Yandex Launches Yandex.Radio, A Curated Free Music Service For Russian Users

Amid reports that Russia will be one of the first countries to get access to the new music service that Apple is reportedly launching next week, Russian search giant Yandex is enhancing its own. Today it announced Yandex.Radio, an ad-supported streaming music service that provides around 100 ready-made “stations” to users organised around moods and themes, initially available Russia only.

“People just like to have some background music while they are working out in a gym, driving to work, or chatting at a party. Alternatively, people choose their background music to match how they feel at the moment – cheerful or vigorous, moody or relaxed,” the company says in a blog post about the new service. “Yandex.Radio is a service for those who like to choose their music based on their current activity or state of mind.”

Yandex.Radio will be based around the same music catalog that forms the backbone of Yandex.Music, a service that costs the equivalent of around $5 per month for users to stream any track from the catalog.

In a market notorious for music piracy and online platforms that turn a blind eye to unlicensed downloads and streaming, Yandex.Music appears to be the country’s biggest legit online music outfit. It’s still not huge though: only around 10 million users at the moment, Yandex says.

“We already have a catalogue which we license from more than 70 labels and associations for our first music service – Yandex.Music,” a spokesperson tells me. “Yandex.Music will continue to exist, but this service is more for new music discovery, while Yandex.Radio is just for listening the music which is being recommended according to the mood and activity.”

Still, a music streaming business model relies on scale to work economically, and ten million users is on the low side. When you consider that Russia is currently Europe’s largest Internet market in terms of active users online, there is a lot of room for growth — and of course for rivals to muscle in and take the current leader on. That is despite the fact that at least one would-be rival, Spotify, canned its own plans to launch in the country earlier this year, citing political and economic turmoil. For its part, Apple extended its iTunes music store to Russia in 2012. And there are other homegrown services as well, such as Zvooq, which raised $20 million in August of last year.

To that end, Yandex has been in the process of revamping Yandex.Music with new apps, new recommendation features, and more.

Yandex is known as the Google of Russia not just because it is the country’s largest search engine, currently with more than 60% market share, but because it’s building out a whole range of services around that basic premise. They include maps, taxi hailing apps, classifieds, online shopping aggregation, video, email, online storage, and just about anything else that you can conceive of having a cloud or search component to it.

Yandex.Radio will tap into that, too. “Yandex.Radio uses our proprietary machine-learning technology, which sorts each track into one or several mood or activity ‘channels’ to then create a playlist for this channel based on personal interests of a user, their recent streaming history, as well their likes or dislikes,” the company notes. In other words, if you skip songs, the service will remember that and steer away from them and similar tracks.

The service is live now on desktop, as well via apps for iOS- and Android-based devices.

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