Many radio stations begrudgingly launch Web sites with the attitude "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
But Canadian operation Corus Entertainment has turned this equation on its head with ExploreMusic.
ExploreMusic is part Web site, part radio program, curated and hosted by veteran musicologist Alan Cross, and airing daily on the Corus new rock stations across Canada.
Cross describes the relationship between the two media: "We are not a radio show with a Web site — we are a Web site with a radio show."
According to Cross, 77 percent of people younger than 25 go to the Web for music discovery and information. "For those who still rely on radio," he said, "the show drives them to our Web site, www.exploremusic.com, for music recommendations, interviews, news and blogs."
Besides being a Web-based radio show, ExploreMusic prides itself in offering music recommendations from living, breathing human beings, rather than the sort of software-based algorithm used by Pandora and other music recommendation sites.
"Unlike other music recommendation sites ... we do not believe music should be recommended by robots," said Cross. "This is why we have a staff of people whose job is to search for interesting music that is new or may be new to you. In doing so, we are taking the place of the old school on-air DJ who told you what was important to listen to."
The home page of the site features "5 Songs You Gotta Hear Today" with links to the songs via MySpace Music, "The Music News Countdown" with the latest music news, and "The List" of top songs chosen by ExploreMusic staff and listeners.
There is also "The Music Geek Blog" and links to all the ExploreMusic radio shows and interviews.
Corus Shakes Up Mobile Streaming
TORONTO Working with StreamTheWorld, Corus Entertainment is offering iPhone and iPod Touch users an application to take all 52 Corus stations with them everywhere they can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, EDGE or a 3G network.
The free application allows users to search for Corus radio stations by name or location. They also can shake the device to get a random Corus station.
MPEG-4 HE-AAC v1 encoding is used to achieve high-quality audio at low data rates.
"Our radio stations need to be available wherever our listeners are, and on any device they choose to use," stated David Huszar, vice president and general manager of Corus Radio's interactive division. "With the increasing popularity of the iPhone and iPod Touch ..., we're thrilled to offer our listeners the convenience of accessing their favorite Corus radio station through them."
The Corus Radio application launched at sixth position in the iPhone Top Free Applications for music section of the iTunes store. "We make sure to shoot all of our on-air content on video," said Cross. "This allows people to watch it as well as hear it online."
The site includes a media player, built by StreamTheWorld, for playback of on-demand audio and video segments; the same features are available as podcasts for listeners on the go.
The radio show and the Web content are clearly designed to interweave seamlessly; allowing listeners to go back and forth from one to the other at will. Similarly, ExploreMusic ties to be wherever the listeners are with pages on Facebook and MySpace, as well as a Twitter channel, all connected with the show and the site.
Both the ExploreMusic Web site and radio show are all about music news and reviews, and the community that grows up around it.
For budding music fans looking for someone to advise them as to what music is a must-hear, like Wolfman Jack or John Peel did for earlier generations, Exploremusic.com does the job with depth and intelligence, and without any taint of record company influence or payola.
The fact that Corus Entertainment — which makes its money through radio and television — is willing to spend the money on ExploreMusic illustrates just how serious this company is about reaching the "digital natives" of the 25-and-younger market wherever they may be.
"Corus realizes that they need to move beyond traditional media and get much deeper into the online world," said Cross. "That is where our audience is, and where the future is."
Time will tell how well the ExploreMusic concept actually works. The launch took place in October 2008 with the shows airing either in the afternoon or early evening, depending on the broadcast schedule of each Corus station.
ExploreMusic airs on 102.1 The Edge in Toronto; Y108 in Hamilton, Ontario; FM96 in London, Ontario; Power 97 in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and 99.3 The FOX in Vancouver, British Columbia. According to Cross, on all five stations, BBM Canada ratings released in late November point to an increase in the ExploreMusic timeslot.
"It is obviously too early to draw any conclusions from that," he said, "but it is heartening."
James Careless covers the industry for Radio World from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.