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Ad-free Dash Radio wants to take online radio back to its terrestrial roots

New Internet radio service Dash Radio, a platform containing 60 curated “stations,” wants to re-establish the DJ. It’s a step away from other streaming music services, which serve music through algorithms and playlists, and back toward traditional terrestrial radio. While it just launched this week, Dash Radio has just secured $2 million in seed funding; its beta version has 1 million listeners and Snoop Dogg as one of its DJs. The free service is also ad free, a major advantage over Spotify, Pandora, and the like (which require a monthly subscription fee to listen without ads).

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“We want to make radio good, and take it back to its roots,” founder Scott Keeney (known as DJ Skee on LA’s KISS-FM and Sirius XM) said to The Guardian. “The core of what we are doing is very simple: taking something that’s worked for 100 years and just making it digital, getting rid of the massive amounts of advertising, and focusing on people as the best curators of music.”

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New iOS and Android apps boast a sleek, simple design, which gives listeners the option to listen to curated stations by artists like Snoop Dogg and Odd Future, DJs, record labels, and brands. The curator picks the playlist live — if the host isn’t online, old mixes can be played — and the listener simply … well, listens. Unlike other streaming services, there’s no option to skip or fast forward songs.

They’re not the only streaming music platform going back to basics and offering DJ-curated online radio stations. Apple Music (which is expected to launch at WWDC on Monday) has reportedly signed up Drake, David Guetta and Pharrell Williams as DJs. Other more traditional online radio stations Sirius XM and iHeartRadio each have sizable user bases of their own.

“We see other people trying to get into this space, but we’re very confident about who we are,” said Keeney. “We don’t want to be anything more than broadcast radio.”

And while they’ve certainly got an uphill battle to compete with Apple, Sirius XM, and iHeartRadio, they have some of their own tricks up their sleeves. Rather than making money from traditional advertising, Dash Radio will work with brands to create limited-time “pop-up stations.” They’ve already created stations sponsored by EA Sports’ FIFA video game series, The Grammys, and the upcoming Entourage film. And, their investors include former Facebook executives Kevin Colleran and Dave Morin as well as NFL’s Adrian Peterson and NBA’s Ronny Turiaf.

We’ll have to wait and see if the service will stick — and if brands will choose them over competing services — but Dash Radio is certainly an underdog to watch. As for Snoop Dogg’s radio station, he will be the DJ but you may be surprised what you hear. “It’s called ‘Cadillac Music’ for people to drive to, and when you listen there’s very little hip-hop music actually,” said Keeney. “Snoop’s become as much of a DJ as he is an artist: He told me it was always his dream to own an FM station, but it didn’t work out.”