Last week, iHeartMedia introduced two new subscription music services. We spoke with iHeartRadio President Darren Davis to learn more about iHeartRadio Plus and iHeartRadio All Access.
Emily Reigart: The release emphasized music discovery and interactivity. These are features that traditional broadcasters would say are already a big part of live, terrestrial radio. Why are these services necessary in addition to the existing iHeartRadio platform?
Darren Davis: iHeartRadio is the only digital music service that can combine music discovery, music collecting, and the companionship of live radio into an all-in-one service. We can now bridge the divide between music discovery and music collecting — so for the first time ever, when listeners hear a new song or a favorite song on the radio, they can instantly replay the song and even save it directly to a playlist. It’s never been that easy.
Reigart: Do you hope these streaming services will motivate listeners to turn back to the dial, or is this your attempt to move in the digital direction, as more ad revenue is shifting to that space?
Davis: We created iHeartRadio five years ago to help our powerful broadcast brands continue to be strong for years to come. We wanted to give listeners more ways to enjoy their favorite radio stations. And this new technology turbo charges that! Because we’re making the radio listening experience even more engaging and more interactive by giving the listeners more control over the music they hear on the radio.
Today, broadcast radio accounts for 90% of all listening. Digital listening accounts for about 10% of all listening (including ALL digital, not just iHeartRadio), but with iHeartRadio we are able to seamlessly extend our brands to the computer, mobile phone, or any other device the consumer may want to use. We want to be everywhere our listeners are, no matter the device. Also it’s important to note that digital listening is additive for us.
Reigart: How does iHeartMedia perceive your current market position as compared to that of Pandora, Apple Music and Spotify?
Davis: Traditional on demand services are essentially a digitized version of a stack of LPs or a pile of CDs — not easy to search through and easily find what you want. Spotify was built for tech-savvy, heavy music users, and was built as a product the early-adopters could embrace.
iHeartRadio is the first digital music service to bring on-demand functionality to the mass market — in an easy to use way. We have 269 million monthly listeners of our radio stations, and the vast majority doesn’t subscribe to any music service at all — largely because existing services are difficult to use. We’re making on demand functionality easy to understand and use, tying the features right to the live radio.
Reigart: Your free iHeartRadio app is now five years old. Why is now the right time for iHeartMedia to get in on the subscription streaming service?
Davis: We’ve been looking at this option for many years, but there are two main reasons now is the right time:
1) We’re at a point in America where, even though the vast majority doesn’t subscribe to any paid music service, there’s at least a general awareness of what it means to be able to subscribe and have on demand music access.
2) iHeartRadio has now built the tech to be able to do it the right way! So on demand features can be easy to use. And so it complements our core radio business.
Reigart: Will iHeartRadio All Access and iHeartRadio Plus be presented as separate apps, or will they be integrated into the existing iHeartRadio app?
Davis: It will all be part of the flagship iHeartRadio app, and will be released in January.
Reigart: Have you determined the pricing model for the subscriptions? If yes, did you factor in the costs of other, similar services?
Davis: We have not decided on pricing yet, but we don’t think it’s a main consideration. Consumers will want iHeartRadio Plus or iHeartRadio All Access because they are different from anything else, not because of the price we choose.