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Sonos launches its own content service

By | Published on Wednesday 22 April 2020


Smart speaker maker Sonos has launched its own free-to-use audio content service called Sonos Radio which will aggregate 60,000 radio stations from all over the world as well as offering a bunch of original programmes.

This move sees Sonos become a content aggregator and producer for the first time. To date the technology firm has simply provided a platform via which other streaming companies and broadcasters can connect their services to Sonos speakers. Sonos Radio, it insists, will complement all the other third-party apps currently available on its devices.

In terms of the radio station aggregation that the new service provides, that sounds an awful lot like radio station aggregation app TuneIn, which is already available via Sonos. Though don’t be thinking this is Sonos screwing over the makers of one of the more popular apps on its own platform – TuneIn is a partner on Sonos Radio.

Then there’s the original content. There’ll be more than 30 genre-themed ad-supported curated music channels plus a more conventional radio station called Sonos Sound System, which will broadcast from the company’s flagship store in New York.

On that station “listeners will enjoy”, says the official blurb, a “stream of new, well-known or rediscovered music, behind-the-scenes stories, as well as guest artist radio hours from the likes of Angel Olsen, Jpegmaifa, Phoebe Bridgers, Jeff Parker, Vagabon and more”.

Some artists will get more than an hour of airtime on the Sonos Sound System though. At launch that Thom Yorke fella has an entire ad-free station to himself.

Says he: “Here in a new form is that ever rolling compilation/office chart habit of mine of putting together what I have found recently that fascinates or moves me, what obsesses me, challenges me, opens new doors, reminds me of what I might have forgotten, is insanely complex or elegantly simple, violent, funny, messy, heavy or light”.

Yeah, whatever you say Thom. Unfortunately, you need to shut up now so that Sonos boss Patrick Spence can speak. “Sonos has always made it easy for customers to discover the riches of streaming music services by building premium products that sound great and by giving customers the freedom to use the services of their choice”, declares he.

“Sonos Radio brings together streaming radio services and a select set of curated radio stations in a simple, elegant way”, he goes on. “This is just a beginning as we work to deliver services that provide our customers a better experience, and provide our music streaming service partners an opportunity to highlight their best content”.

With the radio sector in flux – losing younger listeners to online services, still trying to work out if it can capitalise on the podcast boom, and currently experiencing a COVID-19 audience surge and ad dollar slump at the same time – it’ll be interesting to see what impact, if any, initiatives like this will have.

Will it help make radio seem more relevant for younger listeners? Or is it just TuneIn by another name with an added Beats One-style online radio station that on one will listen to?

From a music industry perspective, radio remains an important marketing tool, and therefore artists and labels have an interest in radio evolving and reaching newer, younger audiences.

However, at the same time, artists and labels will actually make more money if Sonos users are logged in to their premium streaming services of choice rather than free-to-stream radio stations. And there remain tricky copyright questions about radio stations that are licensed by collecting societies in one country but then actively push their output to users in other countries – as exploring in the labels v TuneIn legal battle in the UK courts.

Still, as Thom says of his all-new carefully curated Sonos station, “with all this time we have behind doors I hope this provides a welcome connection and escape … and perhaps stops the walls closing in quite so quick”. Lock it in and rip the knob off! As they used to say in FM radio land. If only Sonos speakers had some knobs.