clear channel buys thumbplay streaming music service

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clear channelClear Channel Radio announced yesterday that it’s buying part of Thumbplay Inc, which will allow it to enter into the streaming music space.

According to The Associated Press:

Clear Channel Radio owns 850 radio stations in over 150 cities, most of which people can listen to over the Internet, through the website iHeartRadio. Thumbplay, too, lets people listen to music over the Internet: It streams more than 8 million songs from major record labels such as EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.

Unlike websites such as Pandora, which create an online radio station inspired by a listener’s favorite artists or songs, Thumbplay allows people to listen to the precise song they want to hear, when they want to hear it.

With Thumbplay’s catalog of songs and ability to create musical playlists, Clear Channel’s listeners will be able to stream music over the Internet, and not just traditional radio stations.

Ben Sisario of The New York Times’ Media Decoder Blog adds:

Evan Schwartz, Thumbplay’s chief executive, said in a statement: “We are extremely proud of the digital music products we’ve launched, and Clear Channel has recognized the real value of what the Thumbplay team has developed. They have the reach, the brands, and the promotional power, and we’re pleased we can add our team, technology, products and resources to this combination and to create a digital music experience on all platforms that no one will be able to match.”

Leslie Horn of PC Magazine characterizes the sale as a bail out move for Thumbplay, saying:

Cloud-based music service Thumbplay completed its first year with only 20,000 subscribers, and has thus decided to throw in the towel and sell to Clear Channel.thumbplay

Thumbplay was launched in March of 2010 with unlimited music for $10 a month. The reported sale doesn’t include Thumbplay’s ringtone business; according to All Things D’s Peter Kafka, Thumbplay will sell that portion of the company to a different party in the near future.


The terms of the Clear Channel deal haven’t been made public, though paidContent said “it is likely to be less than 10 percent of the company’s current valuation.” Kafka said the investors who poured around $41 million into Thumbplay “don’t expect to get all their money back.”

RadioINK’s  Ed Ryan brings the deal into focus with a broader perspective, saying:

Allowing consumers to program their own radio station is the specialty of Pandora and Slacker. It’s not perfect but the option to fast forward over a song you don’t like is pretty cool. Yesterday radio behemoth Clear Channel decided it was time to get in that game. The big boys of radio picked up Thumbplay, a relatively unknown Internet music provider that made its bones selling ring tones at about ten bucks per month. Clear Channel doesn’t have interest in the ring tone business. What they want is the technology to be able to allow listeners to pick and choose music. They plan to incorporate that technology into the iheartradio platform which already features Clear Channel’s 750 radio stations.


iheart mediaiheartradio is a cool app, I guess. The downside is unless you’re hooked on a particular morning show outside your market why would you go through a few extra steps to launch the app when you can flip on your radio. Chances are there’s a clear channel station or five in whatever city you live in. Sometimes that same morning show, the one you like outside the market, is voice tracking right into your market. And, aren’t we always talking about how important local local local is? Plus, if you want to listen to Bob & Tom or Sean Hannity or Jim Rome on iheartradio you have to pay for that privilege.


Now, add Thumbplay to the mix, which Clear Channel picked up on the cheap, and maybe there’s a real reason to sniff around, when it’s fully incorporated into iheartradio. Slacker radio CEO Jim Cady tells Radio Ink Clear Channel made the right move, even if it means a new competitor for him. “We made the decision this past year that the right solution for the perfect music service is a world-class free personalized radio service that extends to an integrated on-demand offering and then letting our customers choose what works best for them. With the Thumbplay acquisition, it appears that ClearChannel is coming to a similar conclusion and are now trying to assemble those pieces.”

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