Sit back and relax: Console.fm is in your head

New Pandora-like music player that specializes in electronica gives us a preview of the indie radio station of the future.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read
It's like Pandora, for programmers. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--If Console.fm is an indication, we are about to be deluged by a new kind of streaming music service.

Console.fm is a specialized Pandora-like music player that plays electronic music. Twenty-two different kinds of it. I found it educational; I didn't know there was a genre of music called "Glitch hop," for instance. The company was one of 31 start-ups making their pitch today at the 500 Startups event here.

Unlike Pandora, you don't create your own channels in Console.fm. But if you like electronica, it's got a good mix. Each channel is curated by a combination of algorithm (which wasn't explained to me) and human intelligence from co-founder Alex Manelis.

What co-founders Alex Manelis and Alex Baldwin didn't expect was the audience they would find a home with. As it turns out, developers and coders like listening to electronica in their headphones while they're working. They're the biggest user group of Console.fm. And also the potential future business.

The service will be advertising-based, and will play an add every five songs. Console.fm can tell a lot about its users by using the Facebook log-in system, which can help it target messages.

What I found surprising about this business, and the reason I think it's a harbinger for similar businesses, is that, if Baldwin is right in what he tells me, it is neither about to be shut down because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act nor will it go broke paying licensing fees. Baldwin told me that the music on the service comes from independent artists via SoundCloud; when they upload their tracks, they sign up, he says, to have their music rebroadcast on a service like this (though he'll happily take an artist off the site if they ask).

If the economics work as Baldwin says they do, it should not be hard for anyone who bothers to register as a DMCA agent to start up a site like this, in this or any other genre. It might be an especially good extension for radio stations, for example, so they can highlight up-and-coming or local artists. As it has always been in the music industry, it'll be the skill of the DJ that makes a streaming service like this work, or kills it.

See also: Turntable.fm.