On September 23rd & 24th, the biggest live music event in history will take place in Las Vegas. What’s the special occasion? Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio Music Festival is the launching pad for the new, revamped iHeartRadio free music service. Now, if you’re a music lover like myself, you’re probably thinking wait a minute, hasn’t this service been around for a while now? What’s the big deal? Yes, iHeartRadio has been around for three years. The big to-do is that Clear Channel has teamed up with Echo Nest to enable iHeartRadio listeners to create personal radio stations, just like those on Pandora.
Besides being able to listen to 750 local radio stations and 150 digital stations, listeners will now be able to custom design radio stations based on their favorite artists or songs. Sound familiar? iHeartRadio has about 11 million songs to choose from, whereas Pandora is sitting at 900,000. Pandora and iHeartRadio are also programmed very differently. They are both based on familiarity and discovery, but again, Pandora’s library is much smaller. With iHeartRadio, the listener can like or dislike a song, à la Pandora, by giving it thumbs up or down. This helps the programming service understand the listeners’ likes and dislikes. iHeartRadio speaks to users like myself, because there are custom tools to help you discover new artists, which I’m always trying to do.
The editor of Radio and Internet Newsletter, Kurt Hanson, stated that “Pandora’s audience has been growing at a 100% a year” and the service is “far too entrenched for Clear Channel to make an impact.” Other critics also side with Pandora, saying Clear Channel is rolling out the new iHeartRadio too late in the game. That’s why Clear Channel has chosen to create this promotional monster of a music festival, to get everyone’s attention. Not only do they have the biggest names in music performing, they also have someone from every genre. They really want EVERYONE on board with iHeartRadio. With acts like Lady Gaga, Jay Z and Carrie Underwood, how could you not tune in? I know I will.
After the festival has come and gone, my prediction is that the iHeartRadio 2.0 buzz will die down and Pandora will be just fine. Especially with the new site they will be rolling out in the coming weeks…a face-lift if you will. They will be integrating more of a social aspect for listeners to share their likes and dislikes, as well as what they’re listening to. Pandora knows they have to stay current or they’ll fall behind, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon.