my opinion.

Posted by: Love My Tunes | August 16, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I listen to AOL radio on our computer. We just set the genre or type of music we prefer at the moment and listen to it several hours every day. I haven't paid anything for this service yet but I imagine that will change. We are both senior citizens and are truly impressed by this service. As a result of this and seeing who is performing, I have bought more CD's this year than in the last 15 years. Here is what they advertize:
AOL and XM, America's No. 1 Satellite Radio provider, have joined forces to bring you the ultimate Internet radio experience in CD-quality sound (requires a high speed connection).

Now AOL Radio With XM features superior quality Dolby® AAC sound. And it's FREE & Unlimited 24/7! (requires a high speed connection)

What you get:
· 200+ AOL stations -- the best in music, news, sports and talk
· A selection of XM commercial-free music channels
· Exclusive AOL-only radio stations, including:
- All-Artist stations: one artist, all on one station
- Celebrity DJ stations: Top artists pick the music that moves them

Posted by: Jerry and Jane | August 16, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Though I have a 3 year subscription to XM radio tunes which I can listen to on my portable player or the Internet, I have found that I rarely listen to it anymore now that Pandora is available. All of my recent song purchases in the last 6 months (significant) have been a result of hearing the artist on Pandora.

Posted by: IWishUWell | August 16, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I listen to Pandora at work, and I think it's a great way to hear music you like and discover new musicians. I think the prices they are paying are completely ridiculous. The fact is, anything that has advertising associated with it is actually not free. Being exposed to the advertising is the cost. Tv and radio over the airwaves have always used this model. With the internet, advertisers actually get more information about exactly how successful their advertisements are, too, because they can determine the number of clicks on an advertisement, or purchases of a cd coming from the radio site. These dinosaurs need to stop fighting the technology and start making money off of it by accepting it and the associated new business models. Trying to fight the free copying/distribution of music/information through technology is a losing battle that only serves to further alienate the new generations of consumers: people who are very ready to buy music at the click of a mouse or the tap of a text message.

Posted by: rich | August 16, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

The Houston, Tx market of F.M. radio has gone to hell on both, the commercial and "public", sides. Consequently, I don't bother listening to broadcast radio by choice and only hear it when forced to by being in someone else's vehicle or while shopping.
Pandora is a wonderful alternative to suffering commercial drivel and has exposed me to a vast amoount of music I would not have otherwise heard. All of the music I have purchased in the last few years has been a direct result of hearing it on Pandora.
At last count I had around 50 "stations" and from them I have frequently shared music shared music with friends and family.

Posted by: Mark | August 16, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I listen to Pandora at work only and love it. I have programmed twenty different stations and then use the QuickMix feature to get the entire assortment. Fantastic!

Pandora has exposed me to artists I wasn't familiar with. Can't say that I've bought any more CDs or MP3s as a result, but I haven't bought any less, either. I just enjoy the commercial-free station that plays (almost) everything that I like.

Posted by: Jim | August 16, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Back in the days, I used to download a lot of song on Napster...and I would buy 1 or 2 CDs a week as a result. You may find a whole CD online for mainstream artist, but not all. If I really like the artist, I would buy the CDs. If it's a one-hit wonder, I would not buy the CDs anyway. Napster was a great way to learn about new artists. I did not like the radio. They play the same songs over and over, and I get tired of them before I have the chance to buy them. Plus, it is always the same style. The video channel? Well, maybe I am too old (or old-fashioned), but I don't the videos like I used to.
So, when they shut Napster, I stopped buying CDs... I did not know where to turn to to hear interesting artists.
With Pandora, I am slowly starting to buy CDs again.

Posted by: Rachel | August 16, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I listen mostly at work, on the computer, to Classical music at wprb.com, wnyc2.org, and other streams, mostly those from Live365, where I pay a measly $40.++ per annum for all the streams I can handle.

I belong to WNYC Public Radio in New York. I will be joining WPRB in October when they begin to accept member dollars.

Radio should be cheap, but not free. On the 15th of the month, I pick out three Live365 streamers and make a small donation.

I also support hos.com, an independent supplier to Public Radio, and soma.fm a Shoutcast streamer , both of these from San Fransisco.

The internet has opened up a global market place for our ears and or dollars.

We should rejoice in the opportunity to support this progress.,

Posted by: Richard Mitnick | August 16, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I listen to an outfit out of Southern California called "Smokin Oldies."
I listen to it because they play many of the songs I enjoy listen to from the sixties. I also listen because commercial stations in the area have stopped playing that genre.
As for CD's I stopped buying them when they became too cost prohibitive compared to the amount of music that is supplied.

Posted by: M. P. R. Howard | August 16, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I have a Sirius subscription, and I lovelove Sirius radio, but I also listen to LastFM.

I'm definitely going to check out musicovery.com. Currently, when I'm in a "new music" finding mood I go to CDBABY.com. Lots of new artists, lots of great old treasures too.

Posted by: LALA_Q | August 17, 2007 12:31 AM | Report abuse

I spend a lot of time on my computer, and one of the following is usually playing: BBC2, KCSM (the SF jazz station), or Pandora.

I also buy a lot of CDs which I play while driving or on the 2 sound systems that we have at home. I have certainly been exposed to "new" (to me) artists, and bought CDs as a result of listening to streaming radio.

Posted by: May Fran | August 17, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I still prefer locally produced over the air radio.

Posted by: Matt | August 17, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Music listening is a little different depending on location. It's Internet Radio (defined here as traditional streaming stations: XPN.org and RadioParadise.com) and my personal music collection (mostly CDs) at home. In the car it is personal music and podcasts (via an iPod). At work it is Internet Radio and Pandora.

There is no question that Internet Radio and Pandora have introduced me to a lot of new music and, along with iTunes, has been instrumental in increasing my spending on music 3x in the last 5-7 years. I spend upwards of $300-400 a year on music and another $100-$150 in donations to my Internet Radio stations (I don't donate to Pandora since they are advertiser supported). It is really outragous that SoundExchange wants to charge, effectively, another $500 for my listening of music that I don't even end up owning or can play on demand.

Posted by: Eric | August 17, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I have last.fm on now. My favorites are Last and Pandora, although I listen to many more or less interactive stations and streams on the computer. It's because of them that I'm buying CDs again - a few hundred dollars a year. Eliminating the streams will lead to a lot of us buying a lot less.

A few people said they can't get Pandora to do exactly what they want. They can - it's in the FAQs.

Posted by: Meg | August 17, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

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