Streaming service Rdio and Cumulus Media announced a partnership on Monday. This marks the second great partnership opportunity this summer for Rdio; the first being with Live Nation back in July. Being the second largest radio operator in the US with 525 station, Cumulus can offer Rdio much-needed awareness to compete with more established services like Spotify and Pandora. In exchange, Cumulus claimed a significant equity stake in Rdio’s parent company Pulser Media.

Most significantly, this deal will bring Rdio into the world of free, ad-supported streaming – a feature that has been absent from the Rdio service since its start in 2010. Currently, Rdio costs $5 per month for desktop streaming and $10 per month for phone and tablet access. While Rdio does offer a free trial, it cannot compare to the free versions of Spotify and Pandora. Cumulus boasts 1,500 sales agents around the country and will use this power to sell commercials for the new, free Rdio streaming service. The two companies will share in the advertising revenue. Rdio’s free version is expected to launch at the end of 2013 though the details of the service are still not clear.

“The biggest challenge we face is really awareness,” Mr. Larner said. The company has obviously been trying to address this concern with its partnership with Live Nation. Everyone is talking about streaming, but usually the only services that get a mention are Pandora, Spotify, and now the new iTunes Radio. With 525 stations across the US, Cumulus can promote Rdio to hundreds of thousands of music fans.

For Cumulus, the deal marks a significant step into the digital environment. In the past, they have supplied streams to Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio, but that deal was simply a “marriage of convenience,” according to Cumulus executive, Lewis Dickey. “We’re trying to be much more active in the audio ecosystem than just passively handing our streams over,” Mr. Dickey said. “That has severe limitations in terms of our ability to monetize.” Apparently, the deal with Rdio will allow Cumulus to do much more in the digital radio environment. Cumulus will certainly be creating specialized playlists for Rdio from its terrestrial radio stations.

With all the negative talk around streaming services like Spotify and Pandora this summer, it is refreshing to hear of a smaller service trying to move forward and adapt to the changing streaming environment. What are your thoughts on Rdio? Do you think partnerships are a good way forward for streaming services? Do you think streaming services be financially successful on their own?

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