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Does the broadcast model have a place in online radio?

Start-up Goom is using professional DJs and will eventually support user-created radio stations, but I prefer the super-targeted approach of MTT radio.

Matt Rosoff
Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.
Matt Rosoff
3 min read

In the last couple of days, I've been introduced to a couple new online sites, both calling themselves "radio," that encapsulate very different approaches toward distributing music over the Web.

MTT Radio

Goom Radio, which entered public alpha testing yesterday, claims to be trying to change the landscape of online radio. One big difference between Goom and other radio services is a radio widget that users will be able to embed in social-networking sites and other Web pages. Goom also makes a big deal about its audio technology, which starts with uncompressed WAV files instead of digitally compressed MP3 or Windows Media files, and then runs them through various boosters and filters equalizers tailored to each genre--sort of how traditional radio stations do it today. Eventually, users will be able to create their own radio stations (and I'll blog about it again when this feature's available), but today it's limited to a handful of professionally curated stations in particular genres.

In our conversation yesterday, Goom CEO Rob Williams emphasized that the company is seeking out the right kind of DJs--folks who truly care about music, and are as bored and fed up with the research-driven pap on mainstream radio as most other hardcore music fans are. Still--a DJ is a DJ, and most of the folks on the station so far come out of the traditional music industry. As a result, the stations on Goom radio today are cool--there's an Eels song playing on the indie-rock Tastemaker station as I write this--but not particularly cutting-edge or risky. This is the music that the pros think you should hear.

Contrast this with another service that launched last week, MTT Radio. MTT stands for Music Think Tank, and it's a relatively new blog and service for indie musicians, staffed and owned by people with ample experience catering to that market. Written content on the site is licensed under the Creative Commons license, and would-be contributors are encouraged to post for the MTT Open site, which is open to all writers. Think of it like a Huffington Post for indie musicians. MTT Radio works the same way as the Open blog site: anybody can contribute a song, and they're listed in reverse-chronological order and indexed by genre.

The two services aren't exactly comparable: Goom is a profit-driven business intended to reach as many people as possible, while MTT Radio is an experimental way for indie musicians to get exposure on the site. Still, the contrast made me think about how online radio is going to evolve. In a world of MP3 players and on-demand streaming services like Spotify, where users are accustomed to controlling every song that plays, and services like Pandora, which create customized radio stations for every taste, I don't know if a DJ-driven online radio station has much appeal. One-to-many, broadcast, top-down: no matter who's driving it, this kind of radio already seems outdated. A service like MTT (or, for that matter, MySpace), where anybody can post their music for the world to hear, seems like a more modern approach.

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