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charlesarthur : music   141

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We’re closing the upload beta program. Here’s what artists need to know • Spotify
<p>Almost a year ago, we started to beta test a feature that lets independent artists upload their music directly to Spotify. Today, we notified participating artists about our decision to close the beta program, along with how we can help them migrate their music to other distributors over the next month.

The insights and feedback we received from artists in the beta led us to believe:

The most impactful way we can improve the experience of delivering music to Spotify for as many artists and labels as possible is to lean into the great work our distribution partners are already doing to serve the artist community. Over the past year, we’ve vastly improved our work with distribution partners to ensure metadata quality, protect artists from infringement, provide their users with instant access to Spotify for Artists, and more.

The best way for us to serve artists and labels is to focus our resources on developing tools in areas where Spotify can uniquely benefit them — like Spotify for Artists (which more than 300,000 creators use to gain new insight into their audience) and our playlist submission tool (which more than 36,000 artists have used to get playlisted for the very first time since it launched a year ago). We have a lot more planned here in the coming months.</p>

Two possible reasons why: 1) it was being used to scam Spotify through songs of minimal length which were then farmed out to bots to "listen" to, thus earning scammers money; 2) record labels didn't like the idea of being cut out of their normal business. Preventing 1) while trying to make the people in 2) happy probably made Spotify decide that junking it altogether was simpler.

Side note: the URL for this blogpost is the first I recall encountering with an apostrophe. (Take a look.) They're pretty uncommon in English-language (and for all I know all ASCII) sites.
spotify  music 
11 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Here’s why Apple just killed off iTunes • Music Industry Blog
<p>Craig Federighi’s tongue-in-cheek quip”One thing we hear over and over: Can iTunes do even more?” hints at just how bloated and no longer fit for purpose iTunes had become.

iTunes actually started off as a tool for ripping and burning CDs. In fact, its original marketing slogan was ‘Rip Mix Burn’. It evolved into a tool for managing and playing music and supporting the iPod. Over time it layered in videos, books, apps, Apple Music etc etc. But one thing iTunes never excelled on, even before it suffered from feature bloat, was being a great music player. It was if it could never quite shake off its origins. Apple Music has of course picked up the player baton and run with it for Apple. Now that iTunes has splintered into three apps, we should start to see the evolution of three distinct sets of user experiences. Apple hasn’t pushed the boat out yet because it has a fundamentally conservative user base that has to have change implemented at a steady rate in order not to alienate it…

…Apple is now poised to go deep across a wide range of content offerings. Unbundling its apps and subscriptions gives it the agility to build sector specific user experiences and marketing campaigns. Separating out podcasts is particularly interesting, as Apple is making the call that they do not belong with music. A stark contrast to Spotify’s approach. Indeed, Spotify may just be approaching its own iTunes moment, with an app that is trying to do too many things for too many different use cases. iTunes just committed hara-kiri to enable Apple to compete better in the digital content marketplace. Spotify may need to do something similar soon.</p>

Apps absorb as many other apps as they possibly can until it's decided they need to be broken up into as many other apps as they possibly can.
apple  itunes  music 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Google tops 15 million music subscribers as it chases Spotify • Bloomberg
<p>Google’s paid music services have eclipsed 15 million subscribers, according to two people familiar with the numbers, a milestone for a company that has struggled to build subscription media businesses.

The figure includes subscribers to two services - YouTube Music and Google Play Music, an older service that is being folded into YouTube Music - said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The number also includes some customers who are still on promotional trials.

Google, part of Alphabet Inc., is still a long way from the market leaders: Spotify has more than 100 million subscribers, while Apple has more than 50 million. But the progress is a good sign for an ad-supported company that has rarely gotten customers to pay for its services.

YouTube declined to comment on the total number of customers for its paid music service, but said subscribers to YouTube Music and Premium grew 60% between March 2018 and March of this year. Premium subscribers pay for the music service, as well as access to the regular YouTube without ads.</p>

Lousy headline.It's probably more accurate to say it's chasing Amazon, which has <a href="">somewhere over 20m</a>, though those mix Prime and Music Unlimited subscribers.
google  music  amazon 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Amazon Music launches free streaming tier, through Alexa only (for now) • Variety
Jem Aswad:
<p>Amazon Music today basically soft-launched its free streaming tier, in which U.S. customers of its Alexa voice assistant will have access to top Amazon Music playlists and thousands of stations, at no cost. The limited access that the new free service provides — it’s only available through Alexa, and when the listener requests a song, it leads to an Amazon playlist or station, rather than an album — is presumably the first phase of a full ad-supported (i.e. free, with ads) streaming tier that will launch at some point in the future…

…Over the past few years, Amazon has quietly become the third-largest streaming service in the world, behind Spotify and Apple Music — a fact that is obscured by its relatively small place in Amazon’s gargantuan business. However, led by VP of Music Steve Boom, over the past couple of years the company has been pushing harder into the music space, with exclusive features on big artists with new releases — such as its one-time-only “SoundBoard” specials with U2, Elton John and Justin Timberlake — and generally making more noise about its offerings.</p>

Basically commercial radio, sans DJ. Everything old is new again.
amazon  radio  music 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Portable TV and music • AVC
Fred Wilson:
<p>That is an AppleTV and a Sonos Connect in between my “shaving kit” and my sneakers.

I brought these two devices out west and connected the AppleTV to the one TV in the Airbnb and I connected the Sonos to the receiver that powered the in ceiling speakers in the main living space in the house.

Even if the Airbnb had come with an AppleTV and a Sonos device, I would have swapped out theirs for ours for the length of our stay because these two devices have all of our services pre-confgured on them and we are logged into all of the services.

That is where the big difference is for me and the reason it is worth schlepping these devices cross country and back. The devices aren’t crazy expensive. The AppleTV is around $150 and the Sonos Connect is around $300. But setting these devices up, connecting them to all of the various services we subscribe to, and logging into each and every one can be an hour or more of work each time you do it.

All I had to do was power them up, connect to Wi-Fi, and connect to the TV and/or the receiver, and we were good to go.</p>

Hadn't thought about the logging-in nature of this, but it's completely true. If, that is, you spend any time travelling. Might pack a HomePod in there too, for the sound quality.
portable  music  apple 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Warner enters into distribution partnership with a mood music algorithm • Pitchfork
Matthew Strauss:
<p>Endel is an app that creates personalized music for you based on a mood that you can request. For example, if you would like to enter “Relax Mode,” the algorithm will create music that “calms your mind to create feelings of comfort and safety,” according to the app’s description. This week (March 21), Warner Music Group announced that it has partnered with Endel to distribute 20 albums this year through WMG’s Arts Division.

Endel has already released five albums this year, all part of its Sleep series: Clear Night, Rainy Night, Cloudy Afternoon, Cloudy Night, and Foggy Morning. The next 15 album will correspond with the app’s other modes: Relax, Focus, and On-the-Go.</p>

And here's an extract from a review on iTunes - note that the app requires a monthly or annual subscription:
<p>Ok, I've had the free trial for a week now, and I feel I can safely say that this app isn't some algorithmic genius, it's simply a pleasing ambient album. For example, there are two distinct tracks on the sleep channel, and that's it, no matter if sometimes a somewhat ancillary ticking clock is playing instead of a white noise filter sweep mimicking the ocean.

There's no shame at all in making a good ambient album. They've done that. But the description of the app is truly misleading and tries to represent this app as something more. And on top of that, it charges an ongoing subscription fee that is not equivalent to the market price of an album, which, again, is what this is. Sorry, but I'm not gonna subscribe and have to renew $25 every year for the latest Carly Rae Jepsen album either.</p>
algorithms  music 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Spotify adds 1 million unique listeners in India in less than a week • Reuters
Akanksha Rana:
<p>Spotify Technology SA, the world’s most popular paid music streaming service, said it racked up more than 1 million unique users in India across its free and premium tiers since launching less than a week ago.

Spotify launched in India on Tuesday, stepping into a price-sensitive market crowded by well-funded players such as Reliance Industries’ JioSaavn and Apple’s Apple Music.

The Swedish company is offering a free version that will run with ads, alongside a premium ad-free variant that will charge users 119 Indian rupees ($1.68) per month.

India, with a population of 1.3 billion and more than 400 million smartphone users, is a potentially huge market for the Swedish company.

According to media reports, Tencent-backed Gaana leads the Indian streaming market with over 80 million monthly users.</p>

Uphill battle, but great for those user-count bragging rights. (Apple Music has been in India for a long time, I think.)
india  spotify  music 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Can machines create? • Prospect Magazine
Philip Ball:
<p>[The mathematician Marcus] Du Sautoy recounts examples of critics instantly (and anxiously) devaluing their assessments once they learn that a “work of art” was created by an algorithm. It seems to be a fairly universal response, and can’t be dismissed as mere snobbery. Lennox Mackenzie, the LSO’s chairman when the orchestra performed the works of [computer-generated music "composer"] Iamus, confessed that “my normal inclination is to delve into music and find out what it’s all about. But here I don’t think I’d find anything.” We find it harder to take pleasure in a creation devoid of human context or intention—but that of course is contingent knowledge.

Our judgment of creativity depends on a perception of intent. If machines are able to learn to reproduce the surface textures of visual art, music, even poetry and literature, our minds are attuned enough to respond and perhaps to attribute meaning to such works. It is not mere anti-machine prejudice that we should feel our response shift when we discover that nothing more than automated pattern-recognition has created the composition. The common response to computer-generated music or literature—that it is convincing enough in small snatches but can offer no large-scale architecture, no original thesis or involving story—testifies to its lack of a shaping consciousness, and there is no sign yet that computers have anything to offer in its place.</p>

So if we believe we're listening to something created by a human, we try to infer its intent. What happens when it's the other way - can we miscategorise something created by a human as done by a machine? (Could happen with some EDM?)
music  machinelearning  creativity  creation 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Universal Music CEO to artists: fine-tune your lyrics for smart speakers • CNet
Lucian Grainge:
<p>The popularity of voice-activated smart speakers has rocketed since Amazon first introduced the Echo at the end of 2014. But when it comes to finding new music, or playing a song you wished you'd noted the name of when you heard it on the radio the other day, they're not necessarily set up to help you find what you're looking for. You really need to know precisely what you want to listen to before you activate the device.

For music makers, these device present both an opportunity and a risk, said CEO and Chairman of Universal Music Group Lucian Grainge, speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday. "The amount of traffic there is with them is incredibly compelling," he said. But, he added, it can be a challenge for people to find what they're looking for. "Our experience is people can't ask for a song when they don't know what title is."

But Grainge, who has attracted many of the world's most popular artists into his fold, has a little tip for songwriters and musicians who want people to stream their music through smart speakers. He uses the example of the timeless hit, perennially popular among the global toddler population, "How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?" to explain that the title of a song must be front and center in a song's lyrics.

"If you've got something that is a brand, is a soundtrack, is a song where the title is in the chorus and the melodies, we're seeing really explosive data and activity," he said. "That helps us in the creative process because it enables us, with the data and with consumption, to use the technology to say to the talent, you need to have something as basic as the song title [...] in the chorus."</p>

If Leonard Cohen were to hear this, he'd turn in his grave. (Well, OK, his best-known hit did follow this advice.) Along with "<a href="">don't waste time with an intro, just start singing</a>" it feels like music is being algorithmed to creative death.
smartspeaker  music  songs 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Music created by artificial intelligence is better than you think • Medium
Stuart Dredge:
<p>Can an A.I. create original music? Absolutely. Can it create original music better than a human can? Well, it depends which human you’re comparing the A.I.’s music to, for a start.

Human-created music already spans everything from the sublime to the unlistenable. While an A.I. may not be able to out-Adele Adele (or Aretha Franklin, or Joni Mitchell) with a timeless song and performance, it can compose a compelling melody for a YouTube video, mobile game, or elevator journey faster, cheaper, and almost as well as a human equivalent. In these scenarios, it’s often the “faster” and “cheaper” parts that matter most to whoever’s paying.

The quality of A.I. music is improving in leaps and bounds as the technology becomes more sophisticated. In January 2017, Australian A.I.-music startup Popgun could listen to a human playing piano and respond with a melody that could come next; by July 2018, it could compose and play piano, bass, and drums together as a backing track for a human’s vocals.

Popgun is just one of a number of technology startups exploring the potential of A.I. and what it could mean for humans — both professional musicians and those of us who can barely bang a tambourine in time alike. Startups include Jukedeck, Amper Music, Aiva, WaveAI, Melodrive, Amadeus Code, Humtap, HumOn, AI Music, Mubert, Endel, and Boomy, while teams from Google, Sony, IBM, and Facebook are also looking at what A.I. music can do now and what it could do in the future.</p>

As he points out, really quick way to get corporate music or YouTube vlog stuff. As much as anything you could get it to seed something which you improve.
neuralnetwork  machinelearning  ai  artificialintelligence  music 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Marshmello just played a live set to 10m people in video game Fortnite – and that wasn't even the most interesting move he made this weekend • Music Business Worldwide
Tim Ingham:
<p>We’ve been intrigued by the fact that Tencent – yes, that Tencent – acquired 40% of Fortnite maker Epic Games for a mere $330m in 2013. And we’ve marveled at the game’s huge audience, which stood at a total of over 200m players in November last year… roughly the same volume as Spotify’s monthly active user count at the close of 2018.

Now, following on from loose tie-ins with the likes of Drake and record label Astralwerks (via Twitch star Ninja), Fortnite has formed yet another significant link to the music industry.

Yesterday (February 2), DJ star Marshmello played an exclusive in-game concert in Fornite at 2pm ET. Fortnite players could watch the virtual show for free, so long as they made sure their avatar was available at the concert’s location (Pleasant Park).

The numbers are now coming in on the event’s audience, and they’re mighty impressive: according to reliable sources, over 10 million concurrent users witnessed Marshmello’s virtual concert. These people’s in-game avatars were all able to hit the virtual dancefloor in front of Marshmello’s own avatar and show off their moves.

Fans now can, and no doubt will, buy official Marshmello X Fortnite merch – with a hooded sweatshirt setting you back no less than $55.</p>

Second Life did it first, but Fortnite has probably done it best.
fortnite  music 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Why high-fidelity streaming is the audio revolution your ears have been waiting for • Forbes
Oisin Lunny:
<p>While our ears may be attuned to lossy compressed audio in most everyday scenarios, the experience of rediscovering high-fidelity lossless digital audio can be nothing short of a revelation. Fine details reappear, performers have more space, sounds have more definition, audio feels warmer, sounds clearer, and is noticeably more pleasurable to listen to. The higher you go with audio file resolution, the better it gets.

Thanks to the new range of streaming apps delivering CD-quality or higher, our beloved “universal jukebox” is undergoing a significant upgrade. Consumer demand for high-resolution audio has been growing steadily, for example users of Deezer HiFi have increased by 71% in the past 12 months alone, and the product is now available in 180 countries and works with a wide range of FLAC streaming compatible devices.

[Bang & Olufsen’s most senior Tonmeister (sound engineer)] Geoff Martin believes that demand for hi-fi streaming audio is growing due to a rise in the number of people buying high-end audio devices. “It used to be that you bought an iPhone and you used the white earbuds, but nowadays people are upgrading to better headphones, so they want a better file and a better app to play it on. The potential is there for somebody that wants to get high quality, and they don't have to spend a lot of money to get it.”</p>

I've sat in for tons of "high-fidelity audio" demonstrations. I've only rarely been able to tell the difference; the most noticeable time was at Arcam's testing studios in Cambridge, when it really was possible to tell the difference. But once you get to 256k MP3, the vast majority of people cannot tell the difference. So no, your ears haven't been waiting for this, and you shouldn't listen (aha) to those trying to upsell you with it.
music  audio  fidelity 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
He tried to fake his way to fame and got caught red-handed. Or did he? • BBC News
Jessica Lussenhop on Threatin, the band (really one person) who <a href="">faked a fanbase to get a European tour</a>:
<p>As he explained his tactics, Jered [Threatin] was relaxed, confident - not the slightest bit embarrassed. But that’s because he had something he was eager to show me - a series of emails that he said he sent out under yet another alias, a Gmail account belonging to “E. Evieknowsit”.

“URGENT: News tip,” the subject line read.

“The musician going by the name Threatin is a total fake. He faked a record label, booking agent, facebook likes, and an online fanbase to book a European tour. ZERO people are coming to the shows and it is clear that his entire operation is fake,” he wrote, including links to all his phoney websites.

“Please don’t let this man fake his way to fame... Please Expose him.”

The first such message he showed me was dated 2 November, a day into the Breaking the World Tour, and a week before the first news reports were published. He says he sent the messages out to a database of reporters’ emails he keeps in a massive Excel spreadsheet on his laptop - to outlets like the Huffington Post, Spin, Consequence of Sound, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Pitchfork, New York Times, MetalSucks and, yes, the BBC. Although it was unclear if the tips directly resulted in coverage, some of the emails appear to have predated articles.

During the tour, when the bandmates weren’t looking or in another room, Eames claimed he was on his phone on Facebook under his various aliases, stoking the controversy.</p>

Long read. You start wondering, is this one of those things where they say portentously "It's ART, you see."
music  internet  deception 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Apple Music removes ability for artists to post to Connect, posts removed from Artist Pages and For You • 9to5Mac
Zac Hall:
<p>Apple Music Connect appears to slowly be going the way of iTunes Ping. Apple has started notifying Apple Music artists that it is removing the ability for artists to post content to Apple Music Connect, and previously posted Apple Music Connect content is being removed from the For You section and Artist Pages in Apple Music. Connect content will still be viewable through search results on Apple Music, but Apple is removing artist-submitted Connect posts from search in May</p>

Nobody will be able to update it from the end of this month. So it's dead. That's the second time Apple has tried this, and the second time it's failed. As an artist - or an artist's social media manager - why would you want to update that when you could do it on your own site? Or on Twitter? Or Facebook? Apple has never got social networks right.
apple  music  artists 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Amazon Alexa to let Apple Music play through speakers • Bloomberg
Mark Gurman:
<p>Apple Inc. and Inc. announced their second partnership this month: the iPhone maker’s music-streaming service is coming to Amazon’s Echo devices in December.

The move gets Apple Music onto the most-popular voice-controlled speakers, giving it distribution beyond Apple’s own devices. Subscribers will be able to control Apple Music with Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, the first time Apple has opened up its music service to full voice control outside its own Siri technology.

The decision pushes Apple’s music service into more living rooms at a time when its own internet-connected speaker, the HomePod, hasn’t sold as well as the competition. Given the breadth of Alexa-enabled speakers on the market, the move could also boost Apple’s own subscription numbers.

"This is further evidence that Apple sees it needs to work with other hardware players in order to advance Apple Music, and it is an admission that the HomePod has been a disappointment," said Gene Munster of Loup Ventures.</p>

Combined with the decision to let Amazon sell iPhones, Gurman wonders whether there's a rapprochement between the two companies. I think it's more that it's win-win for Amazon to sell iPhones etc. As for the choice between allowing Apple Music to go on the Echo (which I bet you both Apple and Amazon wanted - probably Amazon a tiny bit more than Apple, because it becomes a selling point for the Echo): it's more simple economics. Apple Music is already on the Sonos systems, so price isn't the barrier. There's no sensible reason to keep it off the Echo on that basis.

Now the question is whether Apple Music will show up on Google Home. I wonder if that depends on who sees the telemetry data.
apple  amazon  alexa  music 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
YouTube Music is a bad product in desperate need of improvement • Android Central
Andrew Martonik:
<p>YouTube Music is so unfinished and lacking features that I question whether Google has any intentions of following through with its vision of replacing Google Play Music entirely. Put simply, I can't believe Google thinks anyone will pay $10 per month for it when all signs point to Google itself not caring about YouTube Music's success.

YouTube Music effectively doesn't work with Google Home. Yes you can select "YouTube Music" as your music provider in the Google Home app, but that only gives you access to a music catalogue when you ask for specific songs or artists. You can ask any way you want, but a Google Home won't play your YouTube Music "Mixtape" or any custom playlists. It'll try its best to play some music from YouTube on your Chromecast instead, but that's not helpful. And most times when you think you do get a Google Home to play YouTube Music, it isn't actually playing YouTube Music — it's playing Google Play Music, of course, so there's a good chance it'll start pulling your old GPM playlists and sending listening history there instead. Great.

YouTube Music also still doesn't work with Android Auto, which is just as inexcusable as not working with Google Home. Android Auto and YouTube Music apps have both been updated at least half a dozen times since the music service re-launched with this new direction, and I still can't use it to play music in the car. You can start up YouTube Music and then open Android Auto to at least get a player for play/pause/seek, but it won't show up as a media choice in the app.

Then there's the Music app and website, which are just rudimentary. Building playlists is clunky and feels tacked-on. Search is an odd mix of actual songs, tracks from compilation albums, and a weird sprinkling of YouTube videos.</p>

Google now has metastatizing music offerings to go with its chat offerings. Why? What's the difference from Google Music Play Access All Areas, or whatever it's called this week?
google  youtube  music 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Elton John is not the man they think he is at home •
Bill Wyman with a biographical piece on Reg Dwight, as seen in TV ads and on a farewell tour:
<p>In “Blues for Baby and Me,” John begs his (female) lover to come with him and head West on a bus. This matters, right? Hard to imagine John himself would ever want to induce a woman onto a bus in the first place, much less head West on it. And then, even as John collected Rolls-Royces and embarked on a jet-setting lifestyle that would span nearly five decades, again and again he delivered Taupin’s laments of the country boy scalded by the hot flame of the city (“Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” “Honky Cat,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and on and on). And yet he sang the songs, convincingly, and we accordingly projected onto him the romantic schema of Taupin’s conception. Insular, shy Reg found that this suited him just fine; his great talent was to adopt the persona and rise up and make those flights of fancy real for his listeners. This is an old pop model — the rock one of authenticity calls for the singer to write his or her own songs, right? John upended that and used Taupin’s fanciful concoctions to maintain an image of harmlessness.</p>

It's a thorough, fascinating piece. I just kept thinking - it's not <em>that</em> Bill Wyman, is it?
eltonjohn  music 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Are Pop Lyrics Getting More Repetitive?
<p>In 1977, the great computer scientist Donald Knuth published a paper called The Complexity of Songs, which is basically one long joke about the repetitive lyrics of newfangled music (example quote: "the advent of modern drugs has led to demands for still less memory, and the ultimate improvement of Theorem 1 has consequently just been announced").

I'm going to try to test this hypothesis with data. I'll be analyzing the repetitiveness of a dataset of 15,000 songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1958 and 2017…</p>

But how?
<p>You may not have heard of the Lempel-Ziv algorithm, but you probably use it every day. It's a lossless compression algorithm that powers gifs, pngs, and most archive formats (zip, gzip, rar...).

What does this have to do with pop music? The Lempel-Ziv algorithm works by exploiting repeated sequences. How efficiently LZ can compress a text is directly related to the number and length of the repeated sections in that text.</p>

This is wonderful: the graphics are brilliantly done, and the discoveries (top 10 songs are always more repetitive than most) unexpected.
music  analysis  data  compression 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Was this the biggest mistake in the history of the music business? • Music Business Worldwide
Tim Ingham:
<p>Back in 1990, London-born Sam Houser, aged 19, landed a dream first job – working in the post-room at BMG’s UK HQ. Houser then supplemented his university studies by continuing to work at BMG for the next four years, focusing on pop music videos and VHS releases.

By 1994, he’d graduated, and took a full-time role within BMG’s new interactive entertainment division.

Houser, it turned out, had a natural talent for ‘A&R’ing’ video games – spotting titles that would sell big and signing them up as a label would an artist – and, by 1996, he was named Head of Development at BMG Interactive in the UK.

Got your palm located somewhere roughly near your forehead? Good. Prepare for the two to forcibly meet.

In late 1997, BMG Interactive released Grand Theft Auto, a 2D action-adventure game, which saw players fulfilling the objectives of criminal overlords across three cities.

The title was a commercial smash in the US and Europe – yet it emerged amid serious corporate turbulence.

In March 1998, convinced that its foray into video games had been a waste of time and money, BMG – under the instruction of owner Bertelsmann – agreed to sell off BMG Interactive.

According to Sam Houser, BMG let the company go, to New York-based Take Two Interactive, for a total consideration of $9m.

This deal included the BMG Interactive staff, plus all rights to the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

(For those who can see where this narrative is going: Red Dead Redemption 2 generated that $9m back within an hour of going on sale last month.)</p>

Yes, Houser is one of the team behind Red Dead Redemption (1 2), which smashed records the other week. It's a fascinating tale of "bad fit": the music business just couldn't work in the way the video games business does. So it dumped it.
Videogames  music 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
The Free Music Archive is closing this month • The Verge
Bijan Stephen:
<p>The Free Music Archive was founded in 2009, the same year Barack Obama was inaugurated as this country’s first black president. As a project directed by the legendary Jersey City radio station WFMU, it was to be a “<a href="">library of high-quality, legal audio downloads</a>,” a place where artists could share their music and listeners could enjoy it for free. Now, following a funding shortage, the FMA plans to close sometime this month.

“The future is uncertain, has been my mantra lately,” says Cheyenne Hohman, who’s been the director of the Free Music Archive since 2014. The shutdown date was initially November 9th, but it has since been pushed back to November 16th because the FMA is in early talks with four different organizations that are interested in taking the project over. “The site may stay up a little bit longer to ensure, at the very least, that our collections are backed up on and the Wayback Machine.”

Even so, it’s not a perfect solution. “If it just goes into, it’s going to be there in perpetuity, but it’s not going to be changing at all,” Hohman says. “It’s not going to be the same thing, that sort of community and project that it was for ... almost 10 years.”</p>
music  archive 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Spotify may already be too big for the labels to stop it competing with them • MIDiA Research
Mark Mulligan:
<p>At this stage we move on to a prisoners’ dilemma scenario for the majors:

• All of the majors help Spotify’s case by over prioritising Spotify as a promotional tool in light of its share of total listening compared to radio, YouTube, other streaming services etc<br />• WMG and SME probably couldn’t afford to remove their content from Spotify but would be watching UMG, the only one that probably feel confident enough to do so<br />• However, UMG would be thinking if it jumps first and removes its content, each of the other two majors would benefit from it not being there (and would probably be secretly hoping for that outcome)<br />• Each other major would be thinking the same, and regulatory restrictions prevent the majors from discussing strategy to formulate a combined response<br />• But even if UMG did pull its content, this would hurt Spotify but would not kill it (Amazon Prime Music launched without UMG and spent 15 months growing just fine until UMG came on board)<br />• Spotify could easily tweak its curation algorithms to minimise the perceived impact of the missing catalogue, making it ‘feel’ more like 10%<br />• So, the likely scenario would be each major paralysed by FOMO and so none of them act

Thus, maybe Spotify is already nearly big enough to do this, and could do so next year.</p>

Does Apple Music offer enough of a counterbalance to this? That the labels could go there instead? Probably not, given Spotify's size.
spotify  music 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
More than one third of music consumers still pirate music • The Guardian
Laura Snapes and Ben Beaumont-Thomas:
<p>More than one-third of global music listeners are still pirating music, according to <a href="">a new report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry</a> (IFPI). While the massive rise in legal streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal was thought to have stemmed illegal consumption, 38% of listeners continue to acquire music through illegal means.

The most popular form of copyright infringement is stream-ripping (32%): using easily available software to record the audio from sites like YouTube at a low-quality bit rate. Downloads through “cyberlocker” file hosting services or P2P software like BitTorrent came second (23%), with acquisition via search engines in third place (17%).

“Music piracy has disappeared from the media in the past few years but it certainly hasn’t gone away,” David Price, director of insight and analysis at IFPI, told the Guardian. “People still like free stuff, so it doesn’t surprise us that there are a lot of people engaged in this. And it’s relatively easy to pirate music, which is a difficult thing for us to say.”</p>

I'm surprised by the size of this figure. The other day I was wondering whether anyone has had their internet access cut off under the UK's Digital Economy Act, introduced in a rush in 2010, which has a "three strikes" rule. Maybe that's worth looking into.

It's mostly about "stream ripping" (to be able to listen to music offline, taken from a free streaming service), and search engines are still a culprit.

Also includes some interesting stuff about smart speaker listening.
piracy  music 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
The new Sonos Amp is coming to save your old speakers • The Verge
Chris Welch went to see Sonos's new $600 just-an-amp:
<p>There will certainly be consumers who immediately go out and buy the Amp. But by and large, it’s going to be a powerful hub for high end audio dealers, installers, and integrators. The Connect:Amp became an essential piece of kit for people who make a career out of upgrading homes to be smarter and more automated. These folks undertake the challenge of outfitting every room with the best entertainment and music options money can buy. And then they bring order to everything so that it works under one unified system — from the likes of Crestron or Control4 — to make tech as convenient as possible for a client. They hide the wires and tuck all the necessary components into a neatly-organized rack. Our Home of the Future series sheds some light on the complexity of all this.

For Sonos, catering to these integrators can result in their clients purchasing thousands of dollars worth of the company’s products and spending years locked into the Sonos ecosystem. The goal is for the Amp to take the Connect:Amp’s place in the brain of a connected home. Because then it’s a central fixture that stays there for who knows how long. It’s a worthwhile business effort — especially when you remember that Sonos and its partners are increasingly trying to sell bundles of multiple speakers to people with cash burning a hole in their pocket. The Amp opens up even more lucrative bundle possibilities for Sonos and the many businesses that are part of the installed solutions channel.</p>

Until I read Welch's piece, I was puzzled by who Sonos was aiming at with something at that price which isn't a speaker (though those are also coming next year). This makes it clear.
sonos  amplifier  music 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Video game music is just as good an introduction to classical music for children as a concert, arts chief says • Daily Telegraph
Camilla Turner:
<p>James Williams, managing director at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), said that computer games are an important  “access point” for youngsters to experience classical music for the first time.

“I think exposure to orchestral music in all its forms is a fantastic thing,” he said. “It is encouraging to hear that there are platforms and opportunities for young people to engage with orchestral music, albeit in different mediums.  It is about sparking their interest.

“What we are finding is once we have lit that fire there is a real desire to carry that journey on and explore.If [computer games] are the trigger and the catalyst that can only be a really positive thing.”

The RPO commissioned a survey where children aged six to 16 were asked about how they encounter classical music. Just under one in six (15%) said they listen to classical music “when it’s part of a computer game I’m playing”, compared to just 11% who said “when I go to music concerts”.

The most popular ways in which children experience classical music were via film soundtracks, followed by television, according to the YouGov poll.

Mr Williams said that computer game music is now “recognised as an art form in its own right”, with some “very prestigious” composers involved.

“This is a very big industry now, all the major gaming companies commission their own music and they often have their own in house composers,” Mr Williams told The Daily Telegraph. “The church and the royal court were the two major sponsors of music hundreds of years ago. Now music is being created in different enterprises and genres.”</p>

My teen boys listen to video game music even if they aren't playing. It's a complete genre.
videogames  music 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Why are record companies dumping their Spotify stock? • Office of Copyright
Stephen Carlisle:
<p>if you hold shares in a company that is running a deficit of over €2bn, with annual losses approaching €400m, you might come to the conclusion that Spotify is not going to make any real profits for quite some time, and thus no dividend to you, the shareholder. It might also point towards the conclusion that Spotify’s continuing losses will not have an upward effect on the stock price, making it more prudent to sell now.

Could Spotify turn a profit by reducing its costs? Of course, and Spotify is always ready to point the finger at greedy copyright owners.

“We have incurred significant costs to license content and continue to pay royalties to music labels, publishers, and other copyright owners for such content. If we cannot successfully earn revenue at a rate that exceeds the operational costs, including royalty expenses, associated with our Service, we will not be able to achieve or sustain profitability.”

Boo! Hiss! Greedy copyright owners!

Except there’s this. In February of 2017, despite losing truckloads of money for years, Spotify found it necessary to open offices in New York City. And not just in any old office building. It rented space in the newly rebuilt World Trade Center. 13 According to Digital Music News, this is 478,000 square feet of office space spread over a total of 14 floors. This was not enough. Spotify later signed an option to take on 100,000 more square feet. 14 I suggest that you click on the link provided in the endnote and take a look at the pictures.

Nice pool table, guys.

The cost of this? Again according to Digital Music News:

$2.77m a month, or $33.29m a year. Over the 17 years lease, more than $566m in rent; $31m in upfront payments. To this we can add the fact that:

In 2015, executive and board member pay was $16.9m, an increase of 300% over the previous year. In 2015, the average Spotify employee made $150,000. During 2015, Spotify lost $253.8m.

It does not seem from these numbers that Spotify is interested in reducing its costs, if it has to come by way of reducing their prestigious digs and creature comforts. If you are a record company, and you know this from close up observation, it might make sense to sell your shares.</p>
spotify  music  shares 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Facebook aims to bring the fun back into music • Midia Research
Mark Mulligan:
<p>For a whole host of reasons that warrant a blog post of their own, streaming music has coalesced around a very functional value proposition. In short, the fun has been taken out of music. Apps like Dubsmash and showed that it doesn’t have to be that way. These apps were small enough to be able to do first and ask for forgiveness later. Even though Facebook has all the ingredients to do what those guys did – and at scale, it is far too big to try to get away with that strategy, so it had to get licences in place first. YouTube is the only other scale player that really brings a truly social element to streaming. Now it has got a serious challenger that just upped the ante beyond comments, mash ups and likes / dislikes. The music industry so needs this right now, especially to win over Gen Z.</p>

Competition for Youtube makes this a very interesting arrival. Are the music companies getting more per play from Facebook than from Youtube?
Youtube  Facebook  music 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
No, iPhone ringtones aren’t bad. They’re musically sophisticated • The Washington Post
Alyssa Barna:
<p>Two of the most instantly recognizable iOS ringtones are “Marimba” and “Xylophone,” sounds that have become comfortable and familiar. But as music theory demonstrates, subtle details in the composition of these tunes all but demand that we cut them off by picking up the phone. That’s partly because they are fundamentally disruptive, intrusively insisting on our attention. Ultimately, the effect may be key to Apple’s cultural impact. With the possible exception of Nokia and its now-historical ringtone, no other company has managed to make the sounds of its devices quite so central to its brand identity.

Consider the ringtone “<a href="">Xylophone</a>,” which consists of two lines — a cutesy melody on top supported by a constant pulsing layer underneath that sustains your attention. “Xylophone” is composed around the concept of syncopation — accentuating weaker beats to mess with a rhythm a bit and make it more complex. Think: “Buh-buh-bummm, buh-buh-b-b-b-buh” in the upper line, and “bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum” consistently in the lower line. These two lines may not seem to match up at first, but the melody fits awkwardly with the supporting tones underneath. The lower line features annoying pulsing beats, while the melody articulates beats that the second line doesn’t hit. In theoretical terms, we would say one line has isochronous rhythms — that is, they are evenly spaced and patterned. By contrast, the line with the syncopated melody uses non-isochronous rhythms. Together, these two patterns create a barrage that aims to unsettle the listener. This is a tune that Apple has stuck with precisely because we don’t want to listen to it.</p>

Before you ask, Barna has a Masters in music theory. The idea that ringtones work because we don't want to listen to them is rather clever. It's like the near-impossibility of ignoring a ringing telephone while you're trying to have a face-to-face conversation.
ringtone  music 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
YouTube Music is great for record labels, but bad for music lovers • WIRED UK
Katia Moskvitch:
<p>Facebook doesn’t have a good enforcement technology yet, he adds, but “is about to become a major player”. Apple Music and Spotify together count 125 million subscribers - although they are mere bit players considering the success of YouTube. Google's baby now sports more than 1.8 billion users every month, not least thanks to the fact that it is free – not just for consumers, but also the artists themselves. "It’s the number one place where artists get discovered and hits are made," says [MIDiA Research analyst Mark] Mulligan, and “that’s true for every single market”.

The success, however, does not translate into massive payments to the music industry. YouTube labels itself as a platform, not a music distributor, and as a result gets away with sharing less of its profits. Because of its dominance, YouTube pushes down the profits for the music industry as a whole, claims a <a href="">recent study</a> commissioned by the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies (CISAC), a body representing royalty-collecting societies around the world.

The launch of YouTube Music will not be a game changer, though. Mulligan believes that the subscription-based service is “not quite a sop to the record labels, but it’s not far off”. Google simply wants to show “that it’s a good partner to the record labels… rather than needing to be in the premium business”.

Profit margins are further under pressure because of the deep fragmentation of the distribution end of the music industry. Spotify, YouTube and Apple may be digital giants, but they are jostling for space with many smaller local music streaming services around the world, plus thousands of terrestrial and digital radio and TV networks.</p>
spotify  youtube  music 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Youtube is going to charge more to see ad-free shows like ‘Cobra Kai’ • Recode
Peter Kafka:
<p>Two years ago, YouTube launched YouTube Red, a service that gave subscribers an on-demand music service, more or less similar to Spotify or Apple Music — as well as access to original programming created just for the service. YouTube Red also removed ads from the world’s largest video service.

All of that cost $10. But now that’s changing.

Next week, YouTube is launching YouTube Music — a revamped version of its existing music service that is functionally the same, but comes with extra bells and whistles like personalized playlists based on your YouTube history and other usage patterns.

That service, which is supposed to soft-launch on Tuesday, will cost $10 a month after a trial period. (That same service will eventually also replace Google Play Music, a rival music service Google has inexplicably operated at the same time it was trying to get YouTube Music off the ground.)

Now YouTube intends to charge $2 more for the other parts of YouTube Red, which will be renamed YouTube Premium — but will require you to also pay for YouTube Music.

That is: If you want to watch ad-free, YouTube original shows like “Cobra Kai,” which appears to have a bit of buzz and four million views, you’re now going to have to pay $12 a month instead of $10 a month.</p>

Google launches subscription music/video services in the way it launches chat services - they get thrown out there under different names with no obvious differentiation. Rather than putting more things under a single name (Apple with iTunes: was music, added music videos, then video and TV) it throws the same thing out. Confusing as hell, and suggestive of warring product teams with nobody coordinating them all.
Google  youtube  music  streaming 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Apple Music and Pandora have pulled R. Kelly’s music from curated playlists • The Verge
Andrew Liptak:
<p>Pitchfork reported that Apple quietly began to pull R. Kelly from some of its curated playlists prior to Spotify’s announcement in light of renewed reports about his behavior from a number of women. However, other artists, like XXXTentacion, who was also pulled from Spotify’s playlists, remains on Apple’s promoted playlists.

Similarly, Pandora has reportedly been working for “months” to update its policies on artists who have exhibited questionable behavior, according to Blast. Like Spotify, it has removed Kelly from its playlists. The service told Blast that its “policy is to not actively promote artists with certain demonstrable behavioral, ethical or criminal issues. We approach each of these scenarios on a case–by–case basis to ensure we address components true to Pandora’s principles while not overreaching and avoiding censorship.”

Spotify told The Verge earlier this week that R. Kelly’s music remains on the various services: the service just won’t promote it to users through its playlists. The same appears to be true for Apple and Pandora: the companies aren’t pulling their music from their catalogs, and are simply exercising some editorial control over who goes on the curated lists.</p>

So this is tricky. None of these artists has actually been found guilty of anything. The services are free to do as they like with content, but if they are actually taking action over accusations of past behaviour (as is clearly the case) are they also going to pay the artist back all the money they took as their cut? After all, they clearly don't want to benefit from "undesirable" behaviour. Doesn't that apply to behaviour that occurred in the past too, then? (And the lack of proven built is quite apart from the question of how you're going to set fences around "acceptable" and "questionable" behaviour in the music business.)
music  behaviour  spotify  apple 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
The symphony orchestra and the Industrial Revolution • Marginal REVOLUTION
Tyler Cowen:
<p>I heard Mozart’s 39th symphony in concert last night, and it occurred to me (once again) that I also was witnessing one of mankind’s greatest technological achievements.  Think about what went into the activity: each instrument, developed eventually to perfection and coordinated with the other instruments.  The system of tuning and the underlying principles of the music.  The acoustics of the music hall.  The sheet music on paper and the musical notation.  All of those features extremely well coordinated with the kind of compositional talent being produced in Central and Western Europe from say 1710 to 1920.  And by the mid-18th century most of the key features of this system were in place and by the early 19th century they were more or less perfected.

Sometimes I think of the Industrial Revolution as fundamentally a Cultural Revolution.  The first instantiation of this Cultural Revolution maybe was the rise of early Renaissance Art in Italy and in the Low Countries.  That too was based on a series of technological developments, including improved quality tempera paint, the development of oil painting, the resumption of bronze and marble techniques for sculpture, and the reintroduction of paper into Europe, which enabled artists’ sketches and drawings.</p>

So much of this is what Steven Johnson calls "adjacent technology" - that you can't move wholesale to new tech. You can't build a nuclear reactor without having special steelmaking techniques (radioactive water does odd things). You can't build commercial aircraft without special aluminium-forging methods, which implies huge amounts of electricity to make the aluminium, which implies...

Once you start thinking about it, it's astonishing how far we have come in just a few thousand years.
symphony  music  instruments 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Millennial streamers and music on smart speakers • Global Web Index
Olivia Valentine:
<p>Millennials are the most passionate generation when it comes to music streaming, with 68% engaging. But just as the music-streaming business is experiencing continued user growth, the interest in smart voice-controlled devices (e.g. Amazon Echo, Google Home) is trending quickly upwards, too, pointing at a potential to shake up the music streaming landscape. 

<img src="" width="100%" />

Two-thirds of Millennial Music Streamers say they currently use or are planning to purchase one of these smart devices, putting this group 9 percentage points ahead of the Millennial average for this figure across the globe.</p>

So quite a lot of room for Apple to expand into, if it gets it right. This is in the early stages.

(The definition of "music streamer" is someone who says they stream music <em>daily</em>.)
internet  music  streaming 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
New Apple Music head named as service surpasses 40 million subscribers • Variety
Shirely Halperin:
<p>Apple Music is thinking globally as the streaming service officially surpasses 40 million paid subscribers. Today, the company announced the promotion of Oliver Schusser to lead Apple Music Worldwide. His new title is vice president of Apple Music & International Content. Schusser has led efforts outside the U.S. related to the App Store, iTunes’ movies and TV portals, iBooks, Apple Podcasts, and more. He has worked closely with Apple svp of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue, who hired Schusser some 14 years ago and also announced his promotion to staff earlier this morning (April 11).</p>

There's quite the PR tussle going on between Apple and Spotify for the announced number of subscribers. The story also says there are 8m "auditioning" via free trials, which gives an idea of its churn/conversion rate - which seems pretty favourable - and that in the US it's growing at 5% per month in the US, vs 2% for Spotify.

Schusser was based in London, where he worked on the Shazam acquisition. (Apple owns it now.) But now he's off to Cupertino and LA. Better weather, for sure.
apple  music  data 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Amazon Music may be bigger than we thought • The Verge
Dani Deahl:
<p>Amazon Music has tens of millions of active subscribers, the company tells The Verge. While analysts have often pointed to research that indicates it’s the third-largest company for on-demand streaming music (behind Spotify and Apple Music), Amazon has remained mum on confirming numbers.

Amazon has two tiers of music subscription: Prime Music (free for Prime subscribers) and Music Unlimited, which has monthly fees ranging from $3.99 to $14.99 depending on the number of devices, users, and if you’re already an Amazon Prime member. While Prime Music offers around 2 million songs ad-free, Music Unlimited provides more songs, greater control, and it’s cheaper than competitors’ $9.99 monthly fee for a single account.

Amazon launched Music Unlimited in April 2017 to compete with major streaming players while leveraging its Echo smart speakers, already deeply integrated with its music offerings and in millions of homes. Last year, Steve Boom, the vice president of Amazon Music, said in an interview that he “ See[s] us as one of the top global streaming services ... I expect us to grow faster than everybody else.”

It appears that those predictions are being met. Amazon Music Unlimited subscriptions have grown more than 100% in the past six months…</p>

Neatly timed to rain on Spotify's IPO parade. What does "tens of millions" mean though? It's between 20m and 90m. I think it's a lot closer to the 20m.

When will Amazon get off the "no numbers number" habit? It feels like an invitation to industrial espionage, or an industry regulator that can audit these numbers. Otherwise they're meaningless. (As a reminder, Spotify has 71m paid subscribers, Apple has 36m.)
amazon  music  subscribers 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Inside the Black Market for Spotify Playlists
Austin Powell:
<p>Tommie King could be the next rapper to breakout from Atlanta. He’s well-connected, has obvious swagger, and he’s been quietly building a successful collection of singles on Spotify. His latest, “Eastside (feat. Cyhi the Prynce),” has already clocked more than 110,000 streams, driven largely by its placement on 14 independent playlists.

Gone are the days of hustling in parking lots, selling mixtapes out of the trunk of your car. In the modern music economy, in which streaming services account for nearly two-thirds of the total revenue generated by recorded music, emerging artists are increasingly being tracked via big data. Spotify streams, YouTube views, Twitter interactions, and even Wikipedia searches are all being used to discover the proverbial next big thing. That’s why King’s manager has worked to land his music on a staggering 594 Spotify playlists to date.

“Without Spotify playlists, to tell you the honest truth, I wouldn’t feel like we were accomplishing much,” King tells me when I reach him at the phone number he lists publicly on his Facebook page. “Streams are now the only way to really reach people you otherwise wouldn’t be able to connect with. It gives you the ability to be played worldwide, which we’re doing quite well with.

“That’s everything nowadays.”

There’s just one catch: King essentially paid to be added to those Spotify playlists… The black market for Spotify playlists is booming. It’s cheaper than you might expect to hack the system — and if it’s done right, it more than pays for itself.</p>

Ironic: because they're human-curated, the biggest playlists are targets for this. It's the modern payola. (Millenial readers: like paid SEO for music on the radio.)
music  spotify  playlist  curation 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
The songs that bind • NY Times
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz:
<p>For this project, the music streaming service Spotify gave me data on how frequently every song is listened to by men and women of each particular age.

The patterns were clear. Even though there is a recognized canon of rock music, there are big differences by birth year in how popular a song is.

Consider, for example, the song “Creep,” by Radiohead. This is the 164th most popular song among men who are now 38 years old. But it is not in the top 300 for the cohort born 10 years earlier or 10 years later.

Note that the men who most like “Creep” now were roughly 14 when the song came out in 1993. In fact, this is a consistent pattern.

I did a similar analysis with every song that topped the Billboard charts from 1960 to 2000. In particular, I measured how old their biggest fans today were when these songs first came out.
It turns out that the “Creep” situation is pretty much universal. Songs that came out decades earlier are now, on average, most popular among men who were 14 when they were first released. The most important period for men in forming their adult tastes were the ages 13 to 16.

What about women? On average, their favorite songs came out when they were 13. The most important period for women were the ages 11 to 14.

Granted, some results of my research are not surprising. One of the facts I discovered is that Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” is extremely unpopular among women in their 70s. Thank you, Big Data, for uncovering that nugget of wisdom!

But I did find it interesting how clear the patterns were and how much early adolescence matters. The key years, in fact, match closely with the end of puberty, which tends to happen to girls before boys.</p>

This metric indicates that I am *looks at iTunes most-played* 31 years old.
Music  puberty 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Too much music: a failed experiment in dedicated listening • NPR
James JAckson Toth, aged 39, felt he'd lost his critical faculty through having too much music to choose from, and tried an experiment for 2017: listen only to one album per week. He gave up within three days:
<p>The notion that there is something to be gained by choosing this type of scarcity, by actively inviting a kind of regression, suddenly seems, to this Western mind, pretty stupid. It dawns on me that I've made this choice not for reasons of spiritual asceticism or worldly good, but nostalgia, the last refuge of the middle-aged sad-sack. I begin feeling like a Civil War reenactor, or the man at the Renaissance Faire who scolds you for wearing a watch; a pedant, an anachronism. The very embodiment of everything about a 40-year old that baffles a 20-year old.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself. When asked in a 2009 interview with the Wall Street Journal whether he thought the epic novel was still relevant to modern readers, author Cormac McCarthy surprised me by conceding the following: "The indulgent, 800-page books that were written a hundred years ago are just not going to be written anymore and people need to get used to that. If you think you're going to write something like The Brothers Karamazov or Moby-Dick, go ahead. Nobody will read it. I don't care how good it is, or how smart the readers are. Their intentions, their brains are different."

He may be right. As long as we try to maintain the Sisyphean task of trying to experience everything, our brains, unable to adapt and forever lagging behind exponential technological progress, will continue to struggle. "Computing power is still doubling every 18 months," notes cryptographer and technology writer Bruce Schneier, "while our species' brain size has remained constant."</p>

There are lots of insightful gems in this - don't miss the bit about your favourite 10 albums.
music  streaming  criticism 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
Amazon Music makes giant strides against Apple and Spotify • Bloomberg
Shira Ovide:
<p>We know Inc. has become a virtual mega-mall for shopping, a creator of gadgets for our daily commutes and our homes and a mover-and-shaker in entertainment. Less well known is how quickly the online retailer has become a force in digital music.

A little over a year after Amazon started to offer people access to web-streaming songs for a monthly fee, the company is the world's third-largest digital music service by subscribers behind Spotify and Apple Music, according to Midia Research's Mark Mulligan, a music industry analyst. He also estimates that weekly listening on Amazon's music service is second-highest among the paid music services, behind Spotify and ahead of Apple Music…

…Members of Amazon's Prime shopping club for several years have been able to listen to a couple million songs for no additional cost. Amazon spiffed up the music hangout for Prime members, and the company added an "unlimited" option with a bigger catalog of songs and more features starting at $8 a month for Prime members or $10 for everyone else. For $4 a month, Prime members can still subscribe and listen only on Amazon's Echo voice-activated home speakers.

Amazon's product segmentation gave it relatively low-cost options for the vast majority of Americans who had never paid for Spotify, Apple Music or other subscription services that let people play virtually any song on a whim. And Amazon leveraged the people shopping on its websites, or buying CDs or digital music downloads from Amazon, to try to hook them on streaming music as well. </p>

Any listening is listening as far as the music business is concerned.
apple  spotify  amazon  music 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
The problem with Muzak • The Baffler
Liz Pelly:
<p>Spotify loves “chill” playlists: they’re the purest distillation of its ambition to turn all music into emotional wallpaper. They’re also tied to what its algorithm manipulates best: mood and affect. Note how the generically designed, nearly stock photo images attached to these playlists rely on the selfsame clickbait-y tactics of content farms, which are famous for attacking a reader’s basest human moods and instincts. Only here the goal is to fit music snugly into an emotional regulation capsule optimized for maximum clicks: “chill.out.brain,” “Ambient Chill,” “Chill Covers.” “Piano in the Background” is one of the most aptly titled; “in the background” could be added to the majority of Spotify playlists.

As an industry insider once explained to me, digital strategists have identified “lean back listening” as an ever more popular Spotify-induced phenomenon. It turns out that playlists have spawned a new type of music listener, one who thinks less about the artist or album they are seeking out, and instead connects with emotions, moods and activities, where they just pick a playlist and let it roll: “Chillin’ On a Dirt Road,” “License to Chill,” “Cinematic Chill Out.” They’re all there.

These algorithmically designed playlists, in other words, have seized on an audience of distracted, perhaps overworked, or anxious listeners whose stress-filled clicks now generate anesthetized, algorithmically designed playlists. One independent label owner I spoke with has watched his records’ physical and digital sales decline week by week. He’s trying to play ball with the platform by pitching playlists, to varying effect. “The more vanilla the release, the better it works for Spotify. If it’s challenging music? Nah,” he says, telling me about all of the experimental, noise, and comparatively aggressive music on his label that goes unheard on the platform. “It leaves artists behind. If Spotify is just feeding easy music to everybody, where does the art form go? Is anybody going to be able to push boundaries and break through to a wide audience anymore?”</p>

This approach is reminiscent of the "relaxing" videos that some people adore on YouTube - though those are like a sort of visual Muzak.
music  spotify  culture 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
Apple buys Shazam to boost Apple Music • Bloomberg
Adam Satariano and Lizette Chapman:
<p>While Shazam has been popular with customers, it struggled turning its clever music service into a business that justified its valuation. It expanded beyond simple audio recognition in 2010 by adding capabilities that let television viewers "Shazam" an ad, which would then open a promotion from the advertiser on a user’s device. The company said this feature was used 700,000 times during the 2014 Super Bowl broadcast.

"Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users," Apple said in an emailed statement on Monday. "We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement."

In November, Shazam had about 175 million monthly active users globally across iOS and Android, according to research firm App Annie. The U.S. is the largest single market, with about 20 million active users in November, while the U.K. had about 4 million in the same month.

"Since the launch of the App Store, Shazam has consistently ranked as one of the most popular apps for iOS," Apple also said. "Today, it’s used by hundreds of millions of people around the world, across multiple platforms."</p>

Expected exit price of $400m, way below its supposed valuation of over $1bn in 2015. Be very interested to know precisely what Apple sees in it, now and in the future.
apple  music  shazam 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
YouTube to launch new music subscription service in March • Bloomberg
Lucas Shaw:
<p>The new service could help appease record-industry executives who have pushed for more revenue from YouTube. Warner Music Group, one of the world’s three major record labels, has already signed on, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private talks. YouTube is also in talks with the two others, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, and Merlin, a consortium of independent labels, the people said.

Paid services from Spotify and Apple Music have spurred a recovery in the music business, which is growing again after almost two decades of decline. Yet major record labels say the growth would be even more significant if not for YouTube, which they criticize for not compensating them enough, considering how much people use the site to listen to tunes. Music is one of the most popular genres of video on YouTube, which attracts more than a billion users a month.

YouTube hasn’t had the same success as Apple or Spotify in convincing people to sign up for its paid music services, though it’s not for lack of trying. Google introduced audio-only streaming service Google Play Music in 2011. YouTube Music Key came along in 2014, giving subscribers ad-free music videos. That morphed into YouTube Red in 2016, letting users watch any video without advertising.

The new service, internally referred to as Remix, would include Spotify-like on-demand streaming and would incorporate elements from YouTube, such as video clips, the people said. YouTube has reached out to artists to seek their help in promoting the new service, one of the people said.</p>

I was going to say - isn't this what Google Play Music is already meant to be? Though I've never seen a single statistic for the number of signed-up users for that.

However, if this gets going it will be the final nail for Pandora, which looks ropey anyway. And what about Soundcloud and Deezer?
youtube  music 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' genealogy: what you don't know • Rolling Stone
Rian Malan:
<p>Navajo Indians sing it at powwows. Japanese teenagers know it as ライオンは寝ている. The French have a version sung in Congolese. Phish perform it live. It has been recorded by artists as diverse as R.E.M. and Glen Campbell, Brian Eno and Chet Atkins, the Nylons and Muzak schlockmeister Bert Kaempfert. The New Zealand army band turned it into a march. England's 1986 World Cup soccer squad turned it into a joke. Hollywood put it in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. It has logged nearly three decades of continuous radio airplay in the U.S. alone. It is the most famous melody ever to emerge from Africa, a tune that has penetrated so deep into the human consciousness over so many generations that one can truly say, here is a song the whole world knows.

Its epic transcultural saga is also, in a way, the story of popular music, which limped pale-skinned and anemic into the twentieth century but danced out the other side vastly invigorated by transfusions of ragtime and rap, jazz, blues and soul, all of whose bloodlines run back to Africa via slave ships and plantations and ghettos. It was in the nature of this transaction that black men gave more than they got and often ended up with nothing. This one's for Solomon Linda, then, a Zulu who wrote a melody that earned untold millions for white men but died so poor that his widow couldn’t afford a stone for his grave. Let's take it from the top, as they say in the trade.</p>

This article is 17 years old. Who cares - it's a great story. Your long read for today.
lion  music 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
The mathematical genius of Auto-Tune • Priceonomics
Zachary Crockett on the inventor of this much-used product, who first retired - after making his fortune in oil discovery - in 1989:
<p>Others who’d made an attempt at creating software had used a technique called feature extraction, where they’d identify a few key “variables” in the sound waves, then correlate them with the pitch. But this method was overly-simplistic, and didn’t consider the finer minutia of the human voice. For instance, it didn’t recognize dipthongs (when the human voice transitions from one vowel to another in a continuous glide), and, as a result, created false artifacts in the sound.

Hildebrand had a different idea. 

As an oil engineer, when dealing with massive datasets, he’d employed autocorrelation (an attribute of signal processing) to examine not just key variables, but all of the data, to get much more reliable estimates. He realized that it could also be applied to music:

“When you’re processing pitch, you add wave cycles to go sharp, and subtract them when you go flat. With autocorrelation, you have a clearly identifiable event that tells you what the period of repetition for repeated peak values is. It’s never fooled by the changing waveform. It’s very elegant.”

While elegant, Hildebrand’s solution required an incredibly complex, almost savant application of signal processing and statistics. When we asked him to provide a simple explanation of what happens, computationally, when a voice signal enters his software, he opened his desk and pulled out thick stacks of folders, each stuffed with hundreds of pages of mathematical equations.

“In my mind it’s not very complex,” he says, sheepishly, “but I haven’t yet found anyone I can explain it to who understands it. I usually just say, ‘It’s magic.’”</p>

A great long read.
music  algorithm  autotune 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Orthogonal pivots • Asymco
Horace Dediu:
<p>This [closure of Microsoft's Groove music service by the end of the year] brings to an end a long story of Microsoft in the music distribution business. It started nearly 15 years ago with technologies in Windows that allowed for purchase and playback of various media formats. Microsoft sought to enable a large number of music retailers to market music through its formats and DRM and transaction clearing.

Services such as AOL MusicNow, Yahoo! Music Unlimited, Spiralfrog, MTV URGE, MSN Music, Musicmatch Jukebox, Wal-Mart Music Downloads, Ruckus, PassAlong, Rhapsody, iMesh and BearShare and dozens of hardware players licensed Windows formats. Almost all of these services have shut down and the devices disappeared.

The next stage was to offer an integrated experience through the Microsoft Zune player and Zune Marketplace music service. This too failed and was replaced by the Xbox Music brand in 2012. On July 6, 2015, Microsoft announced the re-branding of Xbox Music as Groove to tie in with the release of Windows 10.

There was a time when Microsoft was thought of as the certain winner in media distribution. Inserting media into the Windows hegemony was classic “control point” strategy: owning the access points was a sure way to collect a tax on what transacted through the network.

Instead we are facing a market where media is consumed through new access points: phones, tablets and TV boxes. Netflix, Spotify, Roku, Google, Amazon and Apple are all offering distribution and some are investing in original programming.</p>

Why? Because - as I found when I wrote "<a href="">Digital Wars</a>" - the modular approach to music players (someone makes the music player, someone else makes the DRM-enforcing software, someone else again offers the DRM-encoded music) produces an awful customer experience. If a problem arises, you're never quite sure whose fault it is, and nor are any of those in the chain; they all hand it off to someone else.

The iPod and the iTunes Music Store came straight through the middle of all that confusion:
<p>the long arc of history shows how hard it is to succeed in vertical integration after you build on horizontal foundations. Generations of managers graduated from the modular school of thought, specializing rather than generalizing. Now they are facing an integrated experiential world where progress depends on wrapping the mind around very broad systems problems.

Entire industries are facing this orthogonal pivot: media, computing and transportation come to mind. Huge blind spots exist as we see only what we’ve been trained to see.</p>
apple  ipod  microsoft  music 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Equifax hired a music major as chief security officer and she has just retired • MarketWatch
Brett Arends:
<p>When Congress hauls in Equifax CEO Richard Smith to grill him, it can start by asking why he put someone with degrees in music in charge of the company’s data security.

And then they might also ask him if anyone at the company has been involved in efforts to cover up [former chief security officer] Susan Mauldin’s lack of educational qualifications since the data breach became public.

It would be fascinating to hear Smith try to explain both of those extraordinary items.

If those events don’t put the final nails in his professional coffin, accountability in the U.S. is officially dead. And late Friday Equifax said both Mauldin and the company’s chief information officer have retired effective immediately [in <a href="">an announcement which didn't name either</a>].

Equifax “Chief Security Officer” Susan Mauldin has a bachelor’s degree and a master of fine arts degree in music composition from the University of Georgia. Her <a href="">LinkedIn professional profile</a> lists no education related to technology or security. Late last week, her LinkedIn page was made private and her last name replaced with “M.”

This is the person who was in charge of keeping your personal and financial data safe — and whose apparent failings have put 143 million of us at risk from identity theft and fraud. It was revealed this week that the massive data breach came due to a software vulnerability that was known about, and should have been patched, months earlier.</p>

Arends allows, fairly, that Mauldin's music training might have equipped her for computer security. There just isn't anything in her LI profile that would lead you to conclude she's best-suited for the job. (Then again, there's no responsibility to curate your LI profile to show such detail.) It would be good to have some more detail about Mauldin's experience before this.
equifax  music  mauldin 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
YouTube’s head of music confirms YouTube Red and Google Play Music will merge • The Verge
Micah Singleton:
<p>YouTube's head of music confirmed that the company is planning on merging its Google Play Music service with YouTube Red to create a new streaming offering. During a panel session for the New Music Seminar conference in New York, Lyor Cohen stated that the company needed to merge the two services to help educate consumers and bring in new subscribers.

“The important thing is combining YouTube Red and Google Play Music, and having one offering,” Cohen said when asked about why YouTube Red isn’t more popular with music users. He didn’t address whether or not the two apps would merge — but it seems very unlikely.

Right now, YouTube’s music ecosystem is unnecessarily complicated. There’s YouTube Red, which removes ads from videos and lets you save them offline, while also giving you access to Google Play Music for free. Then there’s YouTube Music, which anyone can use, but it gets better if you’re signed up for YouTube Red. And YouTube TV is also a thing — an entirely separate thing — but it’s not available everywhere yet.

The merger has been rumored within the industry for months, and recently picked up steam after Google combined the teams working on the two streaming services earlier this year.</p>

"Help educate consumers and bring in new subscribers" implies that people don't know about these subscription services and that they need them. Badly?
music  google  youtube  subscription 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Amazon is now the 3rd biggest music subscription service • Music Industry Blog
Mark Mulligan:
<p>At MIDiA we have long argued that Amazon is the dark horse of streaming music. That horse is not looking so dark anymore. We’ve been tracking weekly usage of streaming music apps on a quarterly basis since 2016 and we’ve seen Amazon growing strongly quarter upon quarter. To the extent that Amazon Music is now the 2nd most widely used streaming music app, 2nd only to Spotify which benefits from a large installed base of free users to boost its numbers. So, in terms of pure subscription services, Amazon has the largest installed base of weekly active users.

<img src="" width="100%" />

But it’s not just in terms of active users that Amazon is making such headway. It is racking up subscribers too. Based on conversations with rights holders and other industry executives we can confirm that Amazon is now the 3rd largest subscription service. Amazon has around 16 million music subscribers (ie users of Amazon Prime Music and also Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers). This puts it significantly ahead of 4th and 5th placed players QQ Music and Deezer and gives it a global market share of 12%.</p>

Makes sense, if you assume people are playing music via their Echo device. And so of course all the use is concentrated in the Prime markets - US, UK, Germany, Japan - where it has 40m potential users.

Mulligan estimates there are 13m Echos in use. All of which could be good for Apple's plan to get people to play music through a home smart speaker. Though it's 13m behind. (There are about 125m households in the US, 27.1m in the UK, 37.5m in Germany, 49m in Japan. So a fair bit of room to expand into for everyone.)
amazon  music 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Content isn't king • Benedict Evans
On how we now have multi-sided markets where "exclusives" don't really work any more:
<p>You pay an average of $700 or so every two years (i.e. $30/month) and Apple gives you a phone. Buy an Android instead and you lose access to the (hypothetical) great Apple television service. This is why people argue that Apple should buy Netflix. From a pure M&A perspective, buying Netflix and immediately limiting its business to Apple devices would halve its value - why buy a business and fire half the customers? Buying it without such a restriction would have no strategic value - Apple would just be buying marketing and revenue. But as Amazon has shown, you don’t have to buy Netflix - they’re not the only people who can buy and commission great TV shows. 

A question here, though, is how well a TV service, perhaps with a stand-alone monthly subscription, as for Apple Music, maps to an 18-30 month handset replacement cycle. Suppose Apple created the next huge hit show next spring and made it exclusive to its devices: very well, but how many smartphone users will be making an upgrade decision in the middle of watching the show, and how many will be deciding between an iPhone and Android 3 or 7 or 10 or 11 months later? How much does the archive matter? 

Perhaps a deeper question, setting aside the purely strategic calculations, is that Apple has always preferred a very asset-light approach to things that are outside its core skills. It didn’t create a record label, or an MVNO, and it didn’t create a credit card for Apple Pay - it works with partners on the existing rails as much as possible (even the upcoming Apple Pay P2P service uses a partner bank). So, Apple has hired some star producers and will presumably be commissioning some shows, with what counts as play money when you have a few hundred billion of cash. But I’m not sure Apple would want to take on what it would mean to have a complete bouquet of hundreds of its own shows. That would be a different company. 

If and when Apple does go back to southern California, meanwhile, it does so with nothing like the kind of negotiating power that it had in iPod days - Amazon and Netflix (if not also Google and Facebook) have seen to that. But that doesn’t mean that content companies have much more power either.</p>
apple  music  amazon  media  content 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
How spammers, superstars, and tech giants gamed music • Vulture
Adam Raymond:
<p>A few weeks after the release of Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” the hard-charging lead single on his fourth album Damn., the song landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s streaming chart. It’s been on the chart ever since, never falling below No. 3 as users have played it more than 291 million times on Spotify alone.

And that’s just the streaming total for Lamar’s version. His hit song has also been a boon for Spotify’s parasitic underbelly — the coverbots and ripoff artists who vomit out inferior versions of popular songs every week, flooding the website with dreck that only succeeds when users are misled. No one would willingly listen to King Stitch’s “Sit Down, Be Humble,” a third-rate cover of Lamar’s original, but the track has been streamed more than 300,000 times thanks to Spotify’s broad search results and a clever title designed to confuse those who don’t know the song’s real name.

On a website with more than 100 million active daily users, there are plenty of ways to game the system, be it for attention, or, if the streams pile up enough, profit. And the frauds cashing in on the latest hot single are hardly alone. A bevy of unknown artists have found ways to juice their streaming totals, whether it’s covering songs from artists who don’t allow their songs on Spotify, or uploading an album of silent tracks, each precisely long enough to generate a fraction of a cent for the artist…

Even Spotify is reportedly gaming the system by paying producers to produce songs that are then placed on the service’s massively popular playlists under the names of unknown, nonexistent artists. This upfront payment saves the company from writing fat streaming checks that come with that plum playlist placement, but tricks listeners into thinking the artists actually exist and limits the opportunities for real music-makers to make money. Spotify did not respond to questions about the accusation, but this is not the first time Spotify, which pays minuscule streaming fees, has been <a href="">accused of bilking artists</a>.</p>
spotify  music  scam 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Pandora's radio service revolutionized music but its chances of surviving look shaky in an Apple and Spotify world • Quartz
Amy Wang (not, I think, the one from Futurama):
<p>Pandora’s slow death is not an unfamiliar tale in the entertainment industry. A company introduces a novel idea, and then it’s beat out by bigger and better companies that take that idea to the next level. Yet with Pandora, the story is particularly sad. It seemed to sit idly by, unaware of its full potential, as Spotify, Apple Music, and the new wave of on-demand music streaming services took its core ideas of instant delivery and automated recommendations and used them to topple Pandora’s internet radio empire.

In late 2015, Pandora—playing a game of much-too-late catch-up—spent $75 million on streaming service Rdio, and in late 2016, it proudly unveiled Pandora Premium, a subscription service meant to complete with the likes of the streaming giants. Not even a month later, it was forced to lay off 7% of its US workforce. The company still reports around 80 million active users, but only 4 million of those are on the paid tier, with the rest freeloading off the original, ad-supported service. (Compare that to nine-year-old Spotify, which boasts 140 million users, 50 million of them on a paid tier.)

With [founder and CEO Tim] Westergren’s departure as CEO now, the odds of long-term survival aren’t in Pandora’s favor, and the Greek tragedy will likely continue unfolding before our eyes.</p>

I dug into Pandora's financials recently; they're pretty horrendous. Since going public in 2012, it has made a cumulative operating loss of over $500m, at about -10% margins; and in the past few quarters the negative margin has been growing. It's not going to be independent for long on that basis.
pandora  music 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
August 2016: Whyd announces its voice-controlled connected speaker for $299 • TechCrunch
Romain Dillet, in August 2016:
<p>So what makes this speaker different from the 458 other speakers out there? It starts with the design. The bold, pill-shaped design will stand out in your living room. I don’t think everyone will like it, but it’s definitely not a boring design. Whyd will sell five different pastel colors. The speaker doesn’t ship with a battery so you’ll have to plug it your wall at all times.

<img src="" width="100%" />

The Whyd speaker connects over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, works with AirPlay and Spotify Connect, and can stream music from many different music streaming services out of the box. Whyd is compatible with Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, Tidal, Deezer and Google Play Music.

But the main differentiating factor is that Whyd has been working on natural language processing, integrating with Google Cloud Speech and optimizing for music playback. The company bundled multiple microphones and optimized them for long-range queries with noise cancelling technology. This way, you can launch a playlist, play a specific song or look up an artist with your voice. If you want to play an obscure remix on SoundCloud, you don’t have to dig around in the SoundCloud app, you can look it up with your voice. Think about it as a sort of Amazon Echo, but with a better sound and a focus on music.</p>

The first batch sold out; now it plans to sell them for $499. Hope it has plenty in production before December...
music  speaker  whyd  voice 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
“MP3 is dead” missed the real, much better story •
Marco Arment:
<p>If you read the news, you may think the MP3 file format was recently officially “killed” somehow, and any remaining MP3 holdouts should all move to AAC now. These are all simple rewrites of Fraunhofer IIS’ announcement that they’re terminating the MP3 patent-licensing program.

Very few people got it right. The others missed what happened last month:

If the longest-running patent mentioned in the aforementioned references is taken as a measure, then the MP3 technology became patent-free in the United States on 16 April 2017 when U.S. Patent 6,009,399, held by and administered by Technicolor, expired.

MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year — the last known MP3 patents have simply expired.1
So while there’s a debate to be had — in a moment — about whether MP3 should still be used today, Fraunhofer’s announcement has nothing to do with that, and is simply the ending of its patent-licensing program (because the patents have all expired) and a suggestion that we move to a newer, still-patented format…

…MP3 is supported by everything, everywhere, and is now patent-free. There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3, it’s good enough for almost anything, and now, <em>over twenty years</em> since it took the world by storm, it’s finally free.</p>

While AAC still has patents, and Ogg Vorbis and Opus aren't supported widely enough.
music  patents  mp3 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Pandora looks for a buyer as losses increase •
Mathew Ingram:
<p>The music industry graveyard is full of once-hot digital players who fell on hard times due to the changing economics of the business over the past decade or so, and they could soon be joined by one of the earliest music startups: Pandora Media.

On Monday, the company said that it is exploring "strategic alternatives," which is thinly disguised code for "we are looking for a buyer." The stock is down by 24% this year, and it has lost more than 75% of its market value since 2014.

Pandora has been for sale before, although not officially. It was said to be looking for acquirers early last year, and reportedly had talks with Amazon and satellite music operator Sirius XM. But then founder Tim Westergren returned as CEO, and said that a sale wasn't in the cards.</p>

It just took a $150m investment from KKR, its losses have increased despite revenue going up by 6% and it has more subscribers (4.7m). But they're spending less time listening to music, and active listeners is down. Only a matter of time before someone (probably Sirius XM) buys it - probably forced by the hedge funds which own big chunks of it.
pandora  music 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Spotify to launch hardware, cites Alexa and Snapchat • Zatz Not Funny!
Dave Zatz:
<p>A trusted source indicates that Spotify, the highly regarded music streaming service, will soon follow in Snapchat’s footsteps with a foray into hardware. While details on the upcoming “wearable” were not provided, several job listings seemingly provide clues.</p>

Job 1: sr product manager - hardware:
<p>join the Platform & Partner Experience team working to build frictionless and creative Spotify experiences via fully-connected hardware devices. You will be leading an initiative to deliver hardware directly from Spotify to existing and new customers; a category defining product akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo, and Snap Spectacles. You will define the product requirements for internet-connected hardware, the software that powers it, and work with suppliers/manufacturers to deliver the optimal Spotify experience to millions of users.</p>

Job 2: product manager - voice:
<p>responsible for the strategy and execution of Spotify’s voice efforts beyond our core apps. Our tribe is responsible for all Spotify consumer experiences outside of Spotify’s core iOS and Android applications. We focus on areas like desktop, TVs, speakers, cars, wearables, headphones and partner application integrations to make Spotify available wherever our users are.</p>

I'm tempted to say that Spotify has decided to find more ways to lose money, but hardware could actually be a clever way to lock people in to the ecosystem. Worked for Apple.
music  hardware  spotify 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Exclusive: Deezer is exploring user centric licensing • MIDiA Research
Mark Mulligan:
<p>Artists effectively get paid on a share of ‘airplay’ basis. This is service-centric licensing. It all sounds eminently logical, and indeed the logic has been sound enough to enable the streaming market to get to where it is today. But is far from flawless.

Imagine a metal fan who only streams metal bands. With the "airplay" model if Katy Perry accounted for 10% of all streams in a month, the 10% of that metal fan’s subscription fee effectively goes towards Katy Perry and her label and publisher. Other than aggrieved metal fans, this matters because those metal bands are effectively seeing a portion of their listening time contributing to a super star pop artist. To make it clearer still, what if that metal fan only listened to Metallica, yet still 10% of that subscriber’s revenue went to Katy Perry?

The alternative is user centric licensing, where royalties are paid out as a percentage of the subscription fee of the listener. So if a subscriber listens 100% to Metallica, Metallica gets 100% of the royalty revenue generated by that subscriber. It is an intrinsically fairer model that creates a more direct relationship between what a subscriber listens to and who gets paid.

This is the model that we can exclusively reveal that Deezer is now exploring with the record labels. It is a bold move from Deezer, which though still the 3rd ranking subscription service globally has seen Spotify and Apple get ever more of the limelight. While Deezer will undoubtedly be hoping to see the PR benefit of driving some thought leadership in the market, the fact that it must find new ways to challenge the top 2 means that it can start thinking with more freedom than the leading incumbents. And a good idea done for mixed reasons is still a good idea.</p>

This is indeed a good idea - and many people probably thought this was how it worked all along.
deezer  licensing  music 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
62% using music-streaming services, but just 13% paying • GlobalWebIndex Blog
Katie Young:
<p>In a deal with Universal Music, Spotify has announced that new albums from certain artists on the record label will only be available to paying Spotify members for the first two weeks of their release.

This change to its ad-supported tier will increase the gap between its free and paid-for services, with the hope of converting more users to the paid-for tier. At present, there’s a huge disparity here, with a substantial 50-point gap between those who say they use music-streaming services (62%) and the numbers paying for this access (13%).

Age-based differences are interesting here, though. 16-24s are the most likely to be using these services each month and are also the most likely to be paying – with figures then declining in line with age.

<img src="" width="100%" /></p>
spotify  music  streaming 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Pandora CEO, pressured to sell, gets last chance to beat Spotify • Bloomberg
Lucas Shaw:
<p>Once a pariah in the music industry, Pandora has repaired relations with record labels and publishers by settling disputes over royalty fees and promising to help promote artists. The Minneapolis-born Westergren, a musician, emailed the heads of the three major record labels the morning he took the top job and hammered out deals for their catalogs within a few months.

Yet patience is wearing thin in some quarters. Pandora reported a year-over-year drop in listeners in each of the past three quarters, while Spotify added more than 20 million paying customers in less than year. Advertising growth has slowed, and the shares, issued at $16 in June 2011, peaked at $40.44 in March 2014 and are now trading at $11.69.

“Pandora has clearly failed as a public company,’’ Rich Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG LLC, wrote in a note this month. The company must sell itself or risk war with Keith Meister’s Corvex Management, the second-largest shareholder, he warned.

Billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp. and its Sirius XM Holdings Inc. subsidiary have expressed interest in buying Pandora, while also sending the stock down 6 percent in late February after saying the company was overvalued.</p>

Pandora's markt cap is $2.8bn - what the market thinks its assets plus its future profits are worth. Which is good, because its past profits are pretty much zero - it went public in 2011 and I can only find two quarters where it may have made an operating profit.
pandora  music 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Universal Music and Spotify talk music-streaming in 2017 • Musically
Start Dredge:
<p>[Universal Music Group’s SVP of digital strategy and business development Jonathan Dworkin] hailed the potential impact of devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, in the way they are powering new ways to access music. “Speakers and music go together like guns and drugs… It’s yet another swell that will help connect artists with fans, and drive consumers to migrate to legal services.”

He also talked about China being transformed into “one of the world’s leading music markets” thanks to local streaming services, and perhaps global players. “In the next ten years, China may well become the world’s largest recorded-music market,” he said, talking of the potential for a cultural knock-on effect that “rivals the 1960s in the west”.

Dworkin warned that “two of the industry’s top five accounts are operating with negative margins funded by other people’s money... we ned to find ways to ensure we have a balanced ecosystem of partners: platforms and pureplays… At Universal we are very mindful of the digital ecosystem’s fragility.”

He reiterated Universal’s support for both free and paid models in the streaming world. “The truth is, as these swells continue to propagate, we don’t know how far paid streaming will go,” he said, while arguing that it must offer features over and above free rivals to create value.</p>

That "two of the top five.. on other peoples' money" sounds like Spotify and Deezer to me.
music  streaming 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
David Lowery talks digital scepticism and music-streaming • Musically
Lowery is a musician who writes The Trichordist music blog and tours with two bands, and is leading a class-action lawsuit against Spotify over mechanical licensing. He suggests that the utopianism of the past few years is wearing thin as people ask to be shown concrete benefits:
<p>“Silicon Valley used to be more immune to that sort of criticism, and they no longer are. Some of that’s coming from us, but it’s a general trend that’s out there. More journalists are sceptical of the claims made by these companies. There’s a lot more coverage of the fact that there is very real, old-school back-room lobbying by the technology firms like Google and Facebook.”

Lowery has been keenly following and participating in the debate around safe harbour and the “value gap” [the lower per-stream payments on YouTube versus those on Spotify/Apple Music/etc]. He thinks that the arguments for removing safe-harbour protection from services like YouTube have been better articulated in Europe than in the US so far.

“In the United States, it’s an unfair competition argument that would need to be made, because of the way our courts work. Spotify, as much as I criticise them, are licensed on the recording side. They are good players in the ecosystem: if something shouldn’t be up there, it’s gone or it never gets up there in the first place,” he says.

“But they’re competing with YouTube which is a bad actor, right? The safe harbours, in my mind, weren’t intended to be used as a backdoor sort of licensing model, but that hasn’t been as clearly defined and discussed in the United States.”</p>

The "value gap" row is only going to intensify. I've written an article touching on it for The Guardian for publication in the next fortnight or so.
youtube  valuegap  music  streaming 
december 2016 by charlesarthur
DeepBach: a Steerable Model for Bach chorales generation • ArXiv
Gaëtan Hadjeres and François Pachet:
<p>This paper introduces DeepBach, a statistical model aimed at modeling polyphonic music and specifically four parts, hymn-like pieces. We claim that, after being trained on the chorale harmonizations by Johann Sebastian Bach, our model is capable of generating highly convincing chorales in the style of Bach. We evaluate how indistinguishable our generated chorales are from existing Bach chorales with a listening test. The results corroborate our claim. A key strength of DeepBach is that it is agnostic and flexible. Users can constrain the generation by imposing some notes, rhythms or cadences in the generated score. This allows users to reharmonize user-defined melodies. DeepBach's generation is fast, making it usable for interactive music composition applications. Several generation examples are provided and discussed from a musical point of view.</p>

And enjoy the <a href="">YouTube video</a>:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Also: <a href="">see if you can tell Bach from the machine-generated version</a>.

Basically, in a year or two we're going to have Muzak generated entirely by AI.
music  ai  bach 
december 2016 by charlesarthur
It's no Christmas No 1, but AI-generated song brings festive cheer to researchers • The Guardian
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Ian Sample:
<p>It will not, if there is any certainty left in the world, top the charts this Christmas. But what it lacks in party hit potential, it more than makes up for with its unique, if vaguely unsettling, brand of festive cheer.

<iframe src="" width="100%" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

To be fair, humans had very little hand in penning the song. Instead, scientists fed a Christmassy photograph into a computer and let it do its thing. A program analysed the image, whipped up some relevant lyrics, and then sang them to music it had composed along the way.

Known to its creators as “neural karaoke”, the project from the University of Toronto can take any digital photo and transform it into a computer-generated singalong. It is a whimsical demonstration of what artificial intelligence (AI) might do for us beyond the familiar: giving voice to chatbots, wiping billions off the stock market, and ultimately destroying the human race.

“We are used to thinking about AI for robotics and things like that. The question now is what can AI do for us?” said Raquel Urtasun, an associate professor in machine learning and computer vision at Toronto’s computer science lab. “You can imagine having an AI channel on Pandora or Spotify that generates music, or takes people’s pictures and sings about them,” adds her colleague, Sanja Fidler. “It’s about what can deep learning do these days to make life more fun?”</p>

And there's also the song <a href="">penned by a system trained on the Beatles' work</a>. It's way, way better. Scarily better.
ai  song  music 
november 2016 by charlesarthur
Background notes and full credits for the One Moment video • OK Go
Damian Kulash, director and singer in the band:
<p>The whole point of the video is to explore a time scale that we can’t normally experience, but because it’s so inaccessible to us, our tools for dealing with it are indirect. The only way we can really communicate with that realm is through math. The choreography for this video was a big web of numbers — I made a motherfucker of a spreadsheet. It had dozens of connected worksheets feeding off of a master sheet 25 columns wide and nearly 400 rows long. It calculated the exact timing of each event from a variety of data that related the events to one another and to the time scale in which they were being shot. Here’s a screen shot of just the first few lines, to give you a sense.

<img src="" width="100%" /></p>

Having listened to a few OK Go albums, I understand why they're famous for their videos. Maybe you could hire them.
music  video 
november 2016 by charlesarthur's teenage revolution: how the trend-setting lip-sync app is changing the music industry • Billboard
Chris Martins:
<p> is many things: a hit mobile app that topped the iOS App Store Free chart in July 2015 and hasn’t fallen from the top 40 since; a scorching-hot startup with a $500 million valuation (as estimated by TechCrunch in May) and more than 133 million “Musers” worldwide; and a promotional platform embraced by the music industry for its ability to translate song clips into streams and sales. And with half of all American teens (according to the company’s estimate) using the app, has become a bona fide cultural phenomenon, even inspiring pearl-clutching among “olds,” from parents fretting over sexualized youth and online predators to traditionalists questioning the artistic validity of lip-syncing. It may not be Elvis thrusting his hips or Public Enemy speaking truth to power — but then again, would anyone who’s not a teen admit it if did represent a new frontier in pop?

Like any youthquake, some savvy adults set off the first tremors. “It was organic growth — word-of-mouth,” is how Alex Hofmann,’s 35-year-old president of North America, explains the app’s leap from 10 million total users one year ago to now, when 13 million are added every month. “Teens on other platforms would see someone share a video, like it, download the app and then ask their friends to try it.”</p>
musically  music 
october 2016 by charlesarthur
Apple's relationship with pro music needs some mending • Create Digital Music
Peter Kim:
<p>Here’s how bad this is: you show up to a gig, and out of the blue, your machine starts popping or dropping buffers or creating random distortion. That’s clear-the-floor stuff, things that could make people never want to play again. And it’s not necessary. Computers are perfectly capable of acting reliably for days at a time.

This is being reported by NI, but the cause is Apple and can impact other systems – I’ve reproduced the issues they’re describing in Serato DJ and Ableton Live, for instance, with different pieces of hardware from different vendors. People who work in support paint an ugly picture, and then anecdotal evidence is useful, because it covers a range of different situations. And it’s getting been worse through El Capitan: “OS X 10.9 (rare occurrences), OS X 10.10 (occasional occurrences) and OS X 10.11 (most occurrences, compared to the aforementioned OS versions).”

Now, it’s not uncommon to wait a few weeks when an OS comes out to make sure your complex ecosystem of software hosts, plug-ins, and hardware is compatible. But note the OS numbers – that’s years without a fix, and instead worsened regressions. That’s simply unacceptable. OS X 10.9 Mavericks is about to turn three years old (older if you count pre-release builds).

This should never have shipped in a stable OS in the first place. I can’t think of an instance of this happening on any recent build of Windows, and Microsoft doesn’t control the hardware you run on. It certainly should not have dragged on for years on a platform who has defined itself as the choice of musicians and producers.

The good news is, macOS 10.12 Sierra seems potentially to fix the problem (with AppNap functionality turned off manually, which isn’t totally ideal). More testing is needed to be sure of this.</p>

It seems reasonable to expect new Apple Mac hardware this week, or by October 10 at the latest. But that's not the whole of the problem, as Kim explains.
apple  music 
october 2016 by charlesarthur
WaveNet: a generative model for raw audio • DeepMind
<p>This post presents <a href="">WaveNet</a>, a deep generative model of raw audio waveforms. We show that WaveNets are able to generate speech which mimics any human voice and which sounds more natural than the best existing Text-to-Speech systems, reducing the gap with human performance by over 50%.

We also demonstrate that the same network can be used to synthesize other audio signals such as music, and present some striking samples of automatically generated piano pieces.</p>

I had been wondering how long it would be before DeepMind got to work on music. The stuff here is quite amazing. The DM-generated voice is really very impressive. And I'd like a playlist of the autogenerated music, please, for background music.
ai  audio  machinelearning  speech  deepmind  music 
september 2016 by charlesarthur brings musical AI to Rio Olympics' training • ReadWrite
Cate Lawrence:
<p> is a freemium auditory program designed to help people either focus, relax or sleep using AI-generated music. It’s [<em>sic - CA</em>] users include students, insomniacs and athletes. Heavily steeped in scientific research, its creators have a history in making niche audio brainwave software for psychologists and researchers and their work includes patents on auditory brainwave stimulation and memory.</p>

Stumbling over to, one notes that its readme says you shouldn't use it if you're epileptic, pregnant, or wearing a pacemaker: "those who fit into any of the above categories, whether knowingly or not, should not use this application." How can you agree to something you might not know about? (Pacemaker excepted.)

You get a number of free sessions, and then you have to pay. Would like to know if this really has value; Lawrence's byline photo doesn't exactly inspire confidence. You'll see.
brain  ai  music 
august 2016 by charlesarthur
Someone's finally lifted the veil on YouTube • Bloomberg Gadfly
Leila Abboud looks at <a href="">Mark Mulligan's report into YouTube</a>:
<p>• Lesson #1: YouTube is no longer a haven for pirated music

A mere 2% of YouTube music videos are unofficial, meaning they're technically pirated when put up by a fan. Meanwhile three-quarters are posted by labels as part of promotion efforts, or by Vevo, a joint venture between Sony, Universal and Google. Vevo, a YouTube channel, symbolizes the music labels' contradictory approach. They want YouTube to pay more, but instead of withholding stars to wrangle better contract terms, their marketing departments are popping their best stuff up there for free. This makes it hard to swallow industry bleating about copyright reform.

• Lesson #2:  YouTube has a much sweeter deal than the streamersUnlike streaming providers, YouTube pays music labels a share of the ad revenue generated each time a video gets played. This means the payment correlates with ad sales, which fluctuate by country and even by season. By contrast, Spotify pays a fixed royalty each time a song is listened to.

This is important because consumption of music on YouTube is exploding, while ad sales aren't keeping up. So YouTube puts way more music onto the Internet than any streaming service, but its fees are far lower. Spotify paid labels €1.6bn ($1.8bn) last year, nearly all of its revenue, according to Mulligan. Meanwhile, YouTube paid out only $740m, leading him to conclude that its revenue could be about $7bn (although Google doesn't give a number).

So YouTube's payment to labels per video watched is dropping, even as usage soars. The rate fell from $0.0020 per video in 2014 to $0.0010 in 2015. Spotify's rate for its free, ad-supported music - probably the fairest comparison to YouTube - is $0.0015 per song. </p>
youtube  music  streaming 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
Apple's plan to own the entire music industry • Above Avalon
Neil Cybart:
<p>Following the Beats acquisition, I see Apple striving to take back the music narrative with the goal of eventually owning the entire music industry. There are four distinct steps to Apple's strategy. 

• Pivot into paid music streaming.<br />• Leverage a strong balance sheet to control the music narrative.<br />• Remove oxygen from the music streaming industry by grabbing revenue share.<br />• Create an environment for independent artist sustainability.

Although each step becomes progressively more difficult, ultimately, the four are interrelated…

…Any deal for Tidal would not be about getting access to the service's 4.2 million subscribers. Instead, Apple would be interesting in gaining access to Jay Z and friends. Losing out on Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Kanye West album exclusives over the past year irked Apple. While Apple Music eventually got access to most of the exclusive content, the amount of attention and breathing room that Tidal received was obviously not something Apple enjoyed. Acquiring Tidal and bringing Jay Z on board Apple Music will be a way for Apple to make Apple Music more attractive and capable of getting additional revenue share.</p>
apple  music 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
The end of freemium for Spotify? • Music Industry Blog
Mark Mulligan on new numbers suggesting Spotify has hit 37 million subscribers - the question being, paying what?
<p>As the IFPI’s 2015 numbers revealed, the average label revenue per music subscriber fell globally from $3.16 in 2014 to $2.80 in 2015, with price discounting a key factor. <a href="">According to Music Business Worldwide</a>, 4 million of Spotify’s newly acquired 7 million subscribers were on promotional offers and around 1.5 million of those are expected to churn out when their promotional period ends. That might sound high but it actually represents a 79% conversion ratio, which is a stellar rate by anyone’s standards. Meanwhile Spotify’s total user base is 100 million which means the free-to-paid ratio is 37%. So price promos are converting at more than double the rate of freemium. Does this mean the end of freemium?

…the burgeoning success of Spotify’s mid-priced-subscriptions-by-stealth strategy provides a bulging corpus of supporting evidence. In fact, the average spend of Spotify’s 7 million net new subscribers in Q2 2016 was $3.09 a month. The tantalizing question is whether that 1.5 million promo users that are expected to churn out would take a $3.99 product if it was available?</p>

Mulligan suggests that Spotify is essentially adding new subscribers at lower price points by offering deals such as family sharing. (Apple does exactly the same.)
spotify  apple  music 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
Surprise! It's the older people who don't pay for music • Business Insider
Nathan McAlone:
<p><img src="" width="100%" />

This makes intuitive sense given the nostalgia many have for the music of their youth, which makes new purchases less likely as time goes on. But it also brings up an important point about the future of music.

The music industry seems to be in the midst of an unstoppable move toward streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, and unlike digital downloads, this model is built on paying for access instead of ownership. You pay a monthly fee and get to listen to anything on Spotify.

This means that the age graph above could actually change over time. When the 46% of 18 to 24-year-olds who have paid for music in the last month push past 65, does that mean they will cancel their Spotify accounts? Likely not, as this would mean not only losing the ability to find new music, which they might cease to care about, but also being able to listen, on-demand, to those old songs that have been woven into their emotional memory.

This could boost the revenues of the music industry, which some analysts <a href="">already think is headed for a big turnaround</a>.</p>

Though it doesn't show how much they paid for music. On average, people who buy downloads or CDs get an album a month - about the same as a music service subscription.
music  spotify 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
The music industry buried more than 150 startups—now they are left to dance with the giants • Medium
David Pakman, VC at Venrock:
<p>The bleak outlook for profitability among standalone digital music companies is a direct result of the high royalty rates incumbent upon startups who wish to license digital music for use in their apps. Whether you negotiate voluntary agreements or avail yourself of the existing compulsory licenses, you will not turn a profit. At least, no one ever has. The few that refused to pay these rates were often sued out of existence.

Given these facts, digital music startups are unlikely to survive and thus unlikely to attract meaningful investment. The failure rate in this market segment dramatically exceeds that of SaaS, eCommerce, and mobile, to name just a few. More importantly, the success rate of digital music companies (4%) is far less than these other segments (mobile at 26.5%, SaaS at 28% and eCommerce at 23%).

It is no surprise, then, that far fewer digital music companies get funded. Only about 175 have been venture funded since 1997 by my count, compared to 5,175 (mobile), 7,987 (SaaS) and 1,800 (eCommerce).

The end result of these perilous market conditions is that the only companies who can afford to be involved with digital music are the internet giants prepared to subsidize their digital music services with profits from their other businesses.</p>

I'm having trouble believing that Spotify is suddenly, and uniquely, profitable. That means it's burning through its $1bn of debt.

Also explains why Tidal might be willing to listen to Apple offering to buy it. What's the alternative? Keep losing money until you go bust?
tidal  apple  music  business  spotify 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
Led Zeppelin Did Not Steal ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ Jury Says - The New York Times
Noah Gilbert and Ben Sisario:
<p>Led Zeppelin did not steal the opening riff of its classic rock anthem “Stairway to Heaven,” a federal jury ruled here on Thursday, giving the band a victory in a copyright case in which millions of dollars were at stake.

The case pitted an obscure song from the margins of rock history against one of the canonical hits of the genre. The suit was filed two years ago by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the songs of Randy Wolfe, a member of the band Spirit. It contends that the Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had lifted substantial portions of the Spirit song “Taurus,” from 1968, for the beginning of “Stairway to Heaven,” which was released in 1971 and, by some estimates, has earned more than $500m.</p>

Phew. (Though you know that quite a few Led Zep riffs were, um, borrowed from other writers? For example "Whole Lotta Love" and others.)
ledzep  music 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Taylor Swift and the music industry's attack on YouTube Is a mistake • Fortune
Jeff John Roberts isn't saying that Taylor Swift is a mistake, but that the advert attacking YouTube is:
<p>Here is what the ad will say, <a href="">according to Billboard</a>:

“[The law] has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history in their pocket via a smartphone, while songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish.”

The ad campaign will reportedly also press Congress to use an ongoing review of copyright law to tilt the rules to be more in favor of musicians.

This spectacle of Swift and other A-listers pleading for “reform” will no doubt make an impression on the country’s lawmakers. But that doesn’t mean they should listen. What the music industry is doing is making mischief with an important law in order to put business pressure on YouTube.

The law, as many people are aware, is called the DMCA (the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act,”) and it serves to protect websites like YouTube and Facebook from getting sued when someone uploads a song or video without permission. According to music industry types, YouTube exploits the law to turn a blind eye to piracy and get rich in the process. That’s why, they argue we need “DMCA reform” to put a stop to this.

It’s a compelling argument. But it’s just not true.</p>

He's right - what the music business wants is for YouTube to pay out more per play.
youtube  music 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Is YouTube building a new music industry? • Music Industry Blog
Mark Mulligan:
<p>Back in 2011 Google bought royalty reporting company RightsFlow to help it identify rights holders on YouTube. RightsFlow’s team and technology were widely recognized as best-in-class and Google paid handsomely, swiftly integrating the team into the YouTube organization. My theory is that this was one of the first steps in a much bigger journey. Since then, Google has invested in next gen publisher Kobalt and next gen label 300 Entertainment. It was even reported to have looked at buying the Jackson Estate’s 50% share of Sony/ATV. Most recently YouTube <a href="">announced its implementation of the DDEX Digital Sales Report Flat File Standard (DSRF)</a>, an open source digital supply chain standard aimed at faster, more accurate royalty reporting and distribution. Each component in isolation paints one picture, but put them together and you have the makings of the foundations for a full service music company. What I think could happen is for YouTube to turn its platform into a self contained music business, taking care of everything from rights through creation to monetization.</p>

YouTube really is the dark matter of the digital music business: nobody's entirely sure of its size, velocity or direction, but they know it's damn big and makes a difference.
youtube  music 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Spotify revenues topped $2bn last year as losses hit $194m • Music Business Worldwide
Great scoop by Tim Ingham delving into Luxembourg filings:
<p>Spotify brought in a whopping $2.18bn (€1.95bn) in revenues in 2015, growing its income by 80% in the year.

Net losses stood at a painful  $194m (€173.1m), but these grew much slower – widening by just 6.7% compared to 2014.

In a financial filing in Luxembourg uncovered by MBW, Spotify told its investors that “in many ways, [2015] was our best year ever”.

<img src="" width="100%" />

Advertising revenues nearly doubled in the 12 months, up 98% to $219m (€195.8m).

Meanwhile, subscription revenues grew by a slightly slower pace, up 78% to $1.95bn (€1.74bn).

In terms of Spotify’s total $2bn+ income (negligible ‘other’ revenues aside), ads therefore claimed 10.1% – an improvement on the 9.2% share seen in 2014, but another reminder of how heavily the company relies on people paying for premium accounts.</p>

The costs of sales and marketing, and general and administrative, are growing very fast. R+D not so much. Is there a point where it can swing to profitability?
music  spotify  streaming  business 
may 2016 by charlesarthur
Play with Steve Reich's techniques in a free iPhone app • createdigitalmusic
Peter Kirn:
<p>Steve Reich’s musical etudes are already a kind of self-contained lesson in rhythm. Inspired by drumming traditions, Reich distills in his music essential principles of rhythmic construction, introducing Western Classical musicians to cyclic forms. That makes them a natural for visual scoring – doubly so something interactive, which is what an iPhone can provide. And so one percussion ensemble has made an app that both reveals Reich’s techniques and opens up a toy you can use to make your own musical experiments. Plus – it’s free.

The app is called “<a href="">Third Coast Percussion: the Music of Steve Reich</a>” – that’s a mouthful. And the app is packed with content.</p>

It's also great fun. Like this:
<iframe width="420" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Play it and read on.
stevereich  music 
may 2016 by charlesarthur
Sympathy for the devil: Why do so few music startups succeed? • Music Business Worldwide
Andy Turner:
<p>Asking around amongst well-placed friends, who have held senior global digital music roles, between us we can only think of two successful exits for music services in the past fifteen years or so:<br />• MusicMatch selling to Yahoo for $160m in 2004<br />• selling to CBS for $280m in 2007 was not fully licensed but a number of rights owners managed to close deals around the time of the acquisition.

So that means only one fully licensed music start-up has achieved a successful exit and that was in 2004!

What would you do if you were a founder or early stage investor? Go for music and swallow greater dilution of equity with greater financial risk? Or target other sectors that require less dilution with less risk and, potentially, offer a much greater return?

Bootstrapping and lean start-up methodologies have been widely adopted within the tech sector. Yet, applying these methods to music tech start-ups is problematic.

The benefits of the lean start-up model are very simple: eliminate waste and focus on product development. Build, measure, learn and repeat in short iterations until the product is sufficiently developed to scale. Balance the risk and pick more winners.

The business development model that rights owners apply to licensing digital services is well established (equity, advances, minimum rates, etc). Yet this approach places a huge burden on music tech start-ups before they even launch.

In fairness to the music industry the tech mantra of scale first, establish a business model second should be given short shrift. No AirBnB host would want to give free accommodation to strangers just to help out some tech entrepreneurs. Why should rights owners give anyone a free lunch? They should not.</p>

If Spotify IPOs (which I've previously said is obviously the aim of its latest $1bn debt financing - it will collapse otherwise) then it will be only the second fully-licensed streaming business to make an exit in 16 years.
streaming  music 
may 2016 by charlesarthur
Nelly Furtado: 'YouTube pays more than nothing. That doesn't make it fair' » The Guardian
Nelly Furtado:
<p>I was lucky enough to meet and open for Prince and see him live several times over the years. He stood for pure music and honouring music with proper reverence. Prince’s death reminds all of us artists to wake up and smell the coffee. As I sit here writing this, I am listening to Zayn Malik’s new album – absolutely transported by the freedom, beauty and universality in it – and I’m certain of the labour put into making it great. I am putting the finishing touches on my new album right now, and I won’t stop working on it until it feels complete, much like a cabinet maker or a window cleaner would. We are all “working” class. This work is valid and has value. I love YouTube, but I think it is underpaying and getting away with it. ‎I know the truth hurts, but someone’s got to tell it.

1. YouTube needs to use its Content ID system in a more productive way. It is interesting to note that it is ultra-efficient at removing anything pornographic or beyond certain limits of taste. But it seems not so effective for artists’ music, publishers, and labels. Let’s not forget that YouTube is owned by a technology company with the ability and resources to solve the problem. </p>

And she has more points. But principally, it's that YouTube is getting away with murder.
youtube  music 
may 2016 by charlesarthur
Drake's Spotify gamble is paying off: Views just made $8m in a day » Music Business Worldwide
Tim Ingham:
<p>On Friday (April 29), Beyonce’s Lemonade became the biggest album of the year so far in the US.

Within another 24 hours, Drake’s Views had surpassed Lemonade’s entire week-one album download figure, with around 600,000 sales.

Views is now easily on course to smash through a million North American sales before the weekend.

Drake and his team will have breathed a big sigh of relief at this news – early vindication for a digital strategy which was by no means a safe bet.

Aside from its status as one of the most eagerly anticipated records of the year, Views (previously ‘Views From The 6’), is a complete Apple exclusive.

In its first week, it’s available to stream on Apple Music and buy on iTunes, but not available anywhere else – including physical stores.

Significantly, fans can’t ‘un-bundle’ Views on iTunes, as they could with Beyonce’s Lemonade last week; they only have the option to buy it as one package, with the exception of recent singles One Dance and Hotline Bling.

Drake took a sizable risk with this approach.</p>

Really interested by how some artists can still hit it out of the ground by going for the download-only/one-service-only approach, while others can't. It's not just about age, either.
drake  music 
may 2016 by charlesarthur
YouTube: 'No other platform gives as much money back to creators' » The Guardian
Christophe Müller of Youtube:
<p>Just this month, a funny video of a Ben Affleck interview helped propel Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence to the Top 10 Hot Rock Songs chart 50 years after it was released.

All of this is possible because our technology, Content ID, automates rights management. Only 0.5% of all music claims are issued manually; we handle the remaining 99.5% with 99.7% accuracy. And today, fan-uploaded content accounts for roughly 50% of the music industry’s revenue from YouTube.

The next claim we hear is that we underpay compared to subscription services such as Spotify. But that argument confuses two different services: music subscriptions that cost £10 a month versus ad-supported music videos. It’s like comparing what a black cab driver earns from fares to what they earn showing ads in their taxi.

So let’s try a fair comparison, one between YouTube and radio.</p>

It's all radio's fault!
youtube  music  payments 
april 2016 by charlesarthur
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