A Music Service Better Than Piracy? It’s Possible.

image from www.slacker.com This is part two of my interview segment with Jonathan Sasse, who is SVP Marketing at Slacker Radio. In this interview, Sasse contends that pay-to-play isn't within Slacker's best interest and that there's an art to creating a great radio station. As well, he believes that radio in the best, all around source for music of discovery.

Hypebot: If we gave you a bag of money, would you play "The Hypebot Hit Song" three times an hour? Why might that be against your better interest?

Jonathan Sasse: Our business depends on offering a top notch and engaging listening experience that people enjoy and overplaying a song is just not in our – or our listener’s – best interest. Also, unlike traditional radio, we know when someone tunes in, so we can offer them a hit song and not play it again knowing that they have heard it, while traditional radio may need to play a song more often to ensure their listeners hear it.

Hypebot: What separates human curated from computer generated stations?

Jonathan Sasse: We believe there is an art to creating a great radio station – it’s not just a science. We have DJs who are not only experts of their particular genre they curate, but who know the history and relationships such as “who toured with whom” behind this music allowing them to offer a very powerful listening and discovery experience. We also follow a traditional radio clock that offers just the right mix of known music and music discovery, although if a listener wants more hits, or more music discovery they can control this with the “Fine Tune” controls we offer. If you create playlists purely from an algorithm using song attributes, you are likely to miss out on popularity, breaking artists, great deep songs and just the general knowledge that a radio genre expert can provide.

Hypebot: Is it possible to build a music service that beats piracy ten-fold?

Jonathan Sasse: We think it’s important to provide a service for music fans that gives them access to all facets of music – from a great discovery experience with radio to full on-demand access to anything that’s out there and make it easy to do so. It’s also essential that we offer something that makes our customers’ lives better and easier – not everyone has the time or wants to take the time to read about and learn all of the latest and greatest and even classic tracks. Slacker Radio can provide this for those listeners, whether they are looking for a great free experience, or if they are willing to pay for music, but just have yet to find the right experience.

Hypebot: How will radio in the front and on-demand streaming in the back enable you to create a more compelling music service? What are the main challenges ahead of you for trying to build awareness for this new market offering?

Jonathan Sasse: Radio is the best resource for music discovery – exposing fans to the latest and greatest as well as classic songs that they may not encounter otherwise. On demand lets anyone have access to any track they can think of, but we’ve seen that with on-demand “in the front”, listeners often quickly “run out” of ideas of what to check out and can easily burn out on the service. We believe the combination of a top-notch radio service providing music discovery up front with on-demand access to any song and entire albums will be a winning combo. How many times have you heard a track on the radio and then wanted to continue listening to that band or artists’ entire album, or even just replay that song? With Slacker Premium, you will be able to do just that – and you won’t have had to search for it to find it.

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  1. Slacker fails at what it tries to do. Their preset stations might be great, but if I create my own station with a wide variety of artists that I’ve added, I more often than not, will hear the same artists/songs every couple of hours.
    I’ve paid for Slacker, Pandora, and Grooveshark. Pandora gets the personalized radio and suggestions down to a science, it’s amazing. I almost never hear the same artist twice at a time. Grooveshark is great for playing specific songs.
    Slacker doesn’t have the depth that Pandora does. Also, Slacker Premium doesn’t allow me to play a whole album or song. Unless things changed from 2 months ago, that might be something they are planning. If they can get their suggestions on par with Pandora and get the on-demand of Grooveshark, they’ll have me back as a customer.

  2. Slayerboy, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act doesn’t allow Slacker (or any of the other services you use) to play a full album from start to finish.
    I actually quite like that Slacker plays songs from the same artist every couple of hours on my customized stations – they’re artists I selected to hear! Why would I build a “Slayer station” and not hear any Slayer music?
    I’m a huge fan of their preset stations. Very well curated.

  3. Quote from Jonathan Sasse in the article:
    “How many times have you heard a track on the radio and then wanted to continue listening to that band or artists’ entire album, or even just replay that song? With Slacker Premium, you will be able to do just that – and you won’t have had to search for it to find it.”
    They’re purporting that this is possible when it’s not. I’ve had Slacker Premium, it’s not possible.

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