Today Emmis incorporates Apple's iTunes digital music store into its radio station Web sites, following a month-long trial of the offering at two of the company's hip-hop stations, New York's Hot97.com and Los Angeles's Power106.com.
DJ and artist playlists
The music stores have their own interface, with a station-branded playlist that listeners can use to play songs. It also features DJ and artist playlists that listeners can download in their entirety. Clicking on a download icon then sends users to iTunes.
Radio stations lure hundreds of thousands of music lovers to their Web sites, yet they've only begun to dabble in digital music downloads. According to online content and ad management company MediaSpan, most visitors to radio station Web sites use iTunes to buy music online. ITunes was more than twice as popular as Napster. And music downloaders (both paid and "unpaid") tend to skew young, and listen to urban/hip-hop and alternative rock -- so it's not surprising Emmis is starting its iTunes integration with those genres.
"A year ago, every station we talked to saw iTunes as a competitor," said Mark S. Zagorski, chief marketing officer, MediaSpan. "They didn't even want iPod ads on their site. And literally within a six-month window, it went a 180. ... I think they saw podcasting as something they could monetize. And it also helped when they saw their broadcast peers in TV making money by downloading shows like 'Lost.'"
Key driver for digital music sales
The deal hitches Emmis to the most popular digital music brand, which has captured the majority of the digital music market. But for iTunes, the radio station partnership gives it another programmed environment in which to sell its content, which some industry analysts believe is a key driver for digital music sales. (MTV is attempting to do something very similar, creating a sophisticated programmed environment with its Urge music service.)
Emmis isn't the only group with digital music store ambitions. Bonneville, a group with several large-market stations, has launched its own branded music store, working through non-branded digital music service Tune Genie.