Music Lute

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The CBC Has Taken A Giant New Step Into The Competitive Digital-Music Arena.

On Monday, the public broadcaster showcased CBC Music, a website and mobile app with forty radio stations covering genres from indie rock to classical. To keep listeners coming back (that important “stickiness” in digi-speak), the service may also include create-your-own playlists and selections of songs by young artists like Toronto’s Austra and Montreal’s Plants and Animals.

It’s not only a bid to draw in more listeners, but also opens up “a entire bunch of ways to connect with them that [was] tricky to do on terrestrial radio,” said Chris Boyce, CBC’s director of radio and audio.

This comes as broadcasters are rocketing their presence in the world of applications : Planetary recently launched new mobile apps for its radio stations, with bonuses such as exclusive in-studio performances. Meanwhile, subscription streaming services like Rdio are once more rising, offering users access to large libraries of streaming music for a charge.

“Gone are the days when folk first heard a new track of music on the radio,” Boyce related.

The CBC isn’t trying to compete with online music outlets such as Apple’s iTunes, though. As an alternative the site links to iTunes. And no, it does not replace CBC’s on-air music. There are currently no plans to get rid of the Radio 2 music station, Boyce expounded.

The Win

The CBC pulls savvy programmers. CBC’s independently enthusiastic Radio three, as an example, brings listeners everything from singer songwriter Kathleen Edwards to local Charlottetown band, Milks and Rectangles. Now that expertise can be applied to a broad range of genres, with streams dedicated to Canadian classical composers, some of the finest local jazz and alt pop. CBC Music could become a key judge of the finest, if lesser-heard, music out there.

The Miss

It’s still radio : You can’t jump ahead to the next song when listening to a stream. So while CBC Music caters to the new-media crowd, it requires old-media patience. You can jump forward or back while listening to playlists though. (Radio 3 host Lana Gay’s decorative list, including The Gruesome’s garage rocker Hey, is a highlight currently). Still, the nascent service only has a dear few playlists so far. And features of individual artists have a grand total of 7 acts at this time.

The Competition

The pay service Rdio gives users access to a big library of music for a once per month fee. Astral’s free apps are an extension of its stations, with added content such as app-only performances of hot acts. In comparison, CBC Music feels like the CBC with a wider cross-section of music, unfettered by the tight programming formats of private radio stations.

A New Big Thing

Spotify, officially not available in Canada, is nevertheless seen as a standard bearer with its customized playlists (Obama just posted his) and its highly searchable library of artists. CBC Music, in contrast, is more like reinforced radio. Yet some digital radio sites, like American public broadcaster NPR, have taken a sharp direction toward nuanced, esoteric music. The issue is whether users will desire more breadth or more eclecticism? More searchability or more of a curated radio feel? What the CBC and the industry knows for sure is that we always desire more music as reported tagza.

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