AOL Music is relaunching its AOL Radio feature with partner Slacker. Previously powered by CBS Radio, AOL Radio will now be fully powered by the Slacker personalized radio service.
AOL will offer all three tiers of Slacker's service-the free, ad-supported radio, which includes both curated and personalized radio streams; the $4-month, ad-free radio service with additional features like skipping songs; and the on-demand, $10-month subscription service that offers all-you-can eat streaming from the entire Slacker catalog.
This is a huge win for Slacker, which for years has operated in Pandora's shadow despite offering a very similar product. With AOL's reach and brand, Slacker now has far greater exposure to a mass audience than it has ever had before, as AOL Music claims 3 million unique visitors a month.
For AOL, it represents a return, of sorts, to the subscription music business. AOL acquired subscription service Music Now in 2005 to serve as its subscription music play. Music Now was then acquired by Napster back in 2007, after which AOL offered Napster as its subscription tier until Napster was acquired by Best Buy in 2008.
This could be a trial phase for AOL-testing out Slacker's ability to goose its music division with various offerings as a way of contemplating a potential acquisition down the line. Pandora's success has anyone with serious Internet radio plans looking for their own customizable radio answer. Clear Channel earlier this year acquired Thumbplay for exactly this reason.
Or AOL could remain content to offer music through partnerships like this. That would put Slacker in a good position to power the Internet radio and other digital music aspirations of other partners as well.