Music

Spotify Kids app rolls out blocking, listening history features for parents

Posted by | Apps, children, family, kids, Media, Mobile, Music, music streaming, parents, Spotify | No Comments

Spotify is expanding the capabilities of its parental controls on its Spotify Kids app, aimed at children ages 3 and up on a parent’s Spotify Premium Family plan. Before, parents could only select whether the child was directed to the experience for younger or older children. Now, they’ll be able to specifically block content from their child’s account when accessing the child’s listening history.

These features had been hinted at when Spotify Kids made its U.S. debut in March. At the time, Spotify said it heard from parents testing the app in other markets how they wanted to have even more control over the app’s included content. Though the company didn’t detail its plans then, it did say new features would involve allowing parents making more specific choices over what their child could stream.

Both new features are now included in the PIN-protected “Grown Ups” section, previously called the “Parental Settings.” Once there, a parent can select which child’s account they want to to update or view.

The Listening History option will allow them to view every track the child has streamed on the Spotify Kids app over the past three months. From here, a parent can also opt to select a track and block it by tapping the “block” icon next to the track in question.

These blocked tracks are then removed from the child’s account and can’t be streamed. However, parents can unblock the track further down the road if they choose, by accessing either the Listening History section or the Blocked Tracks section and tapping the red icon next to each track.

Spotify says these new features are the first step in many planned updates for its Kids application, which today includes more than 8,000 kid-appropriate songs, stories, audiobooks and sounds that are curated into 125+ playlists. Though the app is aimed at kids young and old, many children will age out of it around their tweens, despite its support for an “older kids” experience. That’s because kids have established some favorite artists and musical preferences by then, and the more limited catalog on Spotify Kids doesn’t deliver. Plus, the downside of hand-curation means newly emerging hits — like, say, those blowing up on TikTok — may not make an appearance on Spotify Kids until later.

While it makes sense that Spotify would focus more immediately on parental controls catering to parents of the younger children, in time being able to go the other direction — perhaps a whitelisting option or the import of pre-approved playlists — would be appreciated by parents of older kids.

The Spotify Kids app is now live across 14 global markets, including as of today, Japan and Germany.

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Spotify launches its promised fundraising feature for artists

Posted by | artists, Fundraising, Mobile, Music, Spotify, TC | No Comments

Last month, Spotify announced that as part of its coronavirus relief efforts it would soon add new fundraising features for artists on its platform. Today, the company is following through with the launch of “Artist Fundraising Pick,” a feature that allows artists to fundraise for themselves, their crews, or one of the verified music relief initiatives Spotify has already vetted through the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief project.

At launch, Spotify is working with a small group of fundraising partners to make the donation process easier, including Cash App, GoFundMe, and PayPal.me.

Cash App is currently Spotify’s preferred method, as it has also established a $1 million relief effort for artists. When Spotify artists choose their “$cashtag” as their Artist Fundraising Pick and secure at least one donation of any size, they’ll receive an additional $100 in their account from Cash App up until a collective total of $1 million has been contributed. This works for artists in the U.S. and U.K., but Spotify users worldwide can donate through Cash App.

To use the new fundraising tools, artists (or Spotify for Artists admin users) will go to their Artist dashboard and click “Get started” on the banner at the top to submit their Fundraising Pick. This is a similar process as to how artists choose which track they want to display on their profile.

Once live, fans can donate to the cause through the artist’s profile. In addition to Cash App, PayPal is broadly available and GoFundMe is available in 19 markets.

If the artist chooses to raise for a music relief organization, they can select from those associated with Spotify’s existing charity project, which launched last month in partnership with MusiCares, PRS Foundation, and Help Musicians. It has now expanded to include a wider range of participating organizations, including several local options, and is continuing to grow.

At launch, a handful of artists already have the new feature live, including Tyrese Pope and Boy Scouts who are fundraising through Cash App; Marshmello who is fundraising for MusiCares; and Benjamin Ingrosso who is fundraising for Musikerforbundet.

Spotify says it moved to quickly launch this feature because it believed it was in a unique position to help artists raise money from a global network of fans. However, it cautions that it’s never built a fundraising feature like this before, and considers this a “first version.” Over time, the feature will likely evolve and update based on artist feedback.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for many Spotify users and people around the world — and there are many worthy causes to support at this time,” the company wrote in an announcement. “With this feature, we simply hope to enable those who have the interest and means to support artists in this time of great need, and to create another opportunity for our COVID-19 Music Relief partners to find the financial support they need to continue working in music and lift our industry,” it said.

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Spotify confirms it’s testing real-time lyrics synced to music

Posted by | Apps, lyrics, Media, Mobile, Music, Spotify | No Comments

With the launch of iOS 13, Apple added perfectly timed live lyrics to its Apple Music app. Now Spotify may do the same. Several users in international markets are now seeing a similar synced lyrics feature in their Spotify mobile app, where lyrics scroll by in time with the music. The feature is powered by Musixmatch, according to the screenshots. Spotify confirmed to TechCrunch the feature is a test in a limited number of markets.

While Spotify didn’t confirm which regions have access, we’re seeing that users in Canada, Indonesia and Mexico appear to be among the test markets.

The feature sits beneath the playback controls where today, other enhancements like Behind the Lyrics or Storyline, currently appear. And users say they can also view the lyrics in a full-screen experience.

We were not able to duplicate the same experience here in the U.S., which indicates it’s still limited by geography.

Spotify kalian ada lirik nya tak?:”V
Ini tiba tiba ada:”V kaget gw:”V eh trnyta dari musixmatch:V pic.twitter.com/DFO54qFzuQ

— Aku sayang Wandireksen :(( (@notfndm) November 14, 2019

Bisa full screen juga

Terus ternyata dari musixmatch sepertiny mereka bekerjasm pic.twitter.com/EFqZom2Wmm

— 𝙉𝙤𝙧𝙖▯ (@lasttosleep) November 13, 2019

ahora spotify ha vuelto con ponerte los lyrics (gracias musicxmatch) y obvio lo más importante era hacer esto pic.twitter.com/Ip9goVs7SI

— mar crocs (@hijodeIaluna) November 14, 2019

Spotify had lyrics support on the desktop several years ago, but that feature was later removed. Since then, users have repeatedly asked when it would return. On Spotify’s user feedback community, for example, a request asking the company to “bring back lyrics” was upvoted more than 14,300 times. Spotify wouldn’t respond to user requests except to point users to its Genius integration, Behind the Lyrics.

Genius, however, doesn’t provide full lyrics. Instead, it’s a way to annotate tracks with a combination of lyrics and stories. While the feature can be both informative and entertaining, it’s not necessarily the experience people want when they’re trying to learn the words to a song.

Currently, neither Spotify’s desktop or mobile app has lyrics support, with the exception of Japan. It also regularly runs tests like this, so this is not a confirmation of a near-term launch.

Spotify’s decision to not make lyrics integration a priority has given Apple Music a competitive advantage in terms of its feature set. While it may not be a key selling point, per se — Spotify now has 113 million paying customers to Apple Music’s 60 million — it could help to retain users who don’t want to lose access by switching. Amazon has also capitalized on Spotify’s lack of lyrics with integrations of music and lyrics on Alexa devices.

Reached for comment, a Spotify spokesperson confirmed a synced lyrics experience is something it’s testing.

“We can confirm we are testing this feature in a small number of markets,” the spokesperson said. “At Spotify, we are always testing new products and experiences but have no further news to share at this time.”

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Spotify launches a dedicated Kids app for Premium Family subscribers

Posted by | Apps, children, family, kids, Media, Mobile, Music, parents, Spotify, streaming music, streaming service | No Comments

In a move to boost family subscriptions to its app, Spotify this morning announced the launch of a dedicated Kids application which allows children three and up to listen to their own music, both online and offline, as well as explore playlists and recommendations picked by experts, and more. The music selection is also filtered so songs won’t have explicit content.

The launch is a first in the online music streaming space, where kids on parents’ music plans typically sign in through the same app — just with a different login. But Spotify believes children deserve their own space, where the music they listen to is available in an ad-free environment, where they won’t accidentally encounter lyrics that parents disapprove of, and where content is hand-curated by editors.

Spotify Kids, essentially, is a set of hand-picked playlists across categories.

Comp 2 Browse 2

The app includes categories like Movies & TV, top hits, Activities (bedtime, homework, playtime, etc.), genres, seasonal, Spotify Originals, artist/groups, and Stories.

The playlists are all programmed by human editors, not algorithms, and are chosen by way of a set of guidelines about what’s appropriate for children.

The editors, Spotify says, have backgrounds from some of the most well-known brands in the children’s entertainment business, including Nickelodeon, Disney, Discovery Kids, Universal Pictures, Public Service (Sweden), and BookBeat (a family and kids-oriented audio streaming service).

The new app isn’t just for the preschool set. Instead, it can grow with the kids as they get older — but still aren’t ready for the parents’ application yet.

Comp 1 Home 2

In the younger kids’ version, children can listen to things like singalongs, lullabies, and soundtracks aimed at little kids. Older users have access to tracks and playlists of their own, including some popular tracks, that are appropriate and relevant for their age group. Parents will select their child’s age group upon launch.

In time, Spotify will expand the app with more content — including stories, audiobooks, and podcasts — and build enhanced parental settings and controls that allow parents to customize the Kids app further.

The new app also looks nothing like the main app — it’s colorful and bright, and has a look and feel that varies by the kids’ age group. For example, the younger kids see artwork that’s softer and character-based, while older kids have a more detailed experience.

Kids 1920x733

“Spotify is committed to giving billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by music and stories and we’re proud that this commitment now includes the next generation of audio listeners,” said Spotify’s Chief Premium Business Officer Alex Norström. “We are excited to be expanding the Spotify Premium Family experience with a dedicated app just for our youngest fans. Spotify Kids is a personalized world bursting with sound, shape and color, where our young listeners can begin a lifelong love of music and stories.”

The launch of the Kids app follows Spotify’s surprise earnings success this week, where it beat Wall St. estimates with net income of 241 million euros ($267.34 million), or 36 cents per share. Analysts had expected a loss of 29 cents per share.

The company also added 5 million new subscribers in the quarter to reach 113 million paying premium subscribers — up 26 million from the year-ago quarter.

Today, a Spotify Premium plan costs slightly more than a regular Premium account ($14.99 vs. $9.99 in the U.S., respectively). But many parents often just share their account with the whole family — often ruining their recommendations and special features, like Spotify Wrapped, along the way. A Kids app is a good incentive to convince customers to upgrade, as it’s not only solving those problems but also giving kids a safer, more curated experience within the larger music ecosystem.

There’s another incentive for Spotify to separate out Kids’ listening into its own space: targeted advertising. While the Premium experience has typically been ad-free, a new product lets artists buy a full-screen ad about their new music release and show it to interested users, based on listening history — even if they’re Premium subscribers.

This isn’t the first move Spotify has made in recent months to better cater to families. The company this summer launched a dedicated streaming hub in partnership with Disney, where families could find favorite songs, playlists and soundtracks. It also added parental controls to Premium Family accounts soon after, and launched a special “family mix” with songs everyone can agree on.

Spotify Kids is initially available in beta, while Spotify works to refine the experience based on additional insights gained from use as well as parentsfeedback. It requires a Premium Family plan to use.

The app is immediately available today in Ireland on iOS and Android, but is rolling out to all markets, the company says.

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Get ready to see more looping videos on Spotify, as Canvas launches into beta

Posted by | Media, Mobile, Music, Spotify, streaming, streaming service, videos | No Comments

Spotify is opening up its Canvas feature to more artists, the company announced this morning, which means you’ll see a lot more of those looping videos on the app starting soon. The feature has been in limited testing before today with select artists. When available, you don’t just see the album artwork behind the player controls — you see a moving, visual experience that plays in a short loop.

So far, Canvas has had mixed reviews from Spotify users. Some find the looping imagery distracting, while others simply prefer seeing the album art. Some people seem to like the feature. But others only like it with certain content and artists.

The challenge is in designing a video loop that works well. That means it shouldn’t be an attempt to try to lip sync to a part of a song. It shouldn’t include intense flashing graphics or text, nor should it distract people from being able to see the player controls and track information.

Screen Shot 2019 10 10 at 12.07.54 PM

Spotify also suggests trying to tell a full story in the loop rather than just drastically trimming a music video down to the time allotted (three to eight-second clips). Other recommended Canvas experiences are those that help develop the artists’ persona across their profile and tracks, or those that are updated frequently. Billie Eilish, for example, uses the feature to share animated versions of fan art.

Since launching, Canvas has been seen by millions of users, Spotify says. But the company seems to acknowledge the impact varies, based on how the Canvas is designed. When it works, it can “significantly increase” track streams, shares and artists page visits. But Spotify didn’t say what happens when the feature fails to engage fans.

However, based on social media discussions about the feature and how-to guides detailing how to turn the thing off, it would seem that some users choose to opt out of the experience entirely.

Today, Spotify says Canvas will no longer be limited to select artists, as it’s opening more broadly to artists in an expanded beta. With the beta, Spotify hopes artists will treat Canvas as a critical part of their release strategy, and will continue to use it across their catalog.

“It’s a way to get noticed and build a vision — and an excellent way to share more of who you are with your listeners, hopefully turning them into fans,” the company writes in an announcement. “The goal is for you to have richer ways to express yourself and to allow listeners to engage with you and your music even more deeply. We’re continuing to work on additional features, as well as more tools and metrics to help you better understand how your art is reaching your audience,” the company says.

It’s hard not to comment on the timing of this launch. At the end of September, Google announced that YouTube Music would not be preinstalled on new Android devices, taking the place of Google Play Music. With YouTube Music, streamers gain access to a visually immersive experience where they can watch the music videos, not just listen to the audio, if they prefer.

Spotify, however, has traditionally been a place to listen — not to watch. That’s not to say there aren’t music videos on Spotify, they’re just not well-highlighted by the app nor a core part of the Spotify experience.

The company says it’s now sending artists their invites to join the beta. Those who haven’t received the invite can instead make a request to be added here.

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YouTube Music is launching three new personalized playlists

Posted by | Apps, Media, Mobile, Music, personalization, streaming service, TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019, YouTube, YouTube Music | No Comments

YouTube Music is preparing to better challenge Spotify and others with the launch of three new personalized playlists — Discover Mix, New Release Mix and Your Mix — said YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan in an onstage interview this morning at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019.

Discover Mix, YouTube Music’s version of Spotify’s Discover Weekly, had already been spotted in the wild back in September. But it wasn’t yet broadly available. The other two hadn’t yet launched.

“Our YouTube Music app has been out now for a couple of years, we’ve launched the YouTube Premium service and the app and now 71 different countries,” noted Mohan. “And as we’ve rolled it out, we’ve gotten lots of feedback from our users about what they’d love to see,” he continued. “And one of the things that they tell us repeatedly is, they love the fact that, through a combination of things like machine learning and human beings that are music lovers, we put all this great music in front of our users in the YouTube Music app,” he said.

disrupt neal mohan youtube 0142

According to Mohan, the Discover Mix will focus on helping users uncover new artists and music they might like, including tracks from artists you’ve never listened to before as well as lesser-known tracks from artists you already love.

The playlist takes advantage of your historical listening data on YouTube Music and on YouTube, he said.

New Release Mix, meanwhile, is YouTube Music’s version of Spotify’s Your Release Radar, and features the most recent release from your favorite artists.

Finally, Your Mix is a playlist that combines the music you love with songs you haven’t heard yet but will probably like, based on your listening habits.

The mixes will be updated weekly, and will be made available to all users worldwide, where they’ll be found on the “Mixed for You” shelf on the home screen, or by searching in the app.

All three will launch sometime later this month, but YouTube doesn’t have an exact date.

The additions arrive at a time when Google is preparing to transition its Google Play Music users over to YouTube Music, which makes it a much bigger threat to existing music streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora and others.

While YouTube Music hasn’t yet replaced Play Music entirely or shut down the older app, it did just make YouTube Music the default music app that ships with new Android devices, instead of Google Play Music.

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Pandora puts its personalization powers to work in a revamped app

Posted by | Apps, curation, Media, Mobile, Music, Pandora, personalization, Podcasts, streaming, streaming music | No Comments

Pandora is doubling down on personalization and revamping its app in order to better compete with rivals like Spotify and Apple Music. Today, the company is introducing a new mobile experience that includes a dedicated “For You” tab where a continually updated feed of content is presented to users, including both music and podcast recommendations (and more). This content is personalized to the individual, based on factors like the day of the week, the time of day and Pandora’s predictions about your mood, among other things.

The new personalized feed will also help the company to better showcase more of its exclusive content — like its music-and-podcast combos, called “Pandora Stories,” for example. Or the dozens of SiriusXM talk shows that became Pandora podcasts following its acquisition.

“Our listeners have told us that they love the utility of Pandora — it’s drop-dead easy, it works, it knows me, it’s really simple,” explains Pandora’s Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips. “But what they haven’t been able to understand and have easy enough access to is all the content and programming that we have available on Pandora — the new content, new programming and the unique content that you can’t get other places,” he says.

The For You tab aims to change that by turning Pandora’s personalization capabilities onto its broader catalog and exclusives, then crafting a scrollable feed with dozens of ways to listen.

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Here, you’ll be able to tap into Pandora Modes, for example, which is a new way to listen to Pandora Stations. The feature was previously available on the web, and has now come to mobile for the first time with today’s launch.

Pandora Modes let you toggle between ways to customize your stations. You can opt for modes that will tweak the station to play things like the most popular songs (“crowd faves”), the deep cuts, new releases, artist-only tracks and more. You also can opt for a “discovery” mode to have Pandora introduce you to new artists you may like, as related to the station in question.

Another section in the For You tab lets you browse by categories, including genre, new music, podcasts, moods, playlists, decades and trending.

The “Moods & Activities” section, meanwhile, will present collections of music based on current trends — for example, one of the available “moods” is “fall,” and another could be “rainy day,” matched up with the day’s weather. You also can dig into this section for moods to match your activity, like workout, gaming, studying, family time and more.

As you scroll down the For You page, you’ll come across your podcast recommendations and personalized playlists. And Pandora can create some 80 different versions of the latter, which include playlists by moods, activities, genres and more, all powered by its Music Genome.

Plus, the combined Pandora and SiriusXM editorial team of around 25 creates hundreds of human-curated playlists, too.

PandoraModes BlogImage

In total, there are some 35 different modules in Pandora’s new For You feed, some of which are shown to every user while others appear dynamically based on time of day and day of week. Its suggestions will also be tailored to your own likes and interests, thanks to your own listening behavior and explicit signals, like thumbs up and thumbs down.

That means your For You tab will be unique to you, and you can later be targeted with specific promotions — like the content to emerge from that deal between SiriusXM/Pandora and Drake, for example, if relevant to your interests. (Hey, it’s better than that time when Spotify put Drake’s face on every playlist.)

Despite the personalization, the feed will still include some insights powered by the larger Pandora population, so you can see what’s popular and trending more broadly across the service.

In time, Pandora plans to roll out even more modules to build out the experience further.

100 billion thumbs are what’s powering all this,” adds Phillips, speaking of Pandora’s recent milestone, which measured the number of thumbs up and down clicks from users. Until now, he says, Pandora “hadn’t really brought together the community…and the power of our personalization, but not just for stations — for all the playlists, albums, songs and artists,” Phillips continues. “And then the idea that we lay on top of all of this…the idea of what time of day it is, and what might be interesting based on what we predict your mood is right now,” he says.

The “For You” tab and other features are arriving today on Pandora for iOS and Android.

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Spotify expands its new Premium Duo plan to Latin America

Posted by | Media, Mobile, Music, Spotify, streaming, streaming music, streaming service | No Comments

Spotify’s newest paid subscription, the Premium Duo plan designed for two people, first launched this spring as a pilot test in Ireland, Colombia, Chile, Denmark and Poland. Today, Spotify says the plan is being more broadly rolled out to 14 more Latin American markets.

The new markets include: Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

The Duo plan is meant mainly for couples, though it could apply to roommates or any other two people who share the same home address.

In terms of pricing, it’s a step up from a single Premium subscription but more affordable than a Family Plan, as it’s limited to just two accounts. However, the Duo plan is discounted so it’s a better deal than buying two separate Premium accounts.

The benefits are similar to those on the Family Plan. Like the larger group plan, Duo keeps each user’s music preferences and recommendations separate from one another. And like the Family Plan, which recently added a custom mix composed of tracks everyone in the family enjoys, the Duo subscription also includes its own shared playlist, the Duo Mix. Members can easily share their playlist libraries with one another, too.

Despite now reaching 19 total markets, Spotify still refers to the Premium Duo plan as a “pilot,” which typically means the company hasn’t fully committed to bringing the service to all its users at some point. Instead, that terminology typically implies the company is continuing to evaluate the new service’s impact.

In Spotify’s case, Premium Duo’s launch in March hasn’t yet led to a massive subscription bump. When reporting its Q2 2019 earnings, the company said it added 8 million new subscribers in the quarter, which was below the estimated 8.5 million figure. It now has 232 million monthly users and 108 million paying subscribers.

That said, Duo hasn’t reached many of Spotify’s key markets where such a plan could have more of an impact to subscriber counts, including the U.S.

If you live in a supported market and already have a Premium plan you can visit your Account page on Spotify’s website to add a partner and upgrade. Both plan members will need to share the same home address.

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You can now share music from Spotify to Facebook Stories

Posted by | Apps, artists, Facebook, Facebook Stories, Mobile, Music, Social, Spotify, stories | No Comments

Spotify this morning announced a new way for you to share music with friends (or fans, if you’re an artist) — by way of a new Facebook Stories integration that includes 15-second song previews. Viewers can also optionally tap on the “Play on Spotify” button in the Story to be redirected to the Spotify app to hear more.

The feature is designed largely with artists and their teams in mind, as it gives them another way to promote their new music across Facebook’s social network. Musicians and their managers often today use the Spotify app’s sharing feature to post their content across social media, including to Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, and elsewhere.

Last year, Spotify introduced a way to share music to Instagram Stories, including their albums, tracks, and playlists, as part of Facebook’s announcement that it was opening up sharing to Facebook and Instagram Stories from other, third-party apps.

At the time, the company said an integration with Facebook Stories was coming soon.

Since its launch on Instagram, the sharing feature has been mutually beneficial for both Spotify and Instagram alike, as it made users’ Stories more engaging while also sending traffic back to the Spotify app for further music discovery.

Add some music to your story 📖
Audio sharing to Facebook Stories is now available. pic.twitter.com/HSBgmxYd8G

— Spotify (@Spotify) August 30, 2019

There’s likely not as much demand for sharing to Facebook Stories, however.

In order to share the 15-second clips to Facebook Stories, you’ll tap the “Share” button from the Spotify app and choose Facebook as the destination.

Side note: We’re not seeing the option to share to News Feed as the picture Spotify published shows (see above. Instead, tapping “Facebook” launches you right into the Story interface, as shown in the tweet above. 

You can then customize your Story as you would normally using the Story editing tools and post it to your profile. Viewers will get to hear the 15-second song clip, and can then tap to go to Spotify to hear more.

Spotify had offered Facebook Story sharing in the past, but the access was later pulled.

Hi there! We’re afraid the “Share to Facebook Stories” feature is no longer supported on Spotify. Give us a shout if you have other questions /MT

— SpotifyCares (@SpotifyCares) January 30, 2019

These song previews only work when you’re sharing a single track to Stories. If you choose to share other content, like albums, playlists, or an artist profile page, viewers can click into that content, but won’t hear any preview, Spotify says.

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Roli’s newest instrument, the Lumi, helps you learn to play piano with lights

Posted by | Gadgets, hardware, Keyboards, Media, Music, piano, ROLI | No Comments

There has been a longstanding gulf between the consumption of music and the creation of it: not everyone has the time or money to spend on lessons and instruments, and for those in school, many music education programs have been cut back over the years, making the option of learning to play instruments for free less common. Still others have had moments of interest but haven’t found the process of learning that easy.

Now we’re seeing a new wave of startups emerge that are attempting to tackle these issues with technology, creating tools and even new instruments that leverage smartphones and tablets, new hardware computing innovations and new software to make learning music more than just a pastime for a select few.

In the latest development, London startup Roli is launching a new interactive keyboard called the Lumi. Part colourful, sound-sensitive lightboard and part piano, the Lumi’s keys light up in a colorful array to help guide and teach you to play music. The 11-inch keyboard — which can be linked with one or two more of the same to add more octaves — comes with an iPad app that contains hundreds of pieces, and the two are now selling for $249 alongside a new Kickstarter to help drum up interest and offer early-bird discounts. The Kickstarter campaign blew through its modest £100,000 goal within a short while, and some of the smaller tiers of pledges are now sold out. The product will start shipping in October 2019, the company says.

As you might already know, or have guessed by the reaction to the kickstarter, this is not Roli’s first rodeo: the company has made two other major products (and variations on those two) before this, also aimed at music making. First came the Seaboard, which Roli described as a new instrument when it first launched. Taking the form factor of a keyboard, it contained squishy keys that let the player bend notes and create other effects alongside electronic-based percussive tapping, as you would do with a normal keyboard.

Its next product was Blocks: small, modular light boards that also used colored light to guide your playing and help you create new and interesting sounds and beats with taps (and using a similarly squidgy surface to the Seaboard) and then mix them together.

Both of these were interesting, but somewhat aimed at those who were already familiar with playing pianos or other instruments, or with creating and playing electronic music with synthesizers, FX processors and mixers. (Case in point: the people I know who were most interested in these were my DJ friends and my kids, who both play the piano and are a little nerdy about these things.)

The Lumi is in a way a step back for Roli from trying to break new ground by conceiving of completely new instruments, with new form factors built with the benefits of technology and electronics in mind. But it’s also a step ahead: using a keyboard as the basis of the instrument, the Lumi is more familiar and therefore more accessible — with an accessible price of $249 to go along with that.

Lumi’s emergence comes after an interesting few years of growth for Roli. The company is one of the select few (and I think the only one making musical instruments) to be retailed in Apple stores, and it’s had endorsements from some very high-profile people, but that’s about as mainstream as it has been up to now.

The startup’s founder and CEO, American-born Roland Lamb, is probably best described as a polymath, someone who comes across less as a geeky and nervous or (at the other end) ultra-smooth-talking startup founder, and more like a calm-voiced thinker who has come out to talk to you in a break between reading and writing about the nature of music and teaching a small philosophy seminar.

His background also speaks to this unconventional manner. Before coming to found Roli, he lived in a Zen monastery, made his way around the world playing jazz piano, and studied Chinese and Sanskrit at Harvard and design at the Royal College of Art.

Roli has always been a little cagey about how much it has raised and from whom, but the list includes consumer electronics giants like Sony, specialist audio makers like Onkyo, the music giant Universal Music Group and VCs that include Founders Fund, Index and LocalGlobe, Kreos Capital, Horizons Ventures and more. It’s also partnered with a number of big names like Pharrell Williams (who is also an investor) in the effort to get its name out.

And while it has most definitely made a mark with a certain echelon of the music world — producers and those creating electronic music — it has not parlayed that into a wider global reputation or wider accessibility. After bringing out instruments more for a high-end audience, the Lumi seems like an attempt to do just that.

That seems to be coming at the right time. Services like Spotify and YouTube — and the rise of phones and internet usage in general — have transformed how we listen to music. We now have a much wider array of things to listen to whenever we want. On top of that, services like YouTube and SoundCloud furthermore are giving us a taste of creating our own music: using electronic devices, we can go beyond what might have been limitations up to now (for example, having never learned to play an instrument in the traditional sense) to get stuck into the craft itself.

The Lumi is also tapping into another important theme, and that is of music being “good for you.” There is a line of thought that says learning an instrument is good for your mind, both if you’re a younger person who is still in school or indeed out of school and looking to stay sharp. Others believe it has health benefits.

But realistically, these beliefs don’t get applied very often. Roli cites stats that say that only 10% of adults aged 18-29 have played an instrument in the past year, and of those that played as children, some 80% say they quit by age 14.

Putting this together with the Lumi, it seems that the aim is to hit a wider swathe of the market and bring in people who might want to learn something like playing an instrument but previously thought it would be too much of a challenge.

Roli isn’t the first — nor likely the last — company to reconsider how to learn playing the piano through technology. The Chinese company ONE Music Group makes both smart pianos with keyboards that light up, as well as a strip that you overlay on any keyboard, that also corresponds to an iPad app to learn to play piano.

An American startup called McCarthy Music also makes illuminated-key pianos, also subscribing to the principle that providing this kind of guidance to teach muscle memory is an important step in getting a student acquainted with playing on a keyboard.

The Lumi is notable not just because of its cost, but its size — the single, lightweight keyboards have a battery life of six hours and can fit in a backback.

That said, Roli is hoping there will be a double audience to these in the longer term, bridging the divide between music maker and listener, but also amateur and pro.

“Many people would love to play an instrument but worry that they don’t have the talent. Through our research, design, and innovation at ROLI, we’ve come to believe that the problem is not a lack of talent. Rather, instruments themselves are not smart enough,” said Lamb in a statement. “What excites me most is that the intelligence of LUMI means that there’s something in it for everyone. On one hand my own kids now prefer LUMI time to movie time. On the other hand, several of the world’s leading keyboard players can’t wait to use LUMI in the studio and on the stage.”

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