Slacker Incorporated, based in San Diego, plans to launch the beta version of its radio service. The site combines elements of Internet radio, portable music and satellite distribution, while letting users choose the tunes, genres or artists they want. A Wi-Fi-enabled portable gadget that will be able to play the personalized selections will be available in the early summer, with models ranging roughly from $150 to $299, the company said. The Slacker Personal Radio Player, which is about the size of a deck of cards, sports a 4-inch color screen and can also store and play back digital music and videos that a user owns. Slacker is also looking to integrate its radio service in devices made by others, including cell phone makers. A car kit that will deliver the music via satellite signals will be available later in the year at a price yet to be disclosed.
Users who log on to Slacker can begin listening to music from more than 10,000 stations that are built around specific artists and pre-programmed genres. Users also can create their own stations by indicating what types of songs they want and letting the Slacker "DJ", a mostly automated system based on complicated algorithms, fill out the station program with more content. Users can remove or favourite songs played on the station. Customization adjustments to stations include choosing "more popular" versus "more eclectic," or newer versus older music. Users will also be able to e-mail their friends with their favorite stations. After the Slacker players become available, users will be able to have their personal radio stations delivered to the portable devices. The gadgets will not have to be connected to a wireless network for playback: they'll refresh the music data whenever the devices detect a Wi-Fi or satellite connection.
The basic Slacker radio service is ad-supported and free. A premium level of service that is set to launch in the second quarter will cost $7.50 per month, eliminate advertising and give users more flexibility and features. "The only problem is that until now, personalized radio has been stuck on the PC. Slacker solves that problem," said Slacker co-founder and Chief Executive Dennis Mudd, who was previously the co-founder and former chairman and chief executive of Musicmatch Incorporated, bought out by Yahoo in 2004 for $160 million. Slacker currently employs about 50 people, including Jonathan Sasse, Slacker's vice president of marketing, the former CEO of portable player company iRiver America and Slacker's president, Jim Cady, the former chief executive at Rio. The company's vice president of sales is Steve Cotter, who previously held the same title at both Rio and Altec Lansing Technologies Incorporated.