The digital music service just introduced apps for iOS and Android devices that will stream music stations tailored to fans of particular performers, songs, and genres or preferences registered by celebrities, social network friends, and users themselves. They won’t offer on-demand music — copyright laws restrict that for a radio-like free service. Users can only skip past unwanted songs six times per station per hour. They also can’t have stations that only play the music of one performer. Still, execs believe they’ll have a leg up on competitors by enabling users to share stations with friends on Rdio, Facebook, or Twitter. In addition, the company says that others can’t match its 2.3M station options. The business model remains a little murky. The new service will be ad-free for now. Execs hope that many users will be so enchanted that they’ll upgrade to the on-demand service which costs $10 a month. Today’s announcement isn’t directly tied to radio giant Cumulus’ recent agreement to buy a major stake in Rdio’s parent, Pulser Media. But Cumulus will sell ads for Rdio’s radio service for Web browsers.
Radio or Rdio? For Cumulus, it’s both: In a deal announced this morning the station owner will wind up with “a significant equity stake” in Pulser Media, which owns Rdio — a subscription music service that competes with companies including Spotify. In return, the companies say, Cumulus will provide “exclusive content, media and on-air promotional commitments over a five year period” and a sales operation to develop “ad-supported free products, including music on-demand, custom playlists and exclusive content curated by Cumulus.” Rdio CEO Drew Larner — a former exec at Spyglass Entertainment, Morgan Creek Productions, and Fox — calls this a “monumental deal” and “the first time a digital and a broadcast platform have come together in this way.” In June Larner said he planned to give up the CEO job but remain Rdio’s executive chairman. And Cumulus chief Lew Dickey says the partnership will help consumers to “listen to whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want.” RBC Capital Markets “initiated and facilitated” the deal, the companies say.