A list of playlists? In 2015, the state of music discovery has really come to this. Now that on-demand streaming is no longer a novelty, services from Spotify and Rhapsody to Google Play Music and Tidal are competing to out-curate one another. One of the main ways these companies are working to bring new music to the surface is the playlist — to the point where these simple sets of songs now cry out for a little curating of their own.
Thing is, with some variations, the types of professionally made playlists available on each interactive streaming service — as opposed to radio-style services epitomized by Pandora — are starting to become fairly consistent, too. Whatever your preferred streaming app, it’s a fair bet you’ll find mood- and genre-based playlists alongside playlists created with more of an editorial touch. Some services allow users to share playlists they’ve made themselves; others don’t, opting to keep the curation in-house.
Since launching June 30, Apple Music has stood out for a particular emphasis on creative song selection by experts. That’s most quickly evident in the company’s Beats 1 online-radio station, but it’s also true of the service’s 10,000-plus playlists. When Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, recently criticized the idea of a digital music service picked by “a handful of elite tastemakers" as out-of-date, media reports construed the comment as a jab at Apple — despite the fact that Google Play Music hires its own human cognoscenti as well. Apple Music just happens to do it better.
So what are the best playlists on Apple Music? Well, this gets tricky. The service recommends only so many playlists each day, and many of them seem to reflect what I already like more than what I might like. Still, with the end of Apple Music’s three-month free trial approaching for many of the millions who signed up shortly after the service launched, it’s time to curate the curators. From Beyoncé workouts to reggae clashes, here’s a guide to 50 Apple Music playlists worth a listen.
1. "Intro to Alice Coltrane"
Apple Music has a category of playlists "introducing artists." More than a few need no introduction: Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Adele. (I guess listeners whose Belieber potential was piqued by “Where Are Ü Now” or “What Do You Mean” need a place to start, too.) Meanwhile, playlists like this thoughtful primer on transcendent jazz harpist and pianist Alice Coltrane (wife of John) show how much musical ground Cupertino’s curators have covered.
2. "Melvins: Deep Cuts"
Another equally self-explanatory category of Apple Music playlists offers up an artist’s lesser-known tracks. In the case of chart-toppers like One Direction and Luke Bryan, this approach can seem oxymoronic. But you can see how deep the playlisters have gone by steering away from current charts toward, say, this handy dive into the vast, varied discography of sludge-metal vets and grunge forefathers the Melvins.
3. "Inspired by the Beach Boys"
These playlists focus on music that follows in the footsteps from an artist or album. The Beach Boys were pretty influential, right? From Saint Etienne to Olivia Tremor Control, this playlist’s more cultish selections are (here we go again, sorry) inspired.
4. "Inspired by 808s & Heartbreak"
Here’s a shining example of an Inspired By playlist based around an album. With Kanye West performing his melancholy, Auto-Tune–heavy 2008 album in full lately, it’s worth taking a look at its influence on Drake, Lorde, the xx, and Raury.
5. "FKA Twigs: Influences"
Influences playlists are the opposite of Inspired By, laying out ancestors rather than descendants. U.K. multi-threat Tahliah Barnett has an eclectic lineage in futuristic electronics and silky grooves, here rendered in a playlist that goes, welcomely, from Broadcast to Siouxsie & the Banshees to Erykah Badu.
6. "Country Hits: 1952"
Another batch of playlists cover a range of genres’ “hits” and “gems” by year. Given the consistent and well-deserved concern over country radio's lack of female stars, why not start with the year of Kitty Wells’s pioneering “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”? It’s too bad the rest of the list is as male-dominated as country radio in that pre–Patsy Cline, pre–Loretta Lynn era — but at least those men include Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell.
7. "Singer/Songwriter Gems: 1965"
Where Hits reflect their times, Gems playlists aim to compile great songs that might not have ruled the charts. And thus, here's your regularly scheduled reminder that Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” was not a big hit.
8. "Family Tree: Parliament-Funkadelic"
The Family Tree series of playlists brings together songs from a band and its other related projects, including solo acts and spinoffs. Jazz front men and their players are ideally suited, as are certain rock groups, but it’s hard to go wrong with psych-funk extraterrestrials Parliament-Funkadelic, whose playlist spans tracks credited to Zapp & Roger, James Brown, the Five Stairsteps, Ohio Players, Talking Heads, and a George Clinton–produced Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of the Meters.
9. "In the Mix: Carl Craig"
In the Mix playlists are collections of a remixer’s, ahem, remixes. Sure, Apple has your Skrillex and your David Guetta, even your Jacques Lu Cont, your Four Tet, and your Justice, but why not settle in with a Detroit techno eminence? Especially when his playlist starts with a gleaming 2007 rework of Canadian electropop duo Junior Boys’ “Like a Child”?
10. "Beyond the Hits: New Wave"
The Beyond the Hits category isn’t limited to a particular year, or to obvious Gems. Instead it’s meant to showcase a group of artists’ classic songs that “got lost in the shuffle” yet are “every bit as exciting as those artists’ better-known hits, without the over-familiar feeling.” These tracks from the likes of Blondie and the Cure are a fine place to begin.
11. "Behind the Boards: Toy Selectah"
From superproducers Timbaland or the Neptunes, to don’t-call-him-a-producer Steve Albini, the Behind the Boards set of producer collections runs the gamut of predictable subjects. Luckily, the curators don't stop at the obvious. In keeping with Apple Music’s global approach, take a trip to Mexico with a madcap set of tracks produced by Monterrey DJ and producer Antonio “Toy” Hernández, formerly of trailblazing rap group Control Machete.
12. "Sampled: Art of Noise"
So far, so intuitive: Sampled playlists compile songs that, yes, sample a given source, from Billy Squier’s “The Big Beat” and lesser-known funk group Skull Snaps’ ubiquitous “It’s a New Day” to Michael Jackson and Blue Note Records highlights. U.K. producer Trevor Horn was early to sampling with ’80s synth-poppers Art of Noise, and here you can hear them repaid by Ginuwine, Lil’ Kim, Fatboy Slim, the Prodigy, and, more recently, Mac Miller.
13. "Sounds Like: DJ Mustard"
Sounds Like sounds like what you’d think. Iggy Azalea’s presence here (twice!) gets a pass because she anchors a fascinating look at how far the crunk&b producer’s influence has extended in just a few years' time, from Jidenna’s “Classic Man” to the — almost — Chris Brown–excusing “Loyal." You'll find yourself thinking, You mean Mustard didn’t work on Tinashe’s “All Hands on Deck”?!
14. "Reggae Clash Series: Coxsone Dodd vs. Duke Reid"
Now we’re starting to get somewhere. Reggae Clash Series pits two producers or artists head-to-head, sound-system-style. The clash between King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry may combine two icons of dub, but there’s little denying the ska, reggae, and rocksteady from pre-dub Jamaican producers Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid, whether Skatalites’ “Guns of Navarone," Alton Ellis’s “I Am Still in Love,” the Paragons’ “The Tide Is High,” or Jackie Mittoo’s “Hot Milk.”
15. "Classic 45s: Early Rock, Pop, and Soul" / "Classic 45s: Punk, Post-Punk, and Indie"
Let’s treat these two playlists, which celebrate the twin heydays of the 7-inch single, as the A-side and the B-side of the same idea. Here we see Apple Music branching out beyond clearly defined playlist categories, and the results find the missing link between Elvis and Buzzcocks.
16. "Best of Future Garage" / "Roots of Future Garage"
Another playlist approach is to give a primer on a genre and then trace its origins. Here, listen to how the sleek electronics of Disclosure, AlunaGeorge, SBTRKT, Joy Orbison, and Burial grew out of the impressionistic sketches of earlier Burial, James Blake, or Mount Kimbie.
17. "Indie Pop Forefathers," Vols. 1, 2, 3
The phrase indie pop gets thrown around these days, but this playlist focuses on the unassailable precursors of the ’80s variety: Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” and the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely,” and Gal Costa’s “Baby.”
18. "Songs in Colours (Jamie xx)"
Some of the more interesting Influences-based playlists go beyond “influences,” per se, to draw inspiration from a specific album, in the case of Jamie xx’s masterful 2015 In Colours ...
19. "Shades of Cool (Lana Del Rey)"
… Or a song, in the case of Lana Del Rey’s ’60s-soundtrack-ready “Shades of Cool,” off of 2014’s Ultraviolence.
20. "Best Synthesizer Soundtracks for Films"
Apple has any number of film-related playlists, from “Slackers and Swingers: Music From the Indie Film Revolution” (Reservoir Dogs’ “Stuck in the Middle With You”? Check!) to best-ofs for specific actors or directors (Leonard DiCaprio’s is a fine example). Spanning staples like Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis, and Daft Punk, here’s one for synth-loving cinephiles.
21. "Songs That Predicted Shoegaze and Dream-Pop"
Apple has some worthwhile genre-based playlists aren’t purely Best Ofs, such as this chronological guide to psychedelic folk and rock that presaged the likes of My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain.
22. "Grime 2.0"
Another spin on the usual Best Of, here’s a refresher on the resurgent U.K. grime scene, with plenty of Skepta (Beats 1 DJ Julie Adenuga’s brother), Wiley, and Kano.
23. "Turkish Psychedelic Folk Songs"
It's hard to hate a Best Of that's this out-there. Sure, we could highlight the specificity of Apple's “Contemporary Experimental Metal,” “The Folk and Americana Side of Christian Music,” or the bluntly named "Hipster’s Guide to Country" playlists. But this mind-melting set of Anatolian psych-folk exists, so.
24. "Best of Ghana"
That said, the service is teeming with playlists presenting the “best” of various genres, scenes, or moments. Given Dr. Dre’s role at Apple, “Best of Gangsta Rap" is obvious; “Best of Musique Concrete” or “Best of Classic Prog Rock,” maybe less so. But the expert approach to curation really shows its worth when you can also explore as far afield as Ghana, tracing highlife, funk, and rock from the West African nation …
25. "Brazillions: Excellent Tropicalia and Post-Tropicalia"
… Or Brazil, for tracks by Os Mutantes, Jorge Ben, and more.
26. "Global Bass: Tecnobrega"
While in Brazil, meet “Brazil’s Beyoncé,” Gaby Amarantos, and the city of Belém’s homegrown tecno brega (literally "cheesy techno"), with its galloping beats and neon hooks.
27. "Bowie in Berlin"
A whole other tranche of playlists is based around a single artist, whether that means Robyn’s remixes, the Smiths’ B-sides, Weird Al’s polkas, Grateful Dead’s country songs, R. Kelly’s theatrical songs, Led Zeppelin’s heavy blues, or Slash’s best guitar solos. David Bowie’s Berlin period (1977’s Low and Heroes, 1979’s Lodger, generally hanging with Iggy Pop) turns out to be an unsurprisingly fertile source.
28. "Workout Like Beyoncé"
Here’s another single-artist set, this one highlighting Bey's more up-tempo tracks. It dovetails nicely with another notion not lost on streaming companies: the strong link between music and exercise.
29. "Americana Troubadours"
Genre-based playlists come with the territory. In the Americana genre, this set of earnest balladeers gets points for including country alternatives Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and Chris Stapleton.
30. "Jukebox Hits: Classic Blues"
Other genre playlists (“Sittin’ and Cryin’,” “Feeling the Blues,” “Rambling and Tumbling”) show different shades of the blues, but “Jukebox Hits: Classic Blues” is a well-conceived introduction to the canon, helping rock-weaned ears out with some oft-covered originals by John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf.
31. "Movin’ and Groovin’"
Classified as “soul/funk,” this playlist plucks up rising soul postmodernist Leon Bridges and drops him off next to both ’60s originators (Aretha, Otis, Sam) and contemporary standard-bearers (Saun & Starr, Monophonics, Speedometer).
32. "Let’s Have a Party"
If you’re going to play “oldies,” here’s a batch of familiar rock-and-roll rave-ups to make your party a goodie.
33. "Soul Brother No. 2"
Opener “Sunday Candy,” from Chance the Rapper’s Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment gem of an LPSurf, sets the tone for this playlist from Apple’s hip-hop team: a Zeitgeist-y intersection between slow, jazz, and highly lyrical rap. Don’t worry, Kendrick’s on here, too.
34. "Cinematic Soul"
Filed under R&B, this playlist handily exemplifies the unpredictable connections the format allows, jumping between up-and-comers (Andra Day, Alessia Cara), list-defining statements of purpose (Shirley Bassey’s Diamonds Are Forever theme), and a lesser-known hit from a superstar (Michael Jackson’s “We’re Almost There”), in between the Stylistics, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, Barry White, and, because the list is set up in a way that ensures she belongs, Adele.
35. "Year of the Woman"
Okay, so that “Hipster’s Guide to Country” playlist is actually full of great vintage classics, and Apple Music’s “House Party” country playlist delves into current hits as befits Sam Hunt’s namesake rap-informed smash. But with powerful 2014–2015 material by Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, Maddie & Tae, and Mickey Guyton, this country playlist is a stirring corrective to all the bros dominating the airwaves. Just one thing: Where’s Little Big Town’s 2014-released, 2015-charting stunner “Girl Crush” (which conveniently could’ve doubled as this playlist’s title)?
36. "The Staple Singers: Gospel and Protest"
The Staple Singers served. With guest spots from Curtis Mayfield and Steve Cropper, here’s a Christian & Gospel playlist that’ll give you religion.
The human touch in action. “Dylanesque” is a rock-critic cliché, but this nominally “classic rock” playlist takes a bracingly broad view of what resembles Bob Dylan, encompassing Sun Kil Moon, PJ Harvey, Courtney Barnett, and even Of Montreal and the Fiery Furnaces.
38. "Opening Lines: 1-2-3-4!"
A conceit that’s as simple as ABC — songs that begin with someone counting to four — gives birth to a “rock” playlist that finds space for Outkast, Cornelius, and Kraftwerk along with the Ramones, Guns N’ Roses, the Flaming Lips, and Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers.
39. "Pop for Jorts"
Worth noting for the name alone. The description just says, “Shake it, shake it, baby, to these high-energy bangers.” But the songs, drawn mainly from this year, tellingly illuminate what Apple views as up-tempo pop — from across the underground and the charts — right now. That means Shamir and Gallant, the Knocks’ Fetty Wap collaboration, Calvin Harris’s Haim collaboration, Sweden’s Susanne Sundfør, and Los Angeles’s Sky Ferreira.
40. "No Problem With Houston"
Beyoncé briefly attended Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. So did multiple-Grammy-winning R&B/hip-hop songwriter and producer Bryan-Michael Cox. So did a founder of WordPress. And, as this playlist shows, so did some of today’s top jazz talents, including Robert Glasper.
41. "Blue Note Records: Jazz Funk"
This set devoted to James Brown’s influence on jazz in the ’70s is part of what Apple tells us is a planned 30-playlist set curating the historic label’s catalogue.
42. "If You Like … Kind of Blue"
Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue is perennially among the top vinyl album sellers. There are If You Like … playlists for Beck, Ed Sheeran, Halsey, you name it — even an “If You Like Pina Coladas” playlist — but this collection of tracks that “mirror” the allure of Davis’s 1959 masterpiece ably fills what — for jazz newcomers, at least — seems like a real need.
43. "Motown for the Whole Family"
Oh, yes, there are Kids & Family playlists, too. “Cool Lullabies,” “Pop for the Whole Family,” “Classic Children’s Songs,” and “Driving With the Kids” undoubtedly have their place. Motown virtually guarantees all generations can maintain their sanity.
44. "The 3 a.m. Drive Home"
Don’t stress the title. This batch of “hypnotic late-night electro grooves” serves as a clever tour through a certain strain of electronic music, from Aphex Twin in 1997 to the Knife in 2006 and on through Hudson Mohawke, Rustie, and Evian Christ more recently. Car and wee hours not required.
45. "Daft Punk’s Teachers"
Apple hardly has a monopoly on this concept, but a playlist based on the musical idols name-checked on Daft Punk’s “Teachers” (from 1997’s Homework) could introduce the French dance duo’s many more recent fans to the robots’ preceding, um, technologies. What’s needed next is a playlist based on Swedish duo the Tough Alliance’s like-minded 2005 shout-out to influences, “Take No Heroes” (there is an “Intro to Tough Alliance” playlist).
46. "Getting Parents to Like Noise"
Starting with Jimi Hendrix and ending with a track from Lou Reed’s (in)famous Metal Machine Music, this playlist filed under “experimental” coaxes listeners gently into skronk and skree.
47. "It’s a New Day"
Classified as “indie,” this playlist stands out for its sunny genre-hopping, from the oft-sampled title track to jazz by Royer Abers Ubiquity to Earth, Wind & Fire, the Rolling Stones, A$AP Rocky, Major Lazer, Talking Heads, Gang Starr, Al Green, Rich Homie Quan, Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.,” Arthur Russell’s Loose Joints disco exploration “Tell You (Today),” Frank Wilson’s Motown nugget “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” and other auspicious picks.
48. "Girls Are Saving Indie Rock"
More conventionally indie, this set of recent songs from the likes of Bully, Hop Along, Girlpool, Sleater-Kinney, Waxahatchee, Courtney Barnett, Torres, Cherry Glazerr, Speedy Ortiz, Ex Hex, Bleached, and Best Coast very nearly lives up to its hyperbolic title.
49. "Surf Rock Para el Verano"
Summer may be gone, but this playlist of Spanish-language surf rock is a refreshing way for nonspeakers to dip their toe into Apple Music’s many Latin-music playlists.
50. "Ambient Music: Studying"
Activity-based playlists are a huge focus for streaming services, and Apple Music plays this game, too, as a couple of earlier entries on this list have suggested. With school back in full swing, this playlist is sure to be one of the more popular ones this season. Flipping Brian Eno’s classic definition of ambient music, this list is as interesting as it is ignorable, doubling as an undistracting soundtrack for library work and a primer on three-plus decades of ambient, from Laurie Spiegel to Max Richter. As long as you’re hitting the books, you might as well learn something, right?
Join us as our CEO and Founder, David Porter presents on 8tracks’ strategy and objectives, along with an investor Q&A session during the final 30 minutes. View or download the presentation slides here.
With just two weeks left, our equity crowdfunding campaign on SeedInvest is in the home stretch, ending soon on October 21.
Get shares in 8tracks before the round ends on October 21
1. Any plans to provide offline access to playlists like Spotify does? What about the ability to save tracks from playlists to your own 8tracks playlists?
Porter: So the answer is yes and yes. I will answer the second point first: the ability to add tracks from a playlist to your own 8track playlist. That will happen sooner, and really the gatingfactor there is having the deals in place to be able to support that, because the only way we can do that is if that track you want to save to your own playlist is available in our library. So if it’s available in our library, then you would be able to essentially favorite that track with a little star icon, and then that track will show up where you make playlists, so you can then add the track to your playlist.
The offline access I am really keen on. I love that feature on Spotify, frankly. I know that’s something which is really a nice differentiator, and the way that we thought about it (and again, this is unlocked by direct deals with labels), is that ideally we would have something where perhaps the last ten playlists you liked are automatically saved for offline access, and then another ten you can save permanently, or not permanently, but you can click a little toggle, not unlike what Spotify does, and make those available for when you are on a flight or on a subway and so forth. So offline access is definitely part of the plan.
That’s something we know has value. It probably will be part of the 8tracks Plus subscription offering, which is $2.99 a month. It’s an exciting feature, and we look forward to it.
2. Can you expand on what features the 8tracks Plus premium offering will have down the road?
Porter: Absolutely. I just kind of alluded to those in the last question, but my vision for 8tracks Plus is really four things.
Thing number one already exists, which is the lack of ads.
Thing two, and perhaps our most requested feature historically over the last eight years is more skips, and so 8tracks Plus will have a much higher skip limit so you don’t have that constraint.
The third thing is offline access, like I mentioned in response to the last question, and I think that will be really compelling.
The fourth thing is a feature that we’ll probably bundle into 8tracks Plus, but that will be part of our DJ offering in the music library we’re building out. Some subset of content will only be available to subscribers. It’s likely the bulk of independent content will be there for any DJ to access for free, but for three bucks a month you also get access to some section of content that likely would include some major label content, for example, and that then allows you to do a few cool things like I just mentioned in the response to the last question.
For example, if you hear a track and you like it, you can favorite it and it automatically gets added to your playlist creation page and then you can make a playlist from that. We had a feature like this in the early days of 8tracks, and it was this wonderful kind of virtuous cycle where you tune into 8tracks with music that you can’t hear anywhere else, or don’t hear anywhere else.
You favorite a list of tracks daily, and then every week or two you are like, “Okay, here is, of these twenty tracks that I favorited, these ten would make a fantastic playlist.” You create your own playlist with those ten tracks and then publish it and share it. It’s kind of this endless virtuous cycle of discovery and sharing, so we think that’s great for everyone: listeners, labels and artists alike. So that’s something we want to recreate with the new deals that we’re doing with the record labels.
3. I have been spending a lot of time exploring playlists on 8tracks, and I’m wondering about audio quality. Playlists are not normalized, and this results in an average user experience of having to adjust volume from song to song. I’m curious on how you plan to address that. Is there any plan to address the playback quality?
Porter: Yes, and great point. That’s actually something that we had experienced at my last company (Live365), where I worked after business school and before starting 8tracks. We developed a way to normalize audio. We haven’t had a ton of feedback on that specific point, but certainly if it made sense, it is something we could focus on sooner, and again, it’s one of those things that we know we would like to do, it’s just a matter of what comes first in the order of operations.
I think probably the most important point here is that we are gradually shifting from a world of uploaded content where people have ripped their CDsor purchased a song from some source and they upload it to 8tracks to create their playlist, and moving from that kind of world to where it’s kind of half-analog and half-streaming to a fully streaming model.
The direct deals that we are doing in all cases include us ingesting content from the aggregator that is in optimal quality, whatever quality we typically ask for and is standardized. So the fact of having these direct deals will obviate a lot of the consumer’s concerns about the variable audio quality. That should get steadily better over time as we do more of these deals, so stay tuned.
4. Do you have a number for current active users, besides the cumulative 17 million users that have registered today?
Porter: Absolutely. The number is five million monthly active users. I think we touched on that in the previous webinar. I’m always very cautious when I throw out the registered users number because I know in some ways that is kind of a bullshit number because it’s not all active, so good on you for calling me out on that, but the monthly active user number is five million. Again, if you look at the historical figures, there has been some decline apart from the aforementioned impact of Spotify and a few problems with pre-roll video on iOS. We also had to restrict streaming outside the US and Canada, so that was a big chunk, and again, that sort of artificially makes the decline look worse than it really is, at least in terms of the U.S. and Canadian audience. That’s the story there.
5. Is there any plan to do cool, original video content produced by 8tracks (acoustic sessions, studio sessions, artist interviews, etc.)?
Porter: Dare I say possibly? So kind of two thoughts: on the one hand, I want to make sure that we’re sticking to our knitting and are focused on the things that will deliver the most value, given extremely limited resources, so I feel like we don’t want to venture too wide.
On the other hand, one of our strengths is clearly this crowdsourced curatorial point-of-view. The first step towards something like that is happening right now with our kind of editorial/content marketing plan. After having done a little bit of research, we’ve heard that some of the best content marketing opportunities are actually video-driven. So we’re thinking a little bit about how we ought to approach that from our perspective, and we have done some of this in years past.
We had a VP of Marketing in the early days—actually, the wife of the Pandora CTO, my friend Tom Conrad. His wife, Kate Imbach, was our first head of marketing, and she did some great interviews with bands and those are up on the blog. So I think there’s a little bit of history there.
We have great connections with some of our partners like Red Light Management and some of the labels, so I think there’s an opportunity there. We just need to make sure we do it the right way. Because we don’t have a lot of in-house expertise on that, I think we need to make a key hire to lead that process, but our first experiment into kind of going beyond our core of playlists and adding in this editorial layer (whether it is text-based or video-based) is this content marketing plan that is being rolled out this next quarter.
6. Most of your competitors in the same industry have challenges reaching a global audience, i.e. Pandora, etc. Have you researched this area and what measures and plans do you have to achieve this, and by when?
Porter: Definitely. So we initially were available globally, and that was the way that we rolled out. In the early days of 8tracks, we didn’t necessarily know where our listener was located. We didn’t have the ability to identify the geographical location of a listener, and so we just kind of streamed and paid everything to Sound Exchange, a U.S. entity.
As we’ve become larger and more sophisticated, we’ve been able to distinguish. As part of us moving forward on bigger label deals, we’ve had to restrict streaming outside the US and Canada. We do intend to bring 8tracks back steadily over time, but I can’t promise to any time table. A lot of it depends on our success with crowdfunding and with the near-term road map. However, what I would say is that we are looking at, really, for any country there is a combination of perhaps three factors that we need to consider, which really relate to that first equation that I led off the presentation with.
First and foremost, are the royalties that we need to pay in that country affordable? Are they set at a level that we can actually have a real business, and relatedly, what is that business model? Because we sell advertising, if we don’t have a huge audience there, that means that we probably can’t justify having a direct sales team there, and therefore need to rely on programmatic advertising where it is sold through third parties or through another partner. So if it’s going to be an advertising model, who is doing the selling and at what levels are the RPMs or CPMs, and how does that map back to that royalty? There’s a little bit of homework to be done on the direct revenue side, and also on the direct cost side to make sure that the unit economics are in fact positive.
That’s one consideration, and the other is if we have a large and growing audience. This is kind of speaking to the ATH or hourly-streamed part of that equation, and relatedly, can we find a distribution partner who can help us drive that. I think the classic example would be finding a country where we could partner with a local mobile operator and we become an option for that service that is perhaps free, maybe with your mobile subscription.