Here’s how the young company pitches the service (it’s hard to categorize in a short summary):
“PLAY.FM sets new standards for on-demand streaming radios: the beta version transforms the largest audio database of DJ sets and live recordings into an intelligent platform with various possibilities of participation.”
Ok, that didn’t really help either, so let me give it a shot. What Play.fm wants to be is a place where people can come listen to professionally produced DJ sets, live recordings and radio sessions that are uploaded primarily by the artists themselves, targeting a mainstream audience. It’s not a place for users to upload or stream individual tracks or create and share digital mixtapes, but rather acts as a central hub where people can discover, stream and buy new music mixed together or recorded live by professionals. In turn, the uploaders get a comprehensive set of audience statistics and hopefully some visibility. This also opens up some interesting opportunities for labels, agencies, bookers and event organizers.
To a degree, you could compare Play.fm to services like SoundCloud and Fairtilizer, although those are targeted more to a professional audience at the end of the line as well, and are mostly centered around individual tracks rather than DJ sets or content recordings. Play.fm is also up against the plethora of websites that host and play DJ sets (mostly limited to one genre) in an online radio station style and usually based on a paid subscription service.
Non-uniqueness notwithstanding, Play.fm does a really good job at serving their target audience with an on-demand streaming catalog of over 12,000 DJ sets and live sessions already, and does a great job in offering a satisfactory user experience to listeners. The audio player displays sound bites in wave-form (again taking a page from services like SoundCloud), which means it enables the user to set time markers in order to identify and inquire about tracks he or she may not know yet, wiki-style. That makes the service incredibly addictive, at least for people like me.
Business model, you ask? Advertising, evidently, but also music retailing. See, each track that gets identified by Play.fm (1.4 million tracks so far) can be purchased via what the startup refers to as the Meta-Shop, which essentially pulls together pricing, track quality and purchase locations from 5 different online music shops, with 20 more on the way. Play.fm picks up a commission on all sales that are generated by people who click through to the actual online stores and complete the purchasing process.
Color me impressed, but do give it a whirl yourself and let us know what you think, too.