I’ve been itching for the new Slacker on-demand music service to launch since last fall, and today the new app is (finally!) ready to go on the web, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Android devices. The whole Slacker experience has been overhauled, but the biggest change comes in the new Premium service tier. For $9.99 a month (or FREE for a limited time at www.facebook.com/SlackerRadio), Slacker Premium customers can now access individual songs and albums on demand. While this may not sound revolutionary, it is when you consider how Slacker implements its on-demand service. With a radio front end, users can find artists and songs simply by tuning to a station and either saving favorite selections as they play, or filtering through station content to find music worth storing. Naturally you can also search for any specific song and play it immediately, but the bigger benefit comes from station-based music discovery. Ask me what song I want to hear, and I may stumble over an answer. But play something I like, and I’ll add it to my personal playlist in a heartbeat.
After using Slacker Premium in beta for the last few weeks, I can happily say that the new service was worth the wait. I’ve only tested it on a computer so far, but I’ll be trialling it further on mobile devices in the near future, and the iPad video demo looks promising. From my own experience, the app is easy to use, and the ability to play favorite songs ad nauseum is addictive. I’ve never been one to collect music, so just being able to access songs when I want without having to make a commitment to buy is compelling. Even better, I don’t have to go out and search for music. If there’s a radio station I like, I can see the top 50 artists and songs on that station and jump around or create my own playlists at will. Stations, albums, and individual songs are also all cacheable for offline playback.
I spoke with Slacker CEO Jim Cady last week, who had a few things to say about where Slacker has been, and where it’s headed. First, when I queried him about Pandora’s continued success, he pointed out that Slacker’s music library is eight times as big, featuring more than eight million songs – and that’s not even getting into the different feature sets. And when I asked about some of the new cloud music services debuting (notably from Amazon and Google), Cady pointed out that those offerings are more like music storage lockers rather than Internet radio. Slacker not only lets you customize your own stations, it also has dozens of hand-crafted stations put together by professional DJs.
Cady also talked about what’s on the roadmap for Slacker now that the on-demand service has launched. I’ve asked about adding more song- and playlist-sharing features for years, and Cady assures me they’re coming. He also hinted at upcoming integrated car radio options, and more news and sports content. The ABC News station Slacker added a short while ago has proven quite popular, and the company announced back in March that customizable ESPN content is on its way.
For those who don’t want to pay for their online music, Slacker is still offering a free service tier. Or, for a slight upgrade to $3.99 per month, you can cut out the ads, and add unlimited song skipping, as well as caching, and access to song lyrics. My beloved Squeezebox is still supported, and an implementation for Sonos is currently in QA, and should be available in the next few weeks. Currently Slacker claims more than 25 million listeners. I expect that number to increase with the new service launch.