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Amazon’s Prime Music expands catalog and curated playlists

Amazon’s Prime Music, which launched in June, has enhanced its service with “hundreds of thousands of songs,” and a big raft of new house-curated playlists. The service is pressing its strategy of providing easy lean-back listening to music mixes to Prime members, and de-emphasizing lean-forward music searching and collecting. We took the opportunity to give the service a second review, this time in an Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet, presumably the, er, prime interface for the platform. Continue Reading

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REVIEW: MixRadio

by Brad Hill

Microsoft-owned Nokia’s music service, MixRadio, is slated to be spun out as a stand-alone listening platform. It’s big news — separating from that ecosystem will put MixRadio on the same playing field as Pandora, iTunes Radio, and other Internet radio brands. In light of the news, this is a timely moment to assess MixRadio and its potential to stand out in the crowd. How does it shape up? We tested the premium service offered by MixRadio on a Windows 8.1 computer with touch screen, and a Windows 8.1 tablet. Basics? Well-covered (mostly). Highlights? Occasional. Continue Reading

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Rhapsody unRadio: Shrewdly targeting Pandora and Spotify

In its most important structural change in years, and a meaningful expansion of its business model, on-demand music service Rhapsody has announced unRadio, and added the new listening experience to all its apps. At the same time, Rhapsody is starting a partnership with T-Mobile, wherein unRadio is available free of charge to T-Mobile wireless cell-phone customers.

As a stand-alone service, whether through T-Mobile or not, unRadio shrewdly combines lean-back listening, similar to Pandora, with on-demand interactivity, similar to Spotify and Rhapsody’s own Premier plan. Rhapsody is effectively straddling the gulf between free listening supported by advertising, and the full interactivity of a celestial music jukebox. It could hit a sweet spot for some music-lovers. Continue Reading

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A survey of crowdfunded podcasts

Podcasting is a surging content category in online audio, but still off the mainstream path compared with Internet radio and music-service giants and their multi-billion-dollar valuations. Aggregators and producers such as Podcast One and Midroll Media are leveraging new platforms to raise awareness, and revenue, of online-only talk programs. Out on the fringe, some podcast creators are seeking funding and visibility on crowdfunding platforms.

Knowing about The Media Podcast project inspired us to survey crowdfunders Kickstarter and Indiegogo to observe how podcast creators are using them, and to what extent they are succeeding. Continue Reading

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iHeartRadio 5.0: new app, focus on personalization

Review by Brad Hill

Clear Channel updated its iHeartRadio app, overhauling the design with a more compact and usable presentation, while adding a level of instant personalization for new users. We tested the upgrade in its Android version, which was released slightly before the iOS version for Apple devices. Long-time users will appreciate the tightened, more intelligent design choices in the new app.

iHeartRadio 5.0 is seems to have a dual targeting strategy: attracting new users, and improving the experience for existing audience. It’s a big audience: 345-million app downloads and 50-million registered users Continue Reading

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REVIEW: Prime Music

REVIEW by Brad Hill


Amazon’s gleaming-new music subscription service stepped into the market today, and we dove in quickly for a test drive.

Prime Music feels like a beta service on its first morning. We found problems with playing music, and an unwieldy system for streaming whole songs, albums, and playlists, which should be easy in an on-demand streaming service. The catalog is demonstrably small, with obvious voids in which one’s listening hopes are extinguished.

But all this might not matter to the intended audience, which is (for now, at least) existing Amazon Prime members. As of today, Prime Music is instantly one of the largest music subscription services in the world. Continue Reading