Tuesday AOL Music announced that it's relaunching AOL Radio in partnership with the highly-popular Slacker Radio. And like Slacker, AOL Radio will offer three primary services: free basic radio, an ad-free radio subscription and a music-on-demand premium subscription service. Based on the announcement, AOL Radio will essentially mirror Slacker but will also feature the official AOL logo stamped all over it, and original AOL content.
"AOL's partnership with Slacker Inc. will provide access to ad-free radio and enable users to create tailored radio stations, save favorite songs and stations, read album reviews, access artist biographies, review station histories, increase song skipping capabilities and much more, depending on the tier of service selected," the company said. "The partnership will enable Slacker to deliver its new radio offerings to a larger audience, allow AOL Radio and Slacker to develop new advertising opportunities for mutual clients and integrate AOL Music's original editorial voice across all its services."
The news arrives shortly after Slacker Radio revamped its own service back in May, adding a new premium tier providing on-demand music for $9.99 per month. Unlike the free and subscription-based ad-free radio choices, premium Slacker fans can play and replay specific songs and entire albums from the Slacker library. The new premium service also grants the ability to create specific playlists both on mobile and on the web, and even experience off-line playback through the ability to cache stations, playlists and entire albums. Subscribers can even create multi-artist or single-artist radio stations.
Slacker boasts over 8 million songs and more than 150 "expert-programmed" radio stations, but after a month of hands-on with the premium package, Slacker still has some catching up to do in regards to competing with Rdio and Rhapsody on a content level. Customers who cache albums directly to their mobile device can't listen to the songs in the correct order; Slacker's radio-style design kicks in and mixes up the arrangement unless the user manually creates a playlist. And as of late the Android app has become nearly unusable despite consumer complaints, with partial songs, force closings and the sudden inability to stream music sitting at the top of the complaint list.
So what does this mean for AOL Radio? Will the content and quality be just as limited? Perhaps the partnership will help boost Slacker's own library and quality of service while it in turn provides AOL Radio with the three-tier setup. AOL said that Slacker will lead advertising sales within the AOL Radio player at launch, enabling AOL to package a portion of the inventory for premium AOL Music integrated sponsorships.
An updated AOL Music app for Apple's iOS platform will be the first to re-launch in late summer, followed by Android and other platforms shortly thereafter.
On a side note, given that Slacker Radio supports Verizon's in-app billing service, so far there's no indication that AOL Radio will be just as compatible for Big Red subscribers.