iHeartRadio could be getting more competitive with on-demand music services like Apple Music and Spotify next year.
Launched by the radio and media company Clear Channel (which has since rebranded as iHeartMedia), iHeartRadio gives users the ability to listen to broadcast radio on their computers and phones, as well as listening to online stations designed around specific musical artists.
Put another way, it’s been a fairly radio-like experience, rather than letting you listen to whatever song you want, on-demand. That’s scheduled to change in January, with the just-announced iHeartRadio Plus and iHeartRadio All Access plans. All Access is the easier one to explain — it’s a full on-demand music subscription, like those services mentioned up top. iHeartRadio Plus is something in between — as iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman explained it to me, when users are listening to the radio and hear a song they like, they’ll be able to instantly replay it and save it to playlists. iHeartRadio Plus listeners will also have unlimited song skips.
Pittman argued that the Plus plan, in particular, is meant to complement other on-demand services. So you might have a Spotify subscription while still listening to iHeartRadio, maybe because you like the personality or musical taste of a certain DJ, or because you want to find new artists, or maybe you just can’t be bothered to choose exactly what to listen to. The Plus plan keeps that dynamic in place while adding a bit of the on-demand experience to the radio side.
“It’s not designed to be a lesser version of Spotify, it’s meant to be a radio station with extra features and functionality,” Pittman said. “If the consumer thinks this service is sort of like Spotify, we’ve failed.”
At the same time, Pittman said that 84 percent of iHeartRadio’s users don’t subscribe to any on-demand service. So if they’re looking for one, why not check out the All Access?
“There’s this huge piece of the population that does not spend money in any form on music,” he added. “We think this is the kind of service that will begin to get them to spend on music.”
It may seem a bit late to be getting into the on-demand music market, but Pittman pointed to the enormous reach that iHeartMedia already has — more than 90 million registered users for iHeartRadio, and more than 250 million listeners total.
What kind of music will be included? Well, iHeartMedia says it’s signed licensing agreements with Warner Music Group, Sony Music Group and Universal Music Group, as well as a number of independent labels and distributors.
As for whether he’ll pursue the exclusives that streaming services seem to be using to compete with each other, Pittman said, “I don’t think anybody, other than broadcast, has enough reach to ever do an exclusive to the exclusion of others.” Sure, exclusives might “make money for a service,” but those services are not big enough “to break a record.”
Pittman said it’s too soon to share pricing information. However, The New York Post reported earlier this week that the services will cost $5 a month (for Plus) and $10 a month (for All Access).