6 Music Content Providers

 Jeanine Poggi   The Street  06/15/11

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Pandora’s (P) debut on the New York Stock Exchange has been nothing short of spectacular. But there are several competitors that could challenge the Internet radio company and its share price.

Pandora’s initial public offering was priced at $16 a share, significantly higher than the revised indicative range of $10 to $11 a share. The deal values the company at $2.6 billion.

With 90 million registered users, Pandora offers 40 hours of free streaming from its library of 800,000 songs. Users select genres of music, recording artists or a song, and Pandora, through its Music Genome Project, creates a personalized Internet radio channel.

Music is occasionally interrupted by advertising and users are allowed to skip a select number of songs. Pandora also offers a subscription service for $36 a month that allows unlimited streaming with no advertisements.

Pandora accounts for more than half of the Internet radio market, but there are several pure-play Internet start-ups that could threaten its dominance. Big-name tech and Internet companies are also looking to take a slice of the streaming music pie.

Read on for a look at the music services that could break into Pandora’s box.

Amazon Music Cloud

Amazon (AMZN)introduced its music cloud in March.

While the cloud doesn’t necessarily replicate the Pandora experience, it could satisfy those users that are looking for an easy way to access music via the Internet. The music comes from users’ own collections, including personal downloads from Apple’s(AAPL) iTunes.

With Amazon’s cloud, users can play their library of music on their PCs and Android mobile devices.

Amazon offers 5GB of free storage on the cloud, with the option to upgrade to 20 GB with the purchase of an MP3 album.

Critics have complained that uploading a large library of music to Amazon’s cloud could take up to several hours to complete.

Amazon controls only about 13% of the digital market music place, as it has spent the past four years attempting to catch up to Apple’s iTunes.

Apple iTunes

Apple(AAPL) iTunes was one of the first services to find a legal way to access digital music. But Apple isn’t stopping there, recently jumping on the cloud bandwagon with iCloud, which will launch this fall.

iTunes in the cloud will automatically sync music purchased in the digital store on all devices, and allow users to download past iTunes purchases.

But iCloud isn’t only for music. It can store a plethora of data, including up to 1,000 photos, apps, calendars and documents. The service wirelessly pushes these files to compatible devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod, Macs and PCs) automatically.

Apple will offer users 5 GB of free storage and purchased apps, music, books and photo stream don’t count toward this free storage.

Google Music Beta

Google (GOOG) released the beta version of its cloud-based music Web app last month.

The new service allows users to upload music to Google’s storage system, which can then be played on personal computers or Android smartphones.

One advantage is Google is allowing users to select their favorite genres of music and add songs to their personal library recommended by Google for free. It’s similar to the Genius feature on Apple’s iTunes.

Currently, Google is allowing users to subscribe by invite-only. Google recommends users upload content via Wi-fi or 3G, since it could take a while to complete.

Last.fm

Last.fm, which is owned by CBS(CBS), is a music recommendation service similar to Pandora that boasts more than 40 million users.

The service uses a system called Scrobbler to help users discover new music that fits their taste. Based upon music users listen to, the Scrobbler sends personalized recommendations through its library of more than 12 million songs.

Last week, CBS announced that it will roll Last.fm into its Radio.com site. Radio.com already hosts AOL and Yahoo!’s streaming music as part of its 130 channels, and CBS plans to use Last.fm to complement this contents.

Last.fm users can access content via Apple devices, Xbox Live, Android smartphones, Windows Phone 7 and select home-entertainment units.

While it is free to stream Last.fm through personal computers and its desktop application, the company recently discontinued its free subscription service on mobile devices and home entertainment units. It will now cost these users $3 per month to access content.

Sirius XM

Sirius XM (SIRI)has made a miraculous recovery since it was trading at a nickel in February 2009.

Thanks to a cash infusion from Liberty Media and the recovery of the auto industry, Sirius has been able to remove itself from the bankruptcy watch list.

The satellite radio company has been growing its subscription base, adding 373,064 new users during the first quarter and bringing its total to a record of 20.6 million. The company is heavily reliant on subscriptions to drive revenue, with just 2% of its revenue coming from sponsor messages.

Sirius XM offers several packages for its satellite radio, used predominantly in cars, but also offers its Internet radio package for $12.95 per month. This allows users access to more than 120 of its channels through Apple devices, PCs, Android smartphones, Sirius’ own Internet Radio and other compatible Internet devices.

Rdio

Rdio, which is backed by the co-founder of Skype, was launched in August 2010.

The service provides unlimited, on-demand music, with no ads, for $10 per month, and also offers a more basic version for $5 a month. Rdio also focuses on the social aspect of music, allowing users to follow others’ playlists, much like one follows users on Twitter.

There is also an option on Rdio to purchase albums.

Rdio has a library of about 5 million songs, and users can play content on the iPhone, Android smartphones, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and PCs.

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