Business Matters: Earbits-Powered Radio Station Debuts at SFGate
Business Matters: Earbits-Powered Radio Station Debuts at SFGate

Earbits-Powered Radio Station Debuts at SFGate
-- Internet radio startup Earbits has found a clever way to get its product to market. SFGate, the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle, launched the Earbits-powered SFGate Radio on Wednesday. The service will play both local artists and artists - 235 in total upon its launch - with upcoming shows scheduled in the Bay Area.

You can see a display ad linking to SFGate Radio at the site's entertainment home page. Follow the link to the SFGate Radio page and you can select from a range of genres such as rock, jazz and bluegrass. A highlighted station is for The Seedless Summer tour stop in Berkeley on July 29 plays songs by bands on the bill such as Slightly Stoopid and Rebelution.

Not only is a white label approach uncommon for Internet radio, so is the company's business model. It runs no commercials and does not charge subscription fees. Instead, artists and labels purchase airtime on the platform. Its catalog now includes 167 record labels and over 2,000 artists including Weezer, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and Alkaline Trio.

Co-founder and CEO Joey Florez tells Billboard.biz the company was founded out of necessity by musicians who wanted to promote their shows. So the three founders came up with a concept of a platform that would act as a band's promotional platform and would tie in to other channels. For example, Earbits can play an artist's music to a listener in a specific market that artist will soon be playing. "We're a marketing company cleverly designed as a radio platform," he says.

Earbits' business model gives it an unusual cost structure for a music streaming service. Because it negotiates its own licenses with both unsigned artists and independent labels, it doesn't pay out the usual royalties, explains Florez. He says that the company has a SoundExchange royalty waiver and standard deals with the three performing rights organizations.

The site had 50,000 visitors last month without any marketing spend, Florez says, and white-label partners like SFGate are sure to improve that number. "It's not like a normal business. We started from scratch, started with our own licenses. Our growth is not as impressive as Turntable.fm, but we are not incurring the cost they are."

Mo' Money, Mo' Startups
-- More money for yet another music startup: Internet radio site Dubset has raised a modest $500,000 from angel investors and Governing Dynamics Venture Capital.

Dubset isn't traditional radio. It's more like Pandora-meets-mixtapes. The sleek, well-designed site offers DJ mixes of dance music that span house, electro, hip hop and dance-oriented and remixed rock tracks. Using a technology it calls MixSCAN, Dubset tracks the songs within each mix for royalty distribution to SoundExchange, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

If you're familiar with the U.K.-based site Mixcloud, you know the idea. Both sites offers a wide range and high number of DJ mixes and in effect offer long-form alternatives to the song-by-song manner of a standard Internet radio station.

The company was founded in 2009 by Dave Stein and Michael Wenzel. It had previously received $100,000 in financing. Universal Music Group executive Steve Rifkind is on the company's Board of Advisors. And the company has a few DJ evangelists to promote the brand: Felix Da Housecat, DJ Cassidy and Jessica Rosemblaum. (Business Insider)

Did Spotify's Partners Pay $1 Million for Display Advertising?
-- A report claims that Spotify launch partners paid $1 million for display advertising on the platform and a large chunk of Spotify Free invites to pass along to consumers. As we already knew, the brands involved with the launch include Coca-Cola, Motorola and Chevrolet. And as I have pointed out, launch partners were a key element in Spotify's product rollout, which generated significant online buzz and was covered by many mainstream media outlets. The one thing we know for sure is that Spotify was able to attract premium brands to its U.S. launch. That's an encouraging sign. The better the brands, the more valuable the sponsorships, the more value is returned to artists and rights holders and the most feasible the company's business model. ( MetronomeReview)

Sir Mix-A-Lot Facebook Game Gets Back
-- On the list of Seattle's 14 hot digital startups by Business Insider's Matt Rosoff (a former Billboard.biz contributor, by the way) is one company with any direct ties to music: Giant Thinkwell. Rosoff writes that the graduate of the Tech Stars startup incubator is getting a lot of buzz for its Facebook game featuring rapper (and Seattle native) Sir Mix-A-Lot. "Mix-N-Match With Sir Mix-A-Lot" asks players to answer questions the way they think Sir Mix-A-Lot would answer them. After a round of questions, players are asked the answers of their Facebook friends who have played the game.

Giant Thinkwell describes itself as a "next-generation entertainment platform for celebrities to build, engage with, and have more fun with fans online."
( Business Insider)