Slacker introduced Tuesday (May 17) a new on-demand level of service to its personalized radio service, giving subscribers unlimited access to a catalog of roughly eight million tracks. Subscribers will have the ability to play entire albums, cache them for offline listening and explore new artist page features.
Slacker Premium is available on the web and through applications for the Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), Android and Blackberry smartphones. The new service costs $9.99 per month.
On-demand services are nothing new, but Slacker's approach puts a new twist on the subscription model. For decades, people have used radio to discover music, CEO Jim Cady explains to Billboard. Now Slacker's new strategy is to make its personalized Internet radio service the front end of subscription services. "Consumers don't like the hunt-and-peck model," says Cady. "That's why a majority of those services have not been successful."
Slacker's strategy is more similar to satellite radio than existing on-demand services. And that could be a good thing. Cady says it's no secret why Sirius has been able to sign up 20 million-plus subscribers for its satellite radio service. "For some people, having complete control of the cloud is important. But most people just want to pick something and play," he says.
Another twist is that Slacker has created a "freemium" business model on top of its ad-supported, non-interactive radio service. Slacker Premium is the third level of service. The ad-supported version is free to users. The Slacker Radio Plus removes the ads and adds features for $3.99 per month.
Outside of the radio function, Slacker Premium Radio operates as one would expect from an on-demand service. The user can browse through the artists on both Slacker-curated stations and user-created stations. By clicking on an artist in a playlist, the user can browse through discographies, stream select songs or entire albums. To encourage music discovery, Slacker Premium will show related artists and the playlists on which an artist appears.
Slacker is well behind Pandora (which has over 80 million registered users) but is growing nicely, judging from the numbers Cady shared with Billboard: the service has "about 25 million listeners" while its paying subscribers number "in the multiple hundreds of thousands" and it is adding "north of 2,000 a week," according to Cady.