There’s been a lot of activity lately in the portable music player market. Just yesterday Microsoft unveiled its second generation Zune. And market leader Apple refreshed its entire line of iPods last month. One anticipated player, however, is still missing in action: the Slacker Player.
Slacker, the free Internet radio service, said the boringly-named Slacker Player would be available in the second quarter of 2007. It’s now the start of the 4Q. We know Slacker is busy, but even so we are anxious to see if Slacker, its Player, and Internet-radio-on-the go are, indeed, a compelling alternative to the Zune and iPod.
Instead of purchasing songs from online stores such as the Zune Marketplace or the iTunes Music Store (or ripping your own music into MP3s), users who purchase the Slacker Player will be able to transfer their “personalized stations” and music to the portable player via Wi-Fi. They set up their “personalized stations” using the Slacker Desktop Radio accessed from a browser.
Slacker, whose basic music service is similar to Pandora and others, has some serious digital music pedigree behind it. The three co-founders include Dennis Mudd, who started Musicmatch (acquired by Yahoo!), Jim Cady (from Rio), and Jonathan Sasse (president of iRiver).
Just last month, Slacked signed deals with three major record labels — EMI, Universal, and Warner. Already partnered with Sony BMG, Slacker is now aligned with the top four labels and a slew of indie labels and distributors. It offers a huge array of music, including Alternative, Blues, Classical, Country, Electronic/Dance, Hip Hop/R&B, International, Jazz, Rock, Spiritual, and so on.
In addition to the genres, Slacker features music from festivals such as South by Southwest and Coachella. It has also partnered with SPIN to form a punk radio station that will go along with the magazine’s October issue, “1977: The Year Punk Exploded.” The station, made available today, is sensational, providing music from The Adverts, Richard Hell, The Sex Pistols, Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill, The Clash, The Velvet Underground, and many other handpicked artists. Talk about nostalgia.
While you can purchase many of these songs at the Zune Marketplace or iTunes, and while “editors” at these sites provide recommendations and handpicked music for you, there’s something compelling about freeing Internet radio from the computer, being aligned with the four major labels, and providing unique content like the SPIN Punk station.