Local programming may keep FM radio going strong in some regions, but in many cases, syndicated radio broadcasts come from nationwide feeds, and only plug in those “[your city here]” identifiers to make them feel local.
Geo-aware music services, such as the new Raditaz iPhone and Android app (first mentioned in our weekly wrap-up), are reviving the personal touch of radio days gone by and using gaming aspects, social functions and GPS data to bring it into the digital age.
Say you’re driving around a new area, you can bring up ‘Places’ in Raditaz to view Raditaz and Four Square locations nearby. There you can see stations associated with these places by other Raditaz listeners, giving you a taste of the local music scene — even down to the micro-est of levels, like what people are listening to at the local Tedeschi food store.
One big problem with this app is that there simply is no station for most locations. Really, the app needs to integrate with Last.fm or something else capable of identifying what’s playing in locations, so that people don’t have to create stations for each place manually within Raditaz, because as things stand, we couldn’t find any places that had stations already.
But it’s a good idea. Raditaz has potential as a different kind of social music discovery tool, where visiting new places means discovering new artists. The service is still in infancy, but we can see this or something like it taking off in the months or years to come.
The prospect of a free service that couples unlimited listening and personalized streams with game functionality (rewarding users for discovering and sharing new songs with points and badges that unlock enhanced functionality) should worry music retailers. Music fans are becoming less complacent with paying on a track-by-track basis, more eager to discover new music over a few old favorites (and now even less likely to trust their own musical know-how to build the best playlists).
Even digital music vendors like iTunes function almost identically to the big box record stores of the old days, selling copies of individual songs and albums — and money saved from the costs of distributing physical product is counteracted by the fact that most people just don’t want to pay per-song anymore. (Apple’s almost-innovative iCloud will do little to change this sentiment.)
The issue that always gave music retailers a leg up was listener control. While convenient for casual listening, FM radio is a non-user-specific mass media that doesn’t mesh with our growing consumer preference for connecting with music on a deeply personal level. In the new music world where our musical tastes became less about opinion and more about identity, radio did nothing for self expression.
Personalized radio apps, like Raditaz, Soundtrckr, Soundtracker, and others, remake the listener as a broadcaster — and with GPS, we can have our favorite workout music (or our neighborhood’s favorite workout music, for that matter) automatically queued up as we walk through the gym door.
We’re not there yet, but Raditaz is a neat indication of location-based music apps to come.
One slight bummer for Android users: The Android version of the app doesn’t seem to offer the map option for finding new stations and locations. Users can still search by typing in locations manually, but the visual feedback from the map and satellite view in the iPhone app made for one of the coolest features (and something that set it apart from Soundtracker.)