Slacker launches on-demand music service


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Slacker, the online radio service, is launching its long-awaited premium on-demand music service on Tuesday that lets subscribers listen to any of the 8 million songs in its catalog for about $10 a month.

The service, which competes with similar offerings from Rhapsody, Rdio, and MOG, is available on most iPhones, iPads, BlackBerries and smart phones that use the Android operating system. To entice folks to try out the new service, Slacker is giving away a limited number of subscriptions to those who visit its Facebook page.


Slacker’s push into the on-demand business make the field potentially more competitive for Spotify, a popular European online music service that has been trying for over a year to get the necessary licenses from music labels and publishers to launch its service in the U.S., the world’s biggest music market.

Slacker, which launched at South By Southwest in March 2007, has an established base of listeners. More than 5 million people tune into Slacker’s online radio stations a month, compared to Pandora’s 50 million. The vast majority of Pandora’s users don’t pay to listen.

A sizable chunk of Slacker’s users, more than 300,000, currently pay $3.99 for an enhanced, advertising-free version of its service, called Radio Plus.

With Slacker Premium, the company is hoping some of those users will further upgrade their service to be able to listen to any song they want, whenever they want and as often as they want instead of having to wait until the song comes back into rotation. Slacker Premium also lets subscribers cache hundreds of songs on their devices so they can listen to them, even when they don’t have a Web connection.

But Slacker isn’t just going after Pandora, which earlier this year announced its plan to begin selling shares in company on Wall Street later this year. It’s also aiming at traditional radio stations, such as those operated by Clear Channel Communications, said Jonathan Sasse, senior vice president of marketing at Slacker, based in San Diego.

‘If you look at where broadcast radio is going, it looks like they’re trying to become what online radio used to be,’ Sasse said. ‘What we’re trying to become is what broadcast radio used to be, which is radio that’s expertly programmed and tailored to you. It used to be that when I came to a new town, I’d find an awesome station with a local DJ that talks about the music in my city, the concerts in my city and play some new music. Radio done right can be really good. And broadcast radio is really missing out, because they’ve just turned into generic hit machines.’


-- Alex Pham