How Has Napster Beat Pandora In The Digital Space?

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Remember Napster, the catalyst that sent a wake-up call to the music industry that consumers were no longer willing to buy $18 Compact Discs with one hit single and seven forgettable songs?


Well, Rhapsody has changed its name to Napster, and it’s 100% legal. It’s also 100% behind the just-launched Beta version of one of two new subscription-based services from iHeartRadio.

Now available for iOS and Android users are “iHeartRadio Plus” and “iHeartRadio All Access powered by Napster” — now available via the iHeartRadio app. Full availability on mobile and desktop will come in January 2017, iHeart said.

Unlike popular services such as Pandora, Spotify and Tidal, iHeartRadio is adding on-demand functionality and interactivity to live radio.

Priced at $4.99 per month, iHeartRadio Plus offers live radio listening with the addition of the instant replay of songs, and then returning to the live radio station in progress; user ability to save songs heard on a radio station’s stream for on-demand playback through a My Music playlist; song library searchability; and unlimited skips when tuned to a custom artist-focused internet radio stream.

For $9.99 a month, iHeartRadio All Access powered by Napster provides additional features such as control and curation of personal music libraries, no playback cap, and offline listening capabilities.

“We didn’t want to build just another music subscription service, so instead, we created the first service that uses on demand functionality to make radio truly interactive,” iHeartRadio President Darren Davis said in a blog posting announcing the two Beta versions of its new services. “After all, it’s radio that’s at the very ‘heart’ of iHeartRadio. Over the past year, our team has been heads down, focused on bringing our new products to life.”

He reiterated that the free iHeartRadio service used by upward of 90 million registered users will remain free.

A 30-day free trial of each subscription-based service is now being offered to users that wish to “give it a whirl.”

Davis added, “Since this is Beta, this is our opportunity to work through any needed tweaks and updates, so please continue to share your feedback through this test phase.”

The announcement from iHeart, which sees its stock price at $1.45 and just narrowed the list of bondholders eligible to vote on changes related to a debt exchange, is a major step in a new direction for the media company.

It also sends a message to Pandora Media that music lovers may be tired of waiting for its long-teased and yet-to-debut  subscription-based on-demand streamed music option. At a lengthy Investor Day event held in late October, during the height of the Q3 earnings release period, company CEO Tim Westergren negated company assurances to RBR + TVBR given in August that the new service would arrive by  year’s end.

Now, “Pandora Premium” is expected to arrive during the first three months of 2017.

Perhaps Pandora investors are also getting antsy. Shares in “P” were off 2.1% in morning trading on Thursday, to $11.39.


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Adam R Jacobson is a veteran radio industry journalist and advertising industry analyst with general, multicultural and Hispanic market expertise. From 1996 to 2006 he served as an editor at Radio & Records.