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iHeart unveils its move into subscription streaming

By | Published on Monday 26 September 2016


As expected, iHeartMedia has announced that it is moving into subscription streaming, with January next year set as a launch date. As also expected, it will offer both an enhanced personalised radio experience, probably at $5 a month, and a fully on-demand option, probably at $10 month, and it has entered into direct deals with the labels to make all of that happen, having previously heavily relied on the compulsory licence available for basic personalised radio services in the US.

All of which mirrors much of what competitor Pandora announced earlier this month (though it was relaunching its existing $5 service), and possibly explains why it was in such a rush to get its upgrades and new deals announced, even though doing so required putting out a press release before Warner Music had actually signed on the dotted line.

Though iHeart premium isn’t going to be same old, same old, everybody. Oh no, stop saying that, will you? As the streaming service of the biggest conventional radio broadcaster in the US, iHeartRadio is going to properly integrate all this streaming whatnot with the good old fashioned radio experience that we all know and love.

“Because 73% of consumers, which include users of on-demand music services, continually cite radio as their primary source of music discovery, iHeartRadio’s new on-demand offering will allow listeners to bridge the divide between music discovery and music collecting by seamlessly incorporating true interactivity into the radio listening experience through a variety of new features”, says the broadcaster.

Want to know more about that seamless radio-to-stream experience? “For the first time ever, when listeners hear a new or favourite song on the radio they can instantly replay a song and even save it directly to a playlist”, says iHeartRadio President Darren Davis. “We are re-imagining radio – with the new technologies and offerings powered by our on-demand options, music discovery, music collecting and the power of community and companionship fostered by live radio and influential and trusted personalities. iHeartRadio is now combining it all for the first time; there’s no other digital music service that can do this”.

Well, that’s all lovely, isn’t it? And the major labels chiefs are all super excited too. They wrote quotes and everything.

As much previously reported, iHeart – formerly Clear Channel – has used its vast network of AM and FM stations to hook in American listeners to its existing online and personalised radio offering, doing a good job of catching up with main rival Pandora despite coming to market somewhat later. Though to date iHeartRadio has only had an ad-funded free option. The move into subscriptions is an attempt by the media firm to create a crucial extra revenue stream around its online product.

Anyway, I mentioned major label boss quotes…

Sony Music’s Doug Morris: “I’d like to congratulate [iHeart CEO] Bob Pittman and the team at iHeartRadio on their move into the subscription music business. This deal further expands our long-running successful relationship, and creates promising new commercial opportunities to engage with the millions of music fans who listen to iHeart every day. We look forward to working with them to develop premium music solutions for radio users”.

Universal Music’s Lucian Grainge: “Universal Music Group is pleased to welcome a new addition to the growing and dynamic music subscription space with iHeart’s launch of interactive services. We’re glad to build upon our relationship with iHeart, which under Bob’s leadership continues to innovate the radio experience by adding distinct features and services and attract a broad audience that remains deeply passionate about music”.

Warner Music’s Steve Cooper: “We’re pleased to be expanding our long-standing partnership with Bob and his team. iHeart’s expertise and reach in radio programming and curation, combined with the full power of streaming technology, is a compelling prospect. These new services will open up the choice of experiences that iHeart offers music fans, while providing our artists and songwriters with a wider range of commercial and marketing opportunities”.