Spotify is now testing unlimited ad skips for free-tier users

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Spotify is now testing unlimited ad skips for free-tier usersSpotify Testing Skippable Ads

Spotify continues to tinker with its free-tier user experience by testing a new feature they’re calling “active media.” Non-premium members will be able to skip unlimited ads. The new feature would be rolled out with the aim of providing a more relevant experience for both users as advertisers. Users would effectively choose which ads appeal to them most, while advertisers would not be charged for any ads users choose to skip, ensuring their audience on the platform is more open to their message.

Although the streaming giant is currently limiting the feature’s test run to Australia, it appears likely that more users could gain this ability in the near future. A spokesperson for the company confirmed they “will consider expanding to additional markets in the future,” and remain “committed to our freemium model and will continue innovating our products to ensure the best experience on both our free and premium tiers.”

Spotify’s support of both subscription models isn’t shared by all. Billboard announced in May that it would begin weighing streams via paid subscriptions more heavily than streams via free, ad-supported accounts. Paid subscriptions require 1,250 streams to equal one album unit on the Billboard 200, while free-tier streams must total 3,750.

H/T: Pitchfork

Apple CEO Tim Cook says algorithms are ‘draining the humanity out of music’ in new interview

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Apple CEO Tim Cook says algorithms are ‘draining the humanity out of music’ in new interviewTim Cook 2156 1120

Apple CEO Tim Cook has expressed some thinly-veiled concern regarding his competitors. In a new interview with Fast Company, Cook highlighted the importance of human-curated music services. Though he didn’t call out Spotify by name, Cook did directly highlight the difference between Apple’s human-driven and Spotify’s algorithm-driven curation approaches, even going so far as to say ”We [at Apple] worry about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft.”

In an earlier Fast Company interview with Spotify CEO Daniel EK, EK countered Cook’s statement, by saying: “Music is everything we do all day, all night, and that clarity is the difference between the average and the really, really good,” seeming to suggest that adding the automated touch is a natural, time-saving decision.

Late last year, journalist Liz Pelly penned an immensely illuminating piece for The Baffler entitled, “The Problem With Musak,” which explored “Spotify’s bid to remodel the industry,” agreeing with Cook’s central point and ultimately arguing that Spotify’s goal is much, much deeper than meets the eye.

“No matter how you look at it, it’s clear that Spotify is trying to replace labels, ” Pelly writes. That’s a sentiment echoed by folks across the industry, major and indie alike, but it’s a reality felt most harshly by independent labels. The algorithmic nature of the platform makes it difficult to navigate, says one independent label employee. In the past, if a music shop ordered copies of a record, independent labels could do simple things—like send thank-you notes. “Since Spotify is so algorithmically based, there isn’t a lot of back and forth conversation between you and anyone there,” she explains. “It changes the nature of how you sell and pitch music to retailers, and the places where you’re making money. You’ll say, ‘Oh, I noticed this one song got on this big playlist, is there someone in indie genre editorial who is a big fan who I could say thanks to?’ And they’re like, ‘No, it did well on this playlist, so we added it to this playlist, and it did well on this playlist, and this playlist . . .’” Thanks, algorithm! “How they place things seems to really take away a lot of the personal aspects of how music transacts,” she adds.

H/T: High Snobiety

Spotify partners with Samsung to compete with Apple

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Spotify partners with Samsung to compete with AppleSpotify Samsung Daniel Ek Photo Cred Spotify Newsroom

On Aug. 9, music streaming giant Spotify announced a monumental partnership with Samsung.

The deal makes Spotify the official music provider for all Samsung phones, televisions, tablets, watches, and speakers. The application will be pre-installed on many new Samsung devices, much like Apple does with Apple Music on its devices. Spotify will also be integrated into Samsung’s voice assistant program and will work with Samsung’s smart-home applications.

Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, said in a company Q&A that this new partnership “reduces the friction for users to get Spotify up and running on multiple Samsung devices once the accounts have been linked.” He also noted that the partnership “allows us to create a seamless music listening experience together for the user that would be hard for either of us to build alone. We believe that this significant long-term partnership will provide Samsung users across millions of devices with the best possible music streaming experience, and make discovering new music easier than ever — with even more opportunities to come.”

While Ek didn’t mention any competitors in the Q&A, the partnership would allow Spotify to bolster its figures against Apple Music, which recently surpassed Spotify subscriber numbers in North America.

H/T: Rolling Stone

Featured photo: Spotify Newsroom

Remember Turntable.fm? JQBX.fm just reinvented it for the Spotify era

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Remember Turntable.fm? JQBX.fm just reinvented it for the Spotify eraRPnVGW A

Remember Turntable.fm? JQBX.fm just reinvented it for the Spotify eraSSEs CA

How many people remember the craze that was turntable.fm? The site went viral around 2010 as a place for music fans to gather in a virtual music venue and listen to music together. Every person had a virtual avatar, and there was always a DJ at the front of the room that was in charge of the music being played. It was like a concert on your computer, happening 24/7.

The site went viral for a reason, as users found it enjoyable to have a place to go and hang with like-minded music fans, as well as be exposed to new, interesting music. The problem for the company was the music industry wasn’t keen on the fact that the music being played was unlicensed. There was a small library of songs that users could play from, but the site also allowed users to upload their own MP3 files for playback. As a result, the artists, labels, and songwriters were not being compensated for playback, and the industry moved to shut down the service.

A lot has changed since 2010, including the evolution of streaming platforms and the number of users that participate. Spotify now has a large enough audience that building an app on top of the platform guarantees that you have an audience of more than 100 million people. Not to mention, more and more music is available on the platform. Back in 2010, there were tons of unlicensed remixes that weren’t available anywhere else. In 2018, that is the case less and less often. Companies like Dubset are working with labels and rightsholders to allow more of these unofficial remixes to end up on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

Which is all to say, the timing is ripe for JQBX (JU·KE·BOX) to come and re-create this experience. JQBX is a new music app that lets you listen to music in sync with groups across the globe. It’s available on iOS, Android, macOS, and as a web app at jqbx.fm. The app works by showing the user a list of user-created public and private rooms, with each one hosting one or more DJs spinning some tracks. Users can search, save, and create their own public or password-protected rooms and can “be a DJ” when they join a room.

Each room has a chatroom where users can interact and use a quick thumbs up/thumbs down (“dope/nope”) rating system for each song. They can save songs played by other DJs to a new Spotify playlist for later listening and see a room’s track history (which can be exported). Users can volunteer to become DJs, and if there’s more than one DJ, JQBX will rotate between users, playing one song at a time from their playlist.

The first thing we noticed while using it is how much music we’ve been missing out on. The level of discovery here is incredible. This service could really catch on this time around as a social music listening experience is definitely lacking from the marketplace right now. Who knows, maybe your next favorite DJ will be discovered on JQBX.

Apple Music surpasses Spotify subscriber numbers in North America

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Apple Music surpasses Spotify subscriber numbers in North AmericaJess Watters 500955 Unsplash

Apple announced Q3 financial results on July 31, showing $53.3 billion in revenue. This presents a 17 percent year-over-year increase, marking the tech company’s best June quarter ever. CEO Tim Cook commented, “Our Q3 results were driven by continued strong sales of iPhone, Services and Wearables, and we are very excited about the products and services in our pipeline.”

“Our strong business performance drove revenue growth in each of our geographic segments, net income of $11.5 billion, and operating cash flow of $14.5 billion,” says Apple CFO Luca Maestri. “We returned almost $25 billion to investors through our capital return program during the quarter, including $20 billion in share repurchases.” iPhone sales increased 1 percent YOY bringing in $41.3 billion, whereas wearables and other products brought in $3.7 billion, a 37 percent increase YOY.

Apple Music received a nod, adding the streaming service has more than 50 million current subscribers and free trial users; Apple Music revenues grew more than 50 percent during the quarter. Cook mentioned this made Apple Music the market leader in North America (by a fraction) as both Spotify and Apple report around 20 million users in the region. The CEO also mentioned Apple is leading the global streaming leader in Japan.

Outside of China, there are less than 200 million people streaming around the world, so music streaming is still a growing market. Cook added, “But really the key thing in music is not the competition between the companies that are providing music, the real challenge is to grow the market. It does seem to me there’s an extraordinary opportunity in that business to grow the market well and I think if we put our emphasis there, which we’re doing, that we’ll be a beneficiary of that — as other people will as well.”

A major difference between Apple Music and Spotify is Apple does not have a free service beyond its three-month trial period.

H/T: Billboard

Photo credit: Jess Watters/Unsplash

Spotify now boasts 83 million subscribers, reports second quarter loss

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Spotify now boasts 83 million subscribers, reports second quarter lossGettyimages 474099442

At the end of 2018’s second fiscal quarter, Swedish streaming giant Spotify has shared new reports on the company’s performance since their debut on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this year. Boasting 83 million premium subscribers and 180 million monthly active users, Spotify will be looking to hold onto and expand their share of the market, though Apple Music has been providing some stiff competition in the US market this year.

Though the impressive 83 million paid subscribers is an increase of ten percent since last quarter and, at $1.49 billion, revenue is at an all time high, the company posted a loss of $461 million, over twice as much as their loss at this time last year. To Spotify’s credit, they claim that over $30 million of that loss came from the price of going public back in April. Even with these losses, Spotify’s stock price is steadily rising, likely thanks to the vast amounts of revenue, investment, and cash flow at the company’s fingertips. With online streaming platforms are consistently securing more listeners and paid subscribers, the DSP arms race remains a fascinating industry to watch unfold.

H/T: Billboard

Here’s how to turn your Spotify listening habits into concert tickets

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Here’s how to turn your Spotify listening habits into concert ticketsHow To Listen Spotify Music Offline For Free

Spotify has officially teamed up with the leading music festival travel-booking platform Festicket, to help listeners find festivals that align with their listening habits. It’s appropriately called “Festival Finder,” and it seems really easy to use. Simply connect your Spotify account with Festicket, and the platform digs into listening history, coming up with ten upcoming festival lineups that the listener might be drawn to. Festival goers can also buy tickets and book travel arrangements on Festicket.

Co-founder and CEO Zack Sabban told Billboard,

“We now offer over 1,000 festivals on the platform, and we know first-hand how overwhelming it can be when trying to pick out the one to go to. Our Festival Finder solves that problem by presenting a tailored list of festivals that best match your listening habits, including some under the radar gems that could soon become your new favorite festival destination.”

Sabban and Jonathan Younes founded Festicket in 2012, transforming their technology platform in the last six years into an intelligent engine for festival discovery.

H/T: Billboard   

Chinese music streaming platform, Tencent Music Entertainment, announces US IPO

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Chinese music streaming platform, Tencent Music Entertainment, announces US IPOTencent Media2

Spotify‘s strategic partner in China, Tencent Music, has announced it will sell shares publicly on the New York Stock Exchange. The US IPO announcement was confirmed after a regulatory filing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Tencent’s music division is said to be valued around $30 billion, making it as valuable as Spotify which went public in New York in April, 2018. Each company owns stock in one another after a trade swap in December of 2017. Spotify owns 9% of Tencent Music, and Tencent owns 7.5% of Spotify.

Tencent is still keeping numbers close to the vest, telling Variety,

“the terms of the proposed spin-off, including offering size, price range and assured entitlement of Tencent Music securities for shareholders of the company, have not yet been finalized.”

The Chinese multinational investment holding conglomerate, Tencent, is valued at $480 billion on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, owning a variety of internet businesses, including WeChat, which has over 1 billion users. Tencent Music dominates the Chinese streaming market through QQ Music, KuGou and Kuwo platforms, with about 600 million users. 15 million of those users are paid subscribers.

The IPO will give Tencent Music new funds that it could use to purchase more content for its platforms. The Chinese streaming service has exclusive deals with all major labels, so they can decide which songs rivals can stream. Magnetic Magazine reported that the IPO would bring Western scrutiny to the massive Chinese tech company because the Chinese government has been known to be heavily regulatory on some media in the past. However, with a powerful tech space emerging in China, the Chinese government has proved slow or unwilling to impede progress.

H/T: CNN Money

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal

The Music Modernization Act takes another step towards fair compensation for music curators

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The Music Modernization Act takes another step towards fair compensation for music curatorsJomar 271602 Unsplash

The Music Modernization Act (MMA) has passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee, taking music creators a step closer to appropriate licensing and royalty rules for the streaming era. It now has to pass a full Senate vote before hitting the president’s desk.

The music copyright overhaul essentially partners Apple Music, Spotify, and publishers under a single licensing agency, streamlining the license management process. Songwriters and accredited artists will be paid out for songs recorded before 1972, while new rights will be granted to music producers and mixers. Older musicians who missed the streaming boom and studio engineers look to benefit here in the form of royalty checks coming their way if passed.

One of the most important facets of the bill is an overall standardization of payment rates between distribution services and rights-holders. It’s about time music law addressed the streaming industry because the current system is still set up for physical music copies.

Although the MMA has received criticism for its lack of consideration towards medium-sized business, most in the industry are in favor, seeing this as a long-awaited, financial organization of the current music landscape. D.I.Y. musicians, and musicians who own their own rights might still have trouble policing ineffective or inefficient licensing practices. More established artists, publishers, studio producers, and labels labels will benefit, giving them more time to focus on creating music and less time worrying about licensing and royalty structures. It’s a step in the right direction on this long trek towards fair compensation for music creators.

H/T: Rolling Stone

Photo Credit: Jomar/Unsplash

Drake shatters Apple Music’s first day streaming record

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Drake shatters Apple Music’s first day streaming recordDrake Scorpion

Drake‘s hotly-anticipated double-sided release, Scorpion, is putting global streaming numbers to bed, racking up 170 million plays on Apple Music in just its first 24 hours: a new all-time record. The unprecedented feat nearly doubled Drake’s More Life numbers on the servicelast year, which garnered 89.9 million plays within the same timeframe. Elsehwere, on SpotifyScorpion was averaging an upwards of 10 million streams per hour, clocking in at 132 million for the day on the platform. Between the two streaming giants, totals are estimated to be over 300 million first day streams.

Many critics have suggested the album’s size—which features a previously unreleased Micheal Jackson vocal cut, as well as Drake corroborating rumors that he fathered a son— has been a considerable factor in its streaming success, postulating that the album’s sheer volume of material is inflating the LP’s charting performance. In any case, a Drizzy album is always bound to set the internet ablaze, and in that regard, Scorpion has undoubtedly delivered.