Seems if a radio station can offer music online, why can’t a newspaper? Well that’s the thinking behind The San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate.com’s deal with internet radio startup Earbits: Earbits-powered SFGate Radio launched 7/20, offering six different streams: Rock and Pop; Hard Rock and Metal; Folk, Country, and Bluegrass; Jazz, Funk, and Blues; Hip Hop, R&B; and Soul Electronic and Dance. Users can also connect Earbits with their Facebook account for:
* Custom recommendations
* Earbits can recommend stations, based on the music you like via Facebook.
* See what friends are listening to
* Keep up with all the songs that your friends are loving with a live list.
* Share your favorites
* Find out about concerts and more
Earbits’ model is a bit different—it plays no in-stream advertising and is free, no subscription fees. Instead, artists and labels purchase airtime and display ads. Local artists are a big part of the mix as well. Its catalog now includes 167 record labels and over 2,000 artists. Users can skip and rate songs.
Artists and musicians can also hype upcoming shows and festivals scheduled in the Bay Area on highlighted channels.
Earbits is found on SFGate Radio’s entertainment home page. However, if you go directly to www.earbits.com/play, you can select from a much broader range of music mix channels and format channels:
Bluegrass & Folk
R&B / Soul
Reggae / Ska
All Reggae / Ska
All R&B / Soul
All Listener’s Picks
All Hip Hop
All Hard Rock
All Editor’s Picks
All Contemporary Composers
All Bluegrass & Folk
All House and Techno
Alt. Hip Hop
Andrew’s Digital Gypsy Collection
Beats / Instrumental
Breakstone’s Eclectic Mix
Club Hip Hop
East Coast Hip Hop
Electro Jazz/Acid Jazz
Experimental Hip Hop
Folk RockFree Jazz
Freshfey’s Finest Hip Hop Picks
Global/World Hip Hop
Old School Street Beats
Rock & Roll
Scott’s Evidence of Rock
Scott’s Favorite Chick Singers
Scott’s Hippest Alt & Indie Picks
Slimdog’s Lead Dogz Hip Hop
Southern Hip Hop
Sum’s Hip-Hop Picks
Technical Death Metal
West Coast Hip Hop
Yotam’s Favorite Instrumental Jazz
Yotam’s Top Funk Selection
Because Earbits negotiates its own licenses with both unsigned artists and independent labels, it has a SoundExchange royalty waiver and standard deals with the three performing rights organizations.
Co-founder and CEO Joey Florez tells Billboard.biz the company was founded out of necessity by musicians who wanted to promote their shows: “So the three founders came up with a concept of a platform that would act as a band’s promotional platform and would tie in to other channels. For example, Earbits can play an artist’s music to a listener in a specific market that artist will soon be playing.”
“We’re a marketing company cleverly designed as a radio platform,” he says.
The site had 50,000 visitors last month without any marketing spend, Florez says, and white-label partners like SFGate are sure to improve that number.
RBR-TVBR observation: It’s a great way for any medium to skirt some of the royalty fees that are associated with streaming. Yes, it’s pay-for-play, but it’s legal and radio should take note for NTR streams: leveraging both local and national artists. Because of the pay-for-play model, these streams may not all sound that great, with little or no filtering going on with the content. But that’s not the point—this is a revenue-producing idea, whether you contract with Earbits or do it yourself.