Sonos launches Sonos Radio, a free streaming radio service including artist and genre stations

Sonos has launched its first in-house music streaming offering: Sonos Radio, a digital streaming radio service that includes both existing radio stations from TuneIn and iHeartRadio, as well as its own original programming through three new products including two ad-free offerings and one ad-supported option.

The original streaming options from Sonos include Sonos Sound System; an ad-free single station hosted by Sonos itself, that will play “new and well-known” music, along with snippets of stories from artists about their music, as well as hours guest-hosted by select artists themselves. Sonos says this is all about mixing crowd-pleasers with the occasional song you might’ve missed, in a bid to create a single stream that will have broad appeal.

There’s also Artist Stations, which also don’t have any ads, and which are hand-curated by artists and feature a selection of songs they love or that have inspired them. The first such station, debuting with the Sonos Radio launch, is Thom Yorke’s ‘In the Absence Thereof…’, and there are more to follow in the “coming weeks,” including stations from Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, David Byrne and more.

The final component of the original Sonos streaming content is Sonos Stations, which include over 30 dedicated genre stations. These are also free, but are ad-supported, so you’ll hear the occasional promotional message throughout the stream, kind of like you get with Spotify’s free tier.

To date, Sonos has acted strictly as an integrator for the services of others, operating the platform layer to provide in-house, multi-room streaming via its Sonos speaker and audio equipment products. This marks its first foray into doing something on the services side, so it’s a big change. I asked about whether this signals further moves into streaming, including through a potential paid premium offering with on-demand content, which would more directly compete with some of its biggest partners including Apple, Google and Spotify, and Sonos Product Marketing Director Ryan Richards didn’t shut the door on that possibility.

“This is about lean-back listening, it’s about discovery,” he said. “There are a lot of options for active listening out there, too, and so what we’re really focused on is first and foremost making the best possible radio service for our customers. In the future, we’ll see how that changes, but that’s what we’re focused on now.”

At launch, the global radio option backed by iHeartRadio and TuneIn will be available globally, but Sonos Radio’s original products will only be available in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland and Australia, with the company planning to expand availability in future. Its in-house offerings are powered by a deal with Napster to use their streaming catalog, and Richards told me that that arrangement also bounds the availability of the services. Sonos is working on signing up additional streaming licensing partners for an expanded geographic footprint and catalogue size, however.

The new Sonos Radio features won’t be compatible with voice control via either Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa on Sonos hardware that supports that at launch, though Richards says the company is looking at adding that as a future feature update. Sonos also acquired a startup that built its own smart voice assistant last November, so that could potentially still result in another in-house offering to lessen its reliance on partners at some point in the future.

To get access, anyone with a Sonos system should see the new offering in their Sonos app via a software update available today.

Some sage security advice after Radiohead’s unreleased music hack

Bad news: Radiohead was hacked.

Last week, a hacker stole the band’s lead singer Thom Yorke’s private minidisk archive from the band’s third album and subsequent major worldwide hit, OK Computer. The hacker demanded for $150,000 or they’d release it to the public.

Stuck between a ransom and a hard place, Radiohead released the tapes themselves.

The recordings were “never intended for public consumption” and “only tangentially interesting,” the band said in a post on Facebook. But “instead of complaining – much – or ignoring it, we’re releasing all 18 hours on Bandcamp” in aid of Extinction Rebellion, a climate change group.

Until the end of the month, the stolen recordings will be available for £18 ($23).

There is, though, a lesson to be learned. Holding files for ransom is more common today than ever thanks to ransomware. The event isn’t too dissimilar from a ransomware event. Pay the ransom or lose your files — or worse, have them spread all over the internet. That’s a business’ worst nightmare. We’ve seen ransomware destroy the computer networks of some of the largest companies around the world, like Arizona Beverages, Norsk Hydro, and shipping giant Maersk. Ransomware is now a multi-billion dollar business, and it’s growing.

But in any ransom-type situation, the FBI has long told victims of ransomware to never pay. Security experts agree. Simply put, you run the risk of losing your files even if they pay the demand.

ProPublica recently found that even some of the largest ransomware recovery companies are quietly paying the ransom — and passing on the costs to the victim — with mixed results. In many cases, paying the demand failed to recover the files.

If there’s one takeaway from the Radiohead hack, it’s never pay the ransom. Better yet, plan for the worst and have a backup just in case.