Slacker Radio enlists Tyler Oakley, other YouTube stars as station DJs

YouTube stars who’ve been diversifying by acting in films, authoring books and selling clothing now have a new occupation to try out.

Pandora competitor Slacker Radio plans soon to invite any social-media star to be the deejay of his or her own online radio station. On Wednesday, Slacker announced an initial set of stations curated by YouTube personality Tyler Oakley, video production house Rooster Teeth, pop-culture aficionado Comic Book Girl 19 and podcaster Nerdist.

Oakley, for instance, recorded about 45 minutes of banter and introductions to songs. The recordings will be spliced among hours of music that he hand-selected. The station will be updated monthly, and Slacker’s hope is that Oakley’s nearly 6 million YouTube fans and 3 million Twitter followers will regularly check in.

The “I Am the DJ” initiative is part of a wider Slacker redesign orchestrated by the San Diego start-up’s new chief executive, Duncan Orrell-Jones. He joined Slacker in February after a couple of years at Nintendo and more than 18 years at Walt Disney Co. in California and Japan.

Orrell-Jones’ pitch to listeners centers on the fact that humans, not computer algorithms, pick the music that is played on Slacker stations. Users can also receive regular news breaks with information from ESPN, ABC News and Radio Disney. Ad-free streaming costs $3.99 a month. On-demand access to a song costs $6 more a month.

“Pandora is perfectly good background music,” Orrell-Jones said. “But I’m more engaged by programming that comes with personality.”

Though traditional radio still attracts millions of listeners to its shows, Orrell-Jones is betting that the YouTube generation craves for a new kind of radio star.

“Terrestrial radio DJs have become sterile, dumbed-down and corporatized,” he said. “We want to double-down on human personality, so we went searching for the modern Howard Stern.”

Jack Isquith, Slacker’s programming boss, says social-media influencers with millions of followers have generated that audience because they have a voice and take stands.

“They might not have the traditional, deep-rock, male voice, but these are people who are willing to have a point of view and are good at telling stories,” Isquith said. “They will take advantage of the freedom we’re giving them.”

Oakley and the other initial DJs signed contracts with Slacker, the terms of which were not disclosed. Long-term, Slacker imagines sharing advertising and subscription revenue with its stars in a similar way as YouTube.

Orrell-Jones said Slacker, founded in 2006, is nearing profitability.

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