When I first met the Media Lab's Nicholas Negroponte for the first time, he immediately began poking me in the chest demanding that I invent a technology that would record radio to a hard drive in the car with pertinent programming while it sat in the parking lot...then it would be set with perfect sound for the drive home. That was a bunch of years ago..but, now, Michael Robertson has just unveiled Digital Audio Recorder (D.A.R.)
which he bills as "Tivo" for radio....and it's even better than Nick envisioned....finally! It's been a long time coming. it's great to be able to listen to a morning show you want to hear on the east coast if you live on the west coast...you can hear it if you want to get up at 3am...Yes, there are programs out there (turn the station on, set Adobe Audition to record at 3am and then come in to turn it off when you get up...massive file..now you get to listen to the show, live through all the commercials, just to hear what you want.) And, there are programs you buy, fairly expensive ones at that, that will record the shows to your hard drive...same "wade through" problem.
But, there has never been anything quite like D.A.R. Partnered with Michael's mp3tunes.com you get a free 2 gig "locker" for your sound files (idea borrowed from Michael's old "mp3.com.") You can set more than one show or station to record and the files are on line in your "locker." What's also amazing is the files are using recognition technology so each song is broken down and labeled by title and artist. For us radio guys it's the ultimate scope...it labels each of the stop sets as "breaks"...so, you can listen to the whole show as one as it plays one file after another, or you can click on any of the songs or breaks and play them on demand. A great feature for radio guys is this...if you click on the station call letters in the playlist it will just play the breaks one right after another.
The D.A.R. website says the new service is in "alpha" stage at this point...and we read some early reviews that called into question, the quality of the sound. But, we found it to be in the good to excellent area...plenty good enough for listening to the radio. If we have any criticism at all it would be rather limited selection of radio stations, but we assume that list will increase.
But, the real question is whether the technology will survive. In early interviews Michael insists that D.A.R. is legal. That's what he said about his mp3.com also...he lost that battle with the record industry to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Yes, it is "fair use" to record a TV show on TIVO or other digital video recorder and it is legal to record a show off the radio. But, then, DAR takes another step by breaking down and labeling each song..so you can develop your own music playlist and never have to pay the record guys anything. The record industry is still battling Sirrius/XM over a similar feature in some of their receivers...and Mel Karmizon has said that a new upgrade will expand that ability even more in the future. What could be the killer for D.A.R. however is the feature that lets you right click on a song and download it as an mp3 file. The record business will indeed not be happy about that.
Radio stations can't be too happy about D.A.R. either. One way stations are bringing in revenue is with visual streaming advertising as listeners listen from their website. If you are recording on D.A.R. you are also playing back on their mp3tunes website. So, radio is not getting the visual benefit of advertising when it is played on D.A.R. Of course, mp3tunes might make the argument they are bringing in listeners the station wouldn't have had otherwise but, we're not sure that will mean much to the Clear Channels, Cumulus, CBS's of the radio world.
Oh, by the way, mp3tunes also is available as an app on several smart phones including the Droid although they still have some work to do on that app..it didn't quite sync over the playlist.
As a listener and a radio fan, particularly to personality radio, I love D.A.R. It really gives me a chance to hear great radio artists I wouldn't have heard otherwise. And, it makes it very easy and simple to hear the jocks themselves without having to wade through the music to do so.
So, we really hope that D.A.R. makes it and sticks around for awhile. But, we don't think they'll do so without a bevy of lawyers once the record and radio industry brass gets a good look at it.