Broadcast & Satellite

Amazon, Spotify, Apple, others are reinventing live audio. Will you be ready?

Amazon is testing a new app that gives anyone the ability to create and share a live radio show that includes fully licensed music.

The project codenamed “Project Mic” is designed to do nothing less than to democratize and reinvent radio.

Listeners will be able to tune in through a new Amazon app, according to a presentation viewed by The Verge. as well as via Audible, Amazon Music, Twitch, and all Alexa-equipped devices. With Alexa, listeners can also interact with shows using their voices.

Amazon is not the only one betting on music-centered live audio.

Live streaming radio station Beats 1 (now Apple Music 1) has been at Apple Music’s core since launch and last year the streamer added two additional stations: Apple Music Hits, with songs from the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s as well as Apple Music Country.

Spotify, whose goal is to be the home of all things audio, last year launched The Get Up, an almost-live morning show complete with personalized song recommendations along with other daily audio programming.

Spotify also signaled its live audio ambitions with a series of concert live streams and the purchase of Greenroom. Combining that app’s live streaming with the same tech that lets podcasters add licensed music at no cost via the Spotify-owned Anchor app is inevitable.

There’s more.

SiriusXM and Pandora are experimenting with live audio and Sonos has launched numerous voice-tracked “Iive” stations. Clubhouse recently added hi-def audio for music even though they have yet to cut any licensing deals. There are also Twitter Spaces, Facebook Audio Rooms, and others.

The Death Of Radio?

While radio is not out, it’s certainly is down and new competitors like Amazon will chip away at its already shrinking audience.

Last month, for the first time in a major U.S. survey, music streaming passed radio as the primary source for new music discovery.

Are You Ready?

What does this explosion in live audio mean for artists, labels, and all those that market music?

Here are some things to implement or at least plan for now.

  1. How will you reach them? – The number of gatekeepers who showcase new music is about to increase expodentially. Promotiong new music to radio programmers, playlist curators and the handful of publications that still matter will no longer be enough when hundreds and even thousands of infleuncers, curators and just plain fans have the own “radio stations.”
  2. Niches get narrower. – More than ever knowing who an artist’s core audience is will matter. Sure you want the act to be as big as Blke Shelton. But where do you start bulding a audience when thousands of audio outlets each have their own flavor? If your core fans are likely to be middle-aged, female, from the midwest and with a strong connection to the military, which outlets reach them best? Where di you find your tribe?
  3. Be your own media – Soom we will all be able to you create the station that our core fans want to listen to. Record labels and others working in a genre can start their own stream that includes the introduction of new music. Why should a metal band trying to build an audience in the Southwest launch Metal Radio Southwest that mixes a bit of their own music alongside artists lving in and touring through the region?

The Good News

Promoting music and producing content to build an audience for a new audio stream is not an easy lift.

But look at the alternatives.

On virtually all social networks and music streaming services, there is an algorithmic gatekeeper that controls all interactions with the audience that you are building there. By their very nature, these services and algorithms are driven by tracks rather than interest in a particular artist.

How many playlist placements drive big stream counts but don’t convert to new fans? How many TikTok users can tell you the name of the artist who created the earworm that grabbed their attention two months ago?

Contrast that to hearing a full song accompanied by live commentary about the song, the artist, and where you can see them live.

Once upon a time, broadcast radio filled this void.

In the coming months, it will be up to a new group of live audio influencers to champion new music and help fans understand why they should care about the artist making it.

Will you be one of them?

Bruce Houghton is Founder and Editor of Hypebot and MusicThinkTank and serves as a Senior Advisor to Bandsintown which acquired both publications in 2019. He is the Founder and President of the Skyline Artists Agency and a professor for the Berklee College Of Music.

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