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FM Song Tagging Takes a Leap With Zune

Nine big broadcast groups will support tagging; the cooperative ‘Buy From FM’ effort with Microsoft is via RDS, allowing analog stations and existing Zune users to participate; more devices to come?

Is tagging about to become the next big thing in radio?

Nine big radio companies will support song tagging, and they are doing it using their RDS infrastructures.

The companies — Clear Channel, CBS, Beasley, Cox, Greater Media, Bonneville, Citadel, Emmis and Entercom — are making this coordinated move in conjunction with Microsoft, which just announced a new set of features for Zune portable media players to take advantage of tuners in those devices to let people tag and retrieve songs aired by enabled stations. Zune calls this feature “Buy from FM.”

The tagging system in use by the companies was developed by Jump2Go. A tag is an encrypted code identifying a song and embedded in the broadcast. The listener can “tag” a song and the code is stored on the MP3 player.

The tagging concept has been discussed in the industry so far largely as a future benefit for digital radio stations; a handful of receivers are compatible. But the RDS nature of this announcement allows analog stations to take part. The companies also said that this approach makes Zune the first device to allow tagged songs to be retrieved right away.

(RW is hearing that others may be following soon. Apple, for instance, is active in tagging and that’s a name radio broadcasters would like to become more associated with as they try to get into consumers’ musical pockets.)

Officials at Microsoft and the broadcaster groups said this announcement means millions of Zune users can tag and purchase songs from FM radio; they say this will firm up the link between music discovery and music buying. The groups say more than 450 stations are live with the necessary encoding and more are to come.

The announcement also appears to be a big win for Jump2Go, Allen Hartle’s company. Hartle has been an RDS prophet for many years; and a year ago this month, RW reported that his company’s service was available to enable Apple’s radio tagging feature for stations using HD Radio. The possibility of a broader announcement involving RDS and more MP3 devices was hinted at then. See

More details of Monday’s news:

FM reception already was a selling feature of Zunes (a big one, of course, from the perspective of the broadcast industry, which would like to see such capability in many more consumer electronic devices). Now Microsoft has announced that starting next week, every Zune portable media player will let consumers download or stream songs from wireless hot spots. Free software and firmware updates for current users will let them find, tag and purchase songs from the built-in FM radio, access the Zune Marketplace store and get interactive personalized music recommendations. These new features begin rolling out Sept. 16.

“When the customer is in a Wi-Fi hot spot, the song can be immediately downloaded to the Zune device,” Microsoft stated. “If Wi-Fi is not available, the device will have a queue of songs ready to download when connected to a home computer or in a hot spot. ‘Buy from FM’ uses Radio Data System and RT+ data feeds within the FM broadcast frequencies that identify song and artist data and enable the Zune service to identify and deliver the track to the customer.”

A song needs to be available in the Zune Marketplace for consumers to purchase it. If it is not but the station is broadcasting the song’s metadata, consumers can tag the song to remember name and artist but will not be able to purchase it.

Zune users will also be able to access the Zune Marketplace music store from their device when they are in a hot spot, or through a home wireless network. Zune is also expanding its device lineup with 16 GB and 120 GB capacities

Users can pay per track or choose a Zune Pass subscription to download or stream music for $14.99 per month.