Slacker Radio, the personalized radio service that's available as an app for the iPhone and other mobile platforms, announced that it will let unsigned bands create their own dedicated radio stations on the service.
The mechanics are handled through a partnership with Hello Music: artists create a profile with their name, picture, and bio, then upload a few of their tunes. (Hello Music allows a wide variety of compressed and uncompressed formats.) Hello Music will screen the songs for potential copyright issues--no Zeppelin recordings, please--and recording quality, and submit the necessary information to Slacker. Then Slacker will create a custom radio station with music by the unsigned artist as well as related artists--basically, your garage band can get exactly the same treatment as any major name on the service, from AC/DC to ZZTop.
Slacker isn't exactly iTunes in terms of reach, but the company claims that its mobile apps have been downloaded 7 million times, and that it has about 2 million active listeners. Getting onto Slacker also provides more opportunities for serendipitous discovery than iTunes--if Slacker notices a lot of traffic to your station from loyal fans, it might decide to rotate your music into other artists' radio stations.
The service is free for artists, which always makes me wonder about the business model. Slacker benefits by getting a broader selection of music, and Hello Music hopes to become a virtual A&R organization to discover and promote new bands, sending its favorites to partners like Topspin (which handles digital marketing), MediaNet (which creates music download sites and streaming services for Web sites that don't want to build their own), and TuneCore (which distributes music to iTunes and other online stores). Their mission is honestly a bit vague at this point, but their terms and conditions make no claim of ownership to your music, so there doesn't seem to be any big risk in using the service.