Sonos has always normally remained neutral when it comes to supporting services on its multiroom audio platform. But that’s changing. Sonos is stepping into a content creation role itself. Sonos Radio is a new, free-to-use streaming service that’s being introduced as part of a software update rolling out today worldwide.
Moving forward, it’ll come preloaded in the Sonos app, so it will be for some, the default before they move on to paid services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, etc.. CEO Patrick Spence sees that as marketing advantage, and ays it’s “only the beginning” as Sonos works on other services “that provide our customers a better experience, and provide our music streaming service partners an opportunity to highlight their best content.”
According to The Verge, Sonos says radio playback accounts for “nearly half” of all the time that customers spend listening to its products.
“Complementing the 100-plus streaming options available on Sonos, the new service introduces a holistic and cohesive way to explore radio, bringing together more than 60,000 stations from multiple streaming partners alongside original programming from Sonos,” the company said in its press release.
Sonos partners include TuneIn and iHeartRadio. In the Local Radio section of Sonos Radio, you’ll be able to easily pull up your local NPR station, sports talk, news shows, or other favorites — or listen to something from across the globe if you choose. You won’t get every feature of TuneIn or iHeartRadio as part of Sonos Radio, but the partnerships check off the core function of streaming live radio. Sonos says more partners, including Radio.com in the US and Global in the UK, are coming soon.
But the second, more interesting pillar of Sonos Radio is original programming — found under the Sonos Presents section — and this is headlined by an ad-free station called Sonos Sound System. The company converted the basement of its (currently closed) flagship retail store in Soho into a recording and production facility. Sonos says this is what you can expect from its flagship station:
Listeners will enjoy a stream of new, well-known, or rediscovered music, behind-the-scenes stories, as well as guest artist radio hours from the likes of Angel Olsen, JPEGMAFIA, Phoebe Bridgers, Jeff Parker (Tortoise), Vagabon, and more. Artist hosted radio hours, released every Wednesday, will start the stream of Sonos Sound System for a 60-minute radio show with music and commentary about inspiring artists, releases, and the host’s latest work.
There will also be artist-curated stations that offer “a regularly updated stream of hundreds of songs from artists inspired by their own influences and obsessions.” The first of those is going live today from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Like Sonos Sound System, these are ad-free.
Sonos Stations are the third and last piece of Sonos Radio. These are genre-based stations that do have ads — Sonos is partnering with TargetSpot to sell ad inventory and says “only general location data (ZIP code) and music genre information” is shared with advertising partners.
The marketing points from Sonos ring very familiar here; with Sonos Stations, the company is trying to position its curation as superior to what competitors are doing and says it’ll serve up a more varied assortment of music beyond the same old tracks you hear everywhere else.
Sonos says it’s using AI to smoothen out song transitions and keep the volume at the same level for ads and music. The end goal is for these to feel more like traditional radio than mere playlists. They are radio stations in the sense that you can’t ever skip tracks. Every part of Sonos Radio is linear.
Sonos Radio streams at just 128kbps, unfortunately. At launch, you won’t be able to use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to access the service.
Sonos Radio might be launching a bit differently depending on where you are. Internet radio stations will be available to everyone once today’s update rolls out. Sonos Sound System, artist stations, and Sonos Stations are launching first (also today) in the United States, Canada, UK, Ireland, and Australia.