(By Anthony Ha | December 1, 2016 for techcrunch.com)
A few months ago, iHeartRadio announced that it would be adding paid subscriptions for on-demand music. Today it’s releasing more details about its plans — and launching beta versions of those paid offerings.
iHeartMedia, the company behind iHeartRadio, has its roots in traditional radio (it owns 858 stations), and until now, the app was largely a way for you to listen to radio on your computer or mobile device. iHeartRadio President Darren Davis said the new service “turbocharges the live radio experience, instead of being another me-too version of Spotify and all the rest.”
The cheaper plan, iHeartRadio Plus, will cost $4.99 a month, and adds new features to the radio experience. Subscribers start out by listening to the radio like normal, then when they hear a song they like, they’ll have the ability to instantly replay it. And if they like it enough, they can also save it to their own custom stations —which will be accessible through a new section in the app for “My Music” — with unlimited song skips. (Pandora also offers a subscription, where users pay $4.99 a month for an ad-free experience with additional song skips.)
“There’s just no one who can do what we’ve done here combining music discovery and music collection and the power of the personalities of radio,” Davis said.
After all, if you grew up listening to the radio, you can probably remember those moments of hearing something new that you liked and wondering, “What is that song?” Then you had to hope it would come on again.
Davis said that even people who subscribe to services like Apple Music or Spotify still find most of their new music through the radio. So iHeartRadio Plus creates a direct connection between hearing a song and saving it to your own personal collection — think of the custom stations as the new version of those mix tapes you might have recorded from the radio.
And, as with other on-demand services, iHeartRadio Plus subscribers will be able to search through and play songs from a library of millions of tracks.
Davis also said the “vast majority” of Americans listening to the radio don’t have a paid music subscription, so they could also consider iHeartRadio All Access, which costs $9.99 per month and includes the Plus features, as well as offline listening and the ability to create playlists from the full library. iHeartRadio built All Access in partnership with Napster — hence the full name of the service, “iHeartRadio All Access powered by Napster.”
While the company is releasing the beta versions of Plus and All Access for iOS and Android today, the full launch isn’t scheduled until January. That’s when we’ll see the release of a desktop version, followed by other devices.
That’s also when we’ll see a larger promotional push. Davis noted that unlike other on-demand music services, iHeartRadio won’t have to pay millions of dollars to advertise the new product, because its hundreds of radio stations give it “the biggest megaphone in America to music fans.”