A Streaming Service’s Metamorphosis: Radical.FM Founder Shares His Startup Journey
In this piece traveler and music business entrepreneur Tom McAlevey walks us the through the development of his music streaming startup Radical.FM and how the service has evolved over time to fit the needs of the industry.
Guest Post by Tom McAlevey on Radical Indie
My life swings between insane adventures and intense business undertakings like a Hollywood movie. After riding a motorcycle around the world, I founded Sweden’s biggest rock radio station, Bandit. After years traversing Africa by beach-buggy, I threw myself back into the thick of Western business to start Radical. But a music/tech startup and a drive across Africa have more in common than one might guess. Both are challenging, costly, require 100% commitment, are often more lonely than glamorous, and both require the ability to change course or die (literally in Africa, financially in business) when a better path presents itself.
As streaming behemoths like Pandora and Spotify vacuumed up users by the millions, well-reviewed underdogs like Radical.FM and Rdio struggled to attain critical mass. Rdio finally crumbled under the weight of extreme monthly operating expenses. I maintain strict fiscal responsibility with shareholders’ money so Radical survives… but in this business survival is slow death. Silicon Vally backs rising stars and would prefer they burnout quickly if not hugely successful, so investors can move on to the next big thing.
Last year, lacking sufficient differentiation from other popular music streaming services, and lacking the financial muscle to ‘shout’ loudly enough in the noisy streaming arena, I was forced to confront the possibility that Radical.FM, the admirable result of years of effort, could simply fade offline without a whimper. It was time to get radical or risk becoming a footnote in the streaming war history.
Last November we took Radical.FM offline. It was a difficult decision, but preferable to bleeding out slowly. We decided to stop competing in the crowded mainstream music fray, and to devote our efforts entirely to the under-served Indie Artist community. It felt like a worthy thing to do, and with SoundCloud selling out to the major labels it also made business sense. In addition to this significant change in course, we committed massive technical resources to completing our TALK feature, in order to provide Indie Artists with a truly different marketing tool — their own live radio stations.
Welcome to the all-new Radical Indie, the most powerful LIVE audio broadcasting platform to ever offer legal music content.
Radical allows anyone to share Independent music Live via our one-touch BroadCast feature for completely synchronous real-time sharing. While Radical’s proprietary TALK™ technology allows every user to inject their voice into their BroadCast to host Live radio to an unlimited audience worldwide.
Now Indie Artists can present new releases LIVE to their fans, Kanye West can modify his playlist order based on real-time feedback, a pastor from Zimbabwe can build a global following for his sermons, or the kid next door can become the next Ryan Seacrest.
Home to Independent Musicians and TALKshow Hosts worldwide, the all-new Radical Indie is the most social streaming audio service ever. At last the personality and sense of community of old-school radio have been successfully married to the wonder of the internet. And as always, Radical is free and commercial free, operating uniquely on a ‘Pay What You Can’ basis.
Radical, broadcast radio for the internet age.