Some label execs argue that aligning this old-school mentality with the streaming paradigm is a matter of educating artists and fans. But the founding team at Gimme Radio, a young online music radio service and collectible marketplace devoted exclusively to metal, has a different idea: rethink our consumption platforms from the ground up.
"We don’t even think of ourselves as a streaming service," Tyler Lenane, co-founder and CEO of Gimme and former business development exec at Apple Music, tells Billboard. "We're not chasing dozens of millions of subscribers or aiming to feed music down a pipe to as many people as possible. We see ourselves more as a platform for enthusiastic fans who want much more engagement than just a digital stream."
Since its launch in June 2017, the site has functioned primarily as a 24/7 radio station with an impressive slate of celebrity curators, including but not limited to Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine (whose new show "The Dave Mustaine Show" was announced yesterday, Nov. 1), Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe, Eagles of Death Metal touring member Dave Catching, Decibel Magazine editor-in-chief Albert Mudrian and record labels like Nuclear Blast and Metal Blade.
The founding members of Gimme all have previous executive experience at major streaming players throughout history: David Rosenberg, Gimme's co-founder and head of operations, was previously the head of distribution partnerships at Google Play, while Gimme's head of product Jon Maples previously served as vp of product at Rhapsody and 8tracks. "We've been deep in the music streaming business for at least a decade," Rosenberg tells Billboard. "We’ve seen the previous mistakes, and we have a long history and experience on which to build something new."
Mustaine's new show, which will air for the first time on Nov. 9 at 12pm PT / 3pm ET with new installments every subsequent Thursday, will allow the musician to play literally whatever he wants for two hours, incorporating personal stories, in-depth tour stories and genre expertise into his curation. "I've always wanted to do radio that is strictly my show, my songs, my way," Mustaine said in a statement. "Gimme Radio lets me play what I want to play, and say what I want to say...no restrictions."
Every radio show is accompanied by a live community feed called Gimme Live, in which staff members serve up regular snippets of biographical and editorial snippets to accompany each track in real time -- not unlike the Spotify integration with Genius for lyric annotations. While staff contributions keep the live conversation on target, any registered Gimme user can participate in the feed and chat with other users (upon registering for the site with my Facebook account, I automatically got assigned the username “RuinSubmerged,” which immediately evoked a throwback to online forums of years past).
While the Gimme team declined to provide the exact number of current users, their reported engagement metrics suggest a good start. The average listening time per session is 23 to 25 minutes, and the service’s 30-day user retention rate is around 29 percent -- on par with average app benchmarks, but more impressive considering that this retention rate dips only marginally to 26 percent three months out.
One of Gimme's key revenue streams at the moment is its online store, which offers discounted and exclusive metal vinyl releases -- many of which are curated by the DJs themselves -- as well as limited-edition band posters and other collectible items. In addition, accompanying every track that plays on Gimme's airwaves are links to add the record to your online "wishlist" and to purchase the vinyl on Amazon.
"Vinyl and merch enable us to pre-qualify users as fans," says Lenane. "If you’re buying collectible items, you’re likely deeply engaged not just with the artist, but also with the wider genre. Our mission is to reach these people, and to build and cater a home to them."
As the product matures -- Gimme only just released its iOS app yesterday as well (Nov. 1), with an Android version forthcoming -- future revenue streams may include merchandise-oriented subscription services and brand partnerships. While disruptive advertising is out of the question for now, “having the right brand sponsor a show is certainly on the table,” says Lenane.
At the end of the day, all of these features point back to Gimme's vision of restoring a sense of identity back to online music consumption. For the Gimme team, just because the likes of Bieber and Gaga are embracing metal aesthetics doesn't mean that their actions translate effectively into today's most popular platforms. "No one walks around wearing a Spotify or Apple Music patch on their jean jacket," says Lenane. "We’re trying to super-serve listeners by recreating that patch in a new, digital format."