In 1990, Martine Rothblatt founded Satellite CD Radio with the vision that radio could be more efficiently delivered via a nationally accessible broadcast medium. Today, we know that company as Sirius XM Radio.
Their success proved that consumers were willing to pay for high quality, digital content and represents the first step in a major paradigm shift in music consumption.
As it had for many other industries, the Internet disrupted the music broadcast industry again by allowing innovators to challenge the status quo of how music is consumed. Customized radio like Pandora, and Virtual Library Services like Spotify were never possible without the two-way nature of the Internet, and therefore never previously imagined. Of course, traditional broadcast radio still has its place in the Internet age.
Integrators who understand the differences between the different offerings, and the benefits of each can most effectively guide their clients to select a combination of services that maximize the listening experience and their customers’ satisfaction.
The Virtual Library category is led by Spotify, with similar services such as TIDAL offering higher quality content at 16 bit/44kHz. Services like this enable listeners to build their own custom music libraries much like iTunes, but with a monthly subscription model instead of paying for each song or album.
The Custom Radio concept, where a listener provides artist or genre preferences is led by Pandora which uses a sophisticated analysis protocol to “recognize and respond to each listener’s tastes in order to create a more personalized radio experience.” Slacker is another option in the Custom Radio category.
The broadcast radio category is led by Sirius/XM, with TuneIn Radio and iHeartRadio also giving listeners access to terrestrial content that includes news, talk and sports as well as music. The primary benefit of these types of services is convenience and new music discovery.
The best advice integrators can offer their clients when choosing services is to pick at least one from each major category, and to avoid duplicating major types of services.
Integrators should also be particularly aware of how they are delivering streaming content to their clients; some hardware manufacturers have developed innovative ways for their customers to enjoy these different types of services during their listening sessions, such as the TuneBridge ® feature on Autonomic Mirage audio products.
The objective of Autonomic’s TuneBridge technology is to bring local and streaming content together—erase the barriers between services and give users a seamless interface so they can instantly access their music at the touch of a button. As an example, while SiriusXM is playing, the user can identify a song they like, jump to any subscribed service to browse that album or artist, or kick off a customized radio stream on Pandora based on that artist. All of this functionality is offered with no interruption of the music—this is one example of how users can effortlessly construct and save playlists of newly discovered music on the fly.
TuneBridge technology is just one good example of how integrators can bring added value, introducing functionality to the client that lets them have easier access to new music, create custom playlists and really enjoy the home entertainment experience. Big box consumer solutions can’t match a professionally designed and installed whole-house entertainment system that comes complete with the expert guidance only available from a specialist. This is an opportunity for the integrator to earn greater profit margins with products from a trusted manufacturer along with the benefits of referral business based on satisfied customers.
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