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SBS Relaunches Pandora-Like LaMusica App for Latin Listeners

Romeo Santos
Dario Cantatore/Getty Images

Romeo Santos of Aventura performs at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 21, 2010 in New York City.

Spanish Broadcasting System, home to powerful Spanish language network SBS, has finally unveiled the new LaMusica, a mobile radio streaming app aimed at millennial Latinos.

A rebooted LaMusica officially went live yesterday at midnight (Dec. 1), with a catalog of over 23 million songs and hundreds of playlists, plus live streams of SBS’ U.S. and Puerto Rican radio stations.

The service, of course, is the upstart in a world dominated by Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music, but LaMusica has several key differentiators.

First and foremost the app and service was conceived with mobile, Latin music fans in mind. "LaMusica was built by Latinos, for Latinos," says SBS digital media executive Jesus Lara. LaMusica works two ways. Listeners can stream SBS’ radio stations, which cover all Latin genres, from pop to urban, and include New York’s La Mega, the top-rated Spanish language station in the country. In addition, LaMusica has many digital "stations," curated both by its staff and the company's roster of DJs and programmers from its radio division.

LaMusica also offers a "hand-curation" feature, much like YouTube's recently launched Music app can also be curated by hand. Instead of simply building or finding stations around a track or artist, LaMusica allows users to choose up to five favorite genres of music and allocate a percentage of the playlist to each. So, a personal playlist could include 50 percent hip-hop in English, 40 percent Spansih-language pop and 10 percent instrumental music, according to the preferences set by the listener.

Like iHeartMedia's radio app, which also draws on that company's deep broadcast bench, LaMusica is free, with revenues coming from advertising. (In a sign of the mobile times that calls to mind Snapchat's success, the company's news release touts the application's ability to serve up high-quality video ads in addition to audio.)

In an aim to provide a different user experience, LaMusica has a visual component, so while a song is playing, an endless stream of visual material from that artist will screen through the phone (users have the option to block images if they wish).

“This is going to be the biggest company priority, promoted in all events and platforms,” said Lara, who was brought in as evp of digital media for SBS after many years at MTV.  “We can give this product sustained marketing support for a long period of time.”

Recalling Tidal's star-packed boardroom, SBS is already drawing support from artists with whom it has long-standing relationships.

“SBS is to be congratulated for building a music service that authentically connects with Latinos via a thoroughly engaging and user-friendly smartphone app,” said Enrique Iglesias in a statement. Juanes called the app “the first music streaming service to focus on our culture and music. It’s an incredible accomplishment."

LaMusica was conceived more than a year ago by SBS chairman and CEO Raul Alarcón, who had secured the name (which literally means The Music). LaMusica went through many permutations through the years, initially as SBS’ online platform for its many TV and radio shows as well as music news and, eventually, an app to stream its many radio stations.

 “Our goal was to redefine the traditional radio/music-listening experience by adding a highly compelling, highly engaging visual component,” says Alarcón in a statement.

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