News I by I 03.06.15

“This is the future of broadcast radio”: DJ Skee on the hard launch of Dash Radio

Dash Radio prepares for its next major steps.

Launched in beta last year, internet radio platform Dash Radio goes fully-live today, backed by 1 million listeners and more than 60 channels curated by artists, DJs and music professionals.

The service is ad-free and has no subscription fee, and founder DJ Skee — a veteran of terrestrial and satellite radio — sees it as broadcast radio’s next step. While he was initially hesitant to embrace internet radio because of its stigma, he experimented with the format on his DJ Skee app and soon recognized the opportunity that the lack of rules or regulations presented.

“You can go from Skrillex to Sinatra to Lorde,” he says via phone. “I realized it had the potential to be way bigger than just me: if this platform existed for other people, this is what the future of broadcast looks like.”

The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was when he realized the image that radio has among younger generations. Early last year, when speaking to high school students, he was introduced as “DJ Skee from KIIS-FM” and was taken aback at the kids’ chilly reaction to his day job. “I was so uncool because I was on radio,” he recalls, adding with a laugh, “I can’t go out this way!”

With Apple’s Beats Music, Spotify, TIDAL and others gearing up for the Streaming Wars, Skee is quick to make a distinction between those platforms and Dash Radio. “If you want to hear a specific song, we are not the place for you,” he says. “We’re all about introducing new music,” a function under-served by the algorithm-based playlists of sites like Pandora.

“We’re all about live music and live DJs. What we’re not doing is going out and signing people and giving them a big check,” he says, taking a thinly-veiled shot at Apple’s star-studded plans for iTunes radio.

Rather, Dash is connecting with the artists, labels and personalities that have visions for radio stations. “For example, instead of us creating a station that appeals to Odd Future’s fan base, and then it not being authentic, we went straight to the source.” Despite their many successes, traditional radio ignores Odd Future, so his pitch was easy. “Why don’t we make something you own and can build on, and we handle the backend?”

Beyond stations curated by the likes of Snoop Dogg, Record Store Day, Rinse FM and Fool’s Gold, Dash plans to dive into “every genre and subgenre,” whether it’s K-pop or alt-indie or EDM. “We don’t want to have twenty stations that sound the same — we want to team with the right people in those scenes.”

Dash’s investors and advisors — Facebook alumni, tech honchos, sports stars and music business veterans — have raised $2 million in seed funding, but with no subscription fee and no adds, the proposition for listeners almost seems too good to be true. Of course, Skee sees it differently.

“We’ve cracked the nut for the best service for music discovery,” he explains. “At the end of the day, we looked at the stats, and we went back to the roots of radio. We looked at how radio originally started, and it wasn’t through selling 30-second spots, it was by utilizing DJs to mention products naturally, or by doing title sponsorships.”

In kind, Snoop’s station is the sponsored — but appropriate — “Cadillacc Music Presented By Snoop Dogg,” while vaporizer company GPen will present GLife, a station dedicated to the “stoner lifestyle.” In addition, Dash will soon become available via the Sonos in­home wireless audio speaker system, in cars through the AT&T Drive initiative, and other “Internet of things” formats.

“We think we can monetize in different and better ways,” he adds. “If you’re listening to Skrillex on an EDM station, and Skrillex is coming to town, we want to figure out how to get you those tickets. It’s about connecting the dots in a way that people haven’t done before.”



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