Since the arrival of Napster in 2000, free music streams and downloads on the net have exploded.
Today there's more free music online than anyone could listen to in a thousand lifetimes.
So why do we ask you to pay for Hearts of Space?

There's no practical alternative.

We're too small to be able to support even the most minimal level of service with advertising. Even if we could — would you want HOS streams and our web site interrupted by ads? Many of you describe the HOS experience as an "oasis" of sanity, calm and peace. Advertising would destroy our core benefit.

But after over 30 years on the air nationally, we're too popular to afford to give away our programs for free online. It costs thousands of dollars every month.

Our only income is from radio stations (less than 20%) and from paying users of our web service.
80% of our income now comes from our online listeners.


Our regular users recognize that our careful, uncompromising approach to music selection, programming and production, plus our convenient online interface, results in a better overall experience than the free services. Regular users tell us there's really nothing else like it.

But delivering quality takes time, talent, commitment, and...money. When you subscribe to Hearts of Space, you are supporting this effort directly and helping to insure we can continue. And you are also directly supporting the artists and record labels whose music we program through the royalties we pay them.


Q: Where's the money go? 

Fair question. For you to stream one of our programs, we have to pay for:

  • royalties — to recording artists, record companies, composers and music publishers
  • bandwidth — the cost of the billions of bits we stream to users each month
  • hosting and maintenance — for several web and media servers
  • supplier costs — for web services related to user accounts and transactions
  • programming and application development — an ongoing expense
  • salaries and health insurance — for one part time and 2 full time employees,
       the producer and his hard-working wife
  • hardware and software — computers, hard drives, yearly upgrades
  • office and studio space, utilities — you know...basic overhead

Q:  I can get dozens of free ambient streams 24 hours a day. Why should I pay for yours?

Our "slow music" format is a combination of many genres: ambient, electronic, space music, classical, sacred, jazz, ethnic, new age, experimental and more. We've created our own niche, both broader and deeper than conventional "ambient." You have to decide if it's worth it to you to be exposed to a wider variety of music.

The HOS archive now includes over 1,100 programs and over 250 albums, all carefully selected, edited and encoded to maximize your listening enjoyment. Our custom Flash player and fast, database-driven site allow you to search the archive, play free 30 second samples of everything, and save your Favorites and build unlimited personal Playlists to make the service yours. You can also turn off the voiceovers completely with one click.

For those times you don't want to choose, we also offer 9 FULL-TIME CHANNELS. These are 24-hour non-interactive webcasts composed of continuous HOS programs organized by genre. You get it with our Standard Service, or included in our Full Service and Prepaid Minutes plans.

Only you can decide if this deeper level of service is worth it, vs. a simple non-interactive webcast.

Q:  Your prices are still too high. Why don't you charge less?

We've already reduced our prices three times since we started streaming in 2001 as bandwidth costs went down. What we charge today is a "real world" figure based on hard costs for the items listed above and the operating margin we need to run a sustainable service.

But while the cost of bandwidth is declining, the cost of hosting and royalties continues to increase every year. And we strongly believe that paying full and fair royalties to our artists and record label suppliers is an essential obligation of any online music business. So when you pay us, you are also paying the artists who create the music.

We recognize that people have varying financial limitations, and we have created one the widest arrays of access plans available anywhere to give you a choice that works for you. Please see our PLANS page for details.

Q:  Why don't you give the service away free like public radio, and ask for donations?

We've watched Public Radio stations operate this way for over 30 years. Their fortunes rise and fall with the economy, and even when times are good, only about 10% of the listeners pay to support the other 90%. As a result, many stations are forced to make financial compromises that affect the quality and scope of their service. We don't want to make those compromises.

More important, the basic economics of online are different from radio. It costs public radio stations nothing more to transmit to the 90% of freeriders than to the 10% of paying members. Online we pay additional bandwidth and royalties for every user, for every minute they stream.

If we operated a "niche" music service with voluntary contributions, we would have to be dunning you constantly with annoying fundraising messages and emails, which would affect the quality of our service and our relationship to you. We don't want to do that either.

"Free" netcasters who use the voluntary payment model always seem to be on the edge of extinction. Every time the royalties ratchet up a notch, they have a crisis. We don't have the stomach for it. We'd rather try to make our service so good that you conclude that a small monthly or 'pay-as-you-go' fee is worth it.

Q:  Why doesn't HOS get grants, foundation or government funding?

During our first year of national radio syndication in 1983 we did get a single $50,000 startup grant. After that a local non-profit foundation underwrote our satellite costs for a few years. Since then, not a dime from outside.

In addition to the income from the syndicated radio show, we've always had to maintain another business: first mail order album sales, then a record company, now our online service. These businesses have kept the program going for over 30 years. That's one of the secrets of our longevity — we operate as a small business.

We've never been setup as a non-profit organization. We have no financial relationship with NPR, PBS or CPB — except that we pay NPR for satellite distribution to stations. If we had to write a grant proposal every time we wanted to do something, HOS would have shut down 20 years ago. Grant writing is a time-consuming gamble that tends to distort one's mission toward "fundable" projects.

We had a long term vision for HOS starting in 1983. After the first year, we supported it by charging radio stations to carry our show. The online equivalent is to charge our users a small fee for service. This allows us to operate in a way that satisfies our listeners first, not a foundation, a sponsor, or a government agency.

I hope this clarifies our reasons for offering a paid service. If you have any comments or suggestions, please email us at love@hos.com.

:: Stephen Hill, Producer