Startups & Funding

Slacker Radio Favors Human DJs Over Algorithms

Slacker-premium In the last few months, digital radio service Slacker has added a premium channel, partnered with AOL and helped launch the new Facebook. But they've also been a successful example of music programming by expert humans, aka djs, as opposed to more algorithmically inclined solutions.

Music curation is taking on many forms and Slacker was recently profiled in the LA Times including some thoughts on the power of djs vs algorithms for programming choices. As Alex Pham notes:

"As director of music programming at…Slacker Inc., [Scott] Riggs oversees about 70 DJs who select most of the songs played on the company's 150 stations, including genres as varied as trance, hip-hop, gospel and swing…"

"Although Slacker has struggled over the years to find the right business model, it has not deviated from its DJ-centric approach, believing that the way to people's ears — and wallets — is to offer music curated by experts in dozens of genres and sub-genres. Riggs is at the heart of Slacker's efforts, overseeing a group of contract DJs who build their stations' playlists from scratch and continually fine-tune them."

Slacker's willingness to fund a staff of djs is a strong differentiator from other streaming music services at a time when competition is intense.  I'd like to think that human curation can be a strong selling point but I wonder how much expertise is discounted in an environment in which music suggestions seem to emanate from all directions.

Other music services that rely on handpicked djs or editorial staff, though not direct competitors, include 955 Dreams, Groovebug and Dubset.

Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. He blogs about web business models at Flux Research and the world of dance at All World Dance. To suggest music services and related topics for review at Hypebot, please contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. I started to subscribe to Slacker Radio Plus this summer, and I have to say it blows Pandora away. Just do a comparison between Slacker’s Adult Alternative and Pandora’s Adult Alternative. The former has a deep fantastically curated playlist whereas the Pandora station, while pleasing at the beginning shows itself to be shallow, way too boring mainstream, and when it does throw in lesser known tracks, it feels random as opposed to selecting a new artist that is really good. Plus the offline caching Slacker Plus has is very handy for both iPod Touch users and smartphone users who don’t want to eat up their data usage with audio streaming.

  2. I love the UK stations on Slacker. They keep me in the loop regarding music from my homeland!

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