streaming music

Spotify is testing its own version of Stories called ‘Storyline’

Posted by | artists, Media, Mobile, Music, Spotify, stories, Storyline, streaming music | No Comments

Spotify is testing its own version of Stories — the sharing format popularized by social apps like Snapchat and Instagram that has since made its way to other apps like Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and others. In Spotify’s case, it’s not called “Stories” but rather “Storyline,” and the focus is on allowing artists to share their own insights, inspiration, details about their creative process or other meanings behind the music.

This is very much similar to what Spotify’s “Behind the Lyrics” feature today offers. But instead of pop-up cards that load in time with the music, Spotify Storyline is very much a Stories-like experience, where users tap through the different screens at their own pace, and where horizontal lines at the top indicate how many screens still await them ahead.

@spotify hi. for about a yr now my band’s mgmt has tried get yall to take down some… outdated… facts on behind the lyrics for our song “Hard Times”.
the facts are: it’s all embarrassing & there was no “bright side”… hence the title, Hard Times.
thank you & goodnight.

— hayley from Paramore (@yelyahwilliams) April 24, 2019

By comparison, “Behind the Lyrics” pulls in this sort of background information from Spotify’s partner, Genius — and Genius doesn’t always get things right. This, in fact, was the cause of a bit of an uproar recently, when Paramore singer Hayley Williams took to Twitter to yell at Spotify for running “outdated facts” on “Behind the Lyrics” — something she said her management team had tried to get changed for a year.

After her tweet went viral, Genius reached out to help. But following the incident, music fans pointed out other inaccuracies in “Behind the Lyrics,” including misstated facts on 21 Pilots’ song “Jumpsuit” and Travis Scott’s “Yosemite,” for example.

For Spotify, one possible solution to this problem could be to allow artists and their management teams to take control over what’s displayed as the song plays — while adopting the popular Stories format in the process. But at present, the Storyline feature is appearing on top of “Behind the Lyrics,” which is a bit odd and confusing.

We understand that Storyline is only a test for the time being on both iOS and Android, but not desktop. It’s available in the U.S. and in other markets, but Spotify isn’t commenting as to who may be seeing the test at this time or where.

If you are a part of the test group, you’ll see an indicator on the bottom of the screen that alerts you to the additional content. You can then swipe up anywhere on the screen that’s not a button in order to reveal the story and start tapping. The stories may contain lyrics, text or images.

For the time being, there’s no direct way for any artist or management team to contribute to Storyline. Those involved are working with Spotify directly. But it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that the feature could be something that’s built into the Spotify Artist Dashboard in the future, if it proved to deliver the sort of positive engagement Spotify hopes to see.

The feature, if launched, would give Spotify its own sort of original content — an area that hadn’t fared so well in the past when Spotify was producing its own original videos, for example. And it would better cater to Spotify’s younger demographic who already understand and regularly use Stories in other social apps.

Android Police was first to spot the news (via Reddit), and found it was live on a handful of songs, including Jonas Brothers’ “Sucker” and several by Billie Eilish (“Bad Guy,” “Bury a Friend,” “When the Party’s Over,” “Wish You Were Gay”). We also understand it’s showing up on MAX’s “Love Me Less.” Plus, Reddit users claim to have seen on it 2 Chainz’ “Forgiven,” The Beaches’ “Snake Tongue,” and others.

Spotify confirmed in a brief statement to TechCrunch it’s testing Storyline.

“We are always testing new ways to create better experiences for more users,” a spokesperson said, when asked about the feature. The company didn’t offer any information about when it would roll out more broadly.

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Spotify’s leanback instant listening app Stations hits iOS

Posted by | Apps, Australia, iOS apps, Media, Mobile, Music, radio, Spotify, streaming, streaming music | No Comments

Spotify has launched its instant listening app Stations on iOS, but only in Australia for the time being. The release comes nearly a year and a half after the Stations app first arrived on the market, initially for Android users in Australia. Dubbed an “experiment,” the app allows users to jump right into streaming instead of having to curate their own playlists or stations, or save favorite music to their library.

Unlike Spotify’s flagship application, the Stations app presents users with a minimalist interface where available playlists are displayed with an oversized font. You can scroll up and down between the playlists to select one, instead of typing in a search box or searching through voice commands.

When launching Stations, music begins playing automatically — a feature that had some calling it a “Pandora copycat” at the time of launch, given that instant music playback is something that Spotify’s rival Pandora already supports.

Stations was largely designed for those who want a more radio-like experience that involves less manual input. Free users will hear ads, be able to thumbs up and down songs, but can’t skip tracks. Premium users who download Stations get unlimited skips and ad-free listening.

The Stations app today features a range of playlists by genre, decade, activity and more, but also becomes personalized to the end-user over time. You can also opt to create your own stations by selecting from favorite artists in an experience that’s reminiscent of the customization offered today by YouTube Music — right down to the rounded artist profile photos you tap on.

As you listen to music on Stations, you can thumbs up and down songs in order to have it create custom stations personalized to you — including a Discover Weekly playlist, Release Radar and a Favorites playlist.

Not much had been heard about Stations since its January 2018 debut. And its limited release — it never hit the U.S., for example — could have indicated it was an experiment that didn’t quite pan out.

But it now seems that’s not the case, given the new expansion to iOS.

By offering the app to more users, Spotify has the chance to learn and collect data from a larger and more representative group of people. Whether or not it takes any ideas from Stations to its main app remains to be seen.

The company declined to comment on its plans, when asked.

“At Spotify, we routinely conduct a number of tests in an effort to improve our user experience,” a spokesperson said. “Some of those tests end up paving the path for our broader user experience and others serve only as an important learning. We aren’t going to comment on specific tests at this time,” they added.

Stations is live now on iOS in Australia. More information on the app is on the (newly updated) Help site here.

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Media fragmentation is annoying consumers

Posted by | Advertising Tech, Amazon, Assistant, augmented reality, cloud storage, deloitte, digital media, Entertainment, esports, executive, Gaming, Google, internet television, Media, Multimedia, Music, new media, Podcasts, San Francisco, Streaming Media, streaming music, streaming video, TC, television, United States, user generated content, video games, Virtual reality | No Comments

Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications division published its 13th-annual Digital Media Trends survey, focused on identifying changes in the ways US consumers engage with various types of media.

Led by an independent research firm, the survey had roughly 2,000 consumer respondents across demographics – with the report categorizing respondents based on age (Gen-Z: ages 14-21, Millenials: 22-35, Gen-X: 36-52, Boomers: 53-71, and Matures: 72+).

While already accompanied by a succinct 13-page executive summary, the report can largely be summarized in just a couple of sentences: more people are using streaming or alternative media services than ever before, largely due to more user freedom and customization, though the growing quantity and fragmentation of platforms are becoming more frustrating for users to manage.

The survey results directionally echo already well-discussed dynamics, which we’ve previously dug into such as here, here and here. Instead, the most poignant aspects of the report were not the answers or conclusions themselves, but the immense level of support many of them received.

 

Somewhat interesting:

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YouTube Music and YouTube Premium come to India

Posted by | Apps, india, Media, Mobile, Music, streaming music, streaming service, YouTube, YouTube Music, YouTube Premium | No Comments

YouTube Music is coming to the next critical battlefield for streaming music services: India. The company announced this week it’s launching its ad-supported version of YouTube Music for free in the country, as well as YouTube Music Premium, its subscription that offers background listening, offline downloads and an ad-free experience for ₹99 a month.

In addition, YouTube Premium, which extends offline play, background listening and the removal of ads across YouTube, is also launching in India. This will include access to YouTube Original programming like Cobra Kai, BTS: Burn The Stage and others, and ships with the Music Premium subscription for ₹129 (rupees) per month.

This is not Google’s first entry into the streaming music market in India. The company already operates Google Play Music — and now, those subscribers will gain access to YouTube Music as part of their subscription, the company says.

India is a key market for streaming services because of its sizable population of 1.3 billion people, many of whom are still coming online for the first time. (Only some 483 million are active internet users today).

Already, Apple and Amazon operate their music services in the region in addition to local players like Gaana, Saavn and others. Spotify also made an India launch a strategic focus this year.

However, Spotify’s entry into India has been complicated by a licensing dispute with Warner Music (WMG’s Warner/Chappell publishing arm, specifically). That conflict led to Spotify arriving in the market without some of today’s biggest artists, like Cardi B. and Ed Sheeran. The case has been ugly: Warner sued Spotify asking for an emergency injunction; Spotify then accused Warner of “abusive behavior;” and Warner called Spotify a “liar.”

Despite its legal troubles, Spotify hit 1 million users in India within a week of launching. That bodes well for its potential when it gets through the legal battles.

Unlike Spotify, YouTube Music is fully licensed as it enters the region — a potential competitive advantage for the time being. It also has a deal with Samsung where Galaxy S10 owners can gain four months of YouTube Premium/YouTube Music Premium for free. (But Spotify has a deeper Samsung partnership, involving preinstalls and Bixby integrations.)

For YouTube, a win in India is needed, as its streaming music service hasn’t picked up traction to date.

To some extent, that’s because YouTube users know they can get to music videos for free, but it also has to do with Google’s baffling strategy in operating two separate brands around music. Apple doesn’t make this mistake. It leverages the power of its platform to promote its only music service, Apple Music.

That may have gotten it into trouble, though — today, Spotify filed a complaint with the European Commission over the “Apple tax” levied on its rivals and its restrictive rules.

Google has said it plans to merge its two music services at some point, but for now the split likely leads to confusion.

“India is where the multi-lingual music scene thrives,” said Lyor Cohen, global head of Music, YouTube, in a statement. “It’s interesting to note how Indian artists have consistently claimed top spots over the last few months in the Global YouTube Top Artists chart. With YouTube Music, we are hoping to bring the best in global and Indian music to millions of fans across India, and give them an immersive music experience, with the magic of music on YouTube,” he added.

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Pandora-powered channels will come to SiriusXM’s app this year

Posted by | Media, mergers, Mobile, Music, Pandora, radio, siriusxm, streaming, streaming music | No Comments

SiriusXM this week offered a few more details on how it plans to leverage its newest asset, Pandora, following its $3.5 billion acquisition of the streaming music service last year, which officially closes on Friday. At the time of the deal, the company spoke about the potential for cross-promotion opportunities between the services and new subscription packages. Now, those efforts are getting off the ground — starting with a promotion within the Pandora app for SiriusXM subscriptions, followed by the launch of Pandora channels within the SiriusXM app.

Currently, SiriusXM offers a variety of programming packages, ranging from a cheaper ($11/mo) “Mostly Music” sampling of channels all the way up to a premium “All Access” ($21/mo) subscription. It also runs various time-limited promotions that offer its service for as little as $5 per month for a set period, like six months.

According to Sirius XM CEO James Meyer — speaking to investors on the Q4 earnings call on Wednesday — the company will now start promoting special SiriusXM packages to Pandora listeners.

The company, he said, intends “to capitalize on cross-promotion opportunities between SiriusXM’s more than 36 million subscribers across North America and Pandora’s approximately 70 million monthly active users. In early February, we will begin a targeted promotion to SiriusXM subscribers and Pandora listeners,” he noted. “Select Pandora listeners will receive an offer to obtain a unique $5 a month ‘Mostly News,’ ‘Mostly Music’ or ‘News Talk’ [SiriusXM subscription] package in their satellite-equipped vehicle.”

In other words, SiriusXM will be pushing low-cost $5 per month streaming plans within the Pandora app itself.

The company believes the cross-promotions will be successful because of the overlap in the two services’ customer bases. It found that approximately half of the owners of the SiriusXM-enabled vehicle fleet of 100 million cars have used Pandora in the past two years, for example. SiriusXM aims to leverage those Pandora listeners’ data in order to convert, retain or bring them back to SiriusXM.

In addition, the exec said that existing SiriusXM subscribers would receive extended 14-day trials to Pandora’s Premium service.

By mid-2019, the company plans to launch a new Pandora-powered channel within its own SiriusXM app, based on their favorite artist. It will also add a new radio channel to the SiriusXM app that’s driven by the latest trends from Pandora’s “billions of thumbs” — meaning the “thumbs up” (likes), songs receive within the streaming app.

Meyer spoke briefly about the challenges facing Pandora — specifically a decline in listening hours, which SiriusXM believes can be fixed by improving Pandora’s in-car listening statistics, making the Pandora app more compelling, and adding more content.

“This is just the beginning. We expect, over time, to create new, unique audio packages that will bring together the best of both services, creating a powerful platform for artists to reach their fans and to create new audiences,” said Meyer.

The merger of the two companies has not been without upheaval, though.

This week, the company announced that Pandora CEO Roger Lynch and other executives would be stepping down, including general counsel Steve Bene, CFO Naveen Chopra and chief human resources officer Kristen Robinson. Meyer will instead lead the combined company, he said, in order to streamline decision-making and increase the speed of the integrations.

SiriusXM reported record revenues for the fourth quarter and year, at $1.5 billion and $5.8 billion, respectively. Net income was $251 million for the quarter, up from a loss of $37 million in the year-ago period. Full-year 2018 net income grew 81 percent to a record $1.2 billion.

The newly combined company will have more than 100 million listeners in North America, with nearly 40 million self-paying subscribers and more than 75 million on trials or using ad-based products.

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YouTube Music turns its Top Charts into playlists

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

Earlier this year, Apple Music launched some of its top charts as playlist series. Today, YouTube is doing something similar. The company announced it’s making its YouTube Charts available as playlists in YouTube Music to users across the 29 markets where the music service is live. Each market will receive five of these “charts playlists” — three specific to their country, and two global lists, the company says.

The Top 100 Songs and the Top 100 Music Videos will be offered both as local and global playlists, while the Top 20 Trending Songs will be offered as a local playlist.

This latter playlist is updated several times per day in order to offer a real-time view into current music trends in a specific country. It’s also the first “dedicated external signal of the country’s most-viewed new music on the YouTube platform,” Google explained in a blog post this afternoon.

The other Top 100 Songs and Music Video charts are calculated differently and updated less often. The Top Songs is based on the overall performance of a song on YouTube by view count, which includes counting all the official versions of a song — meaning, the official music video, the user-generated content that uses the official song and lyric videos.

The Top Songs chart is updated weekly, according to YouTube’s documentation on how the charts are calculated.

The Top 100 Music Videos ranks the official music videos by view count in the previous week. It’s also updated weekly.

By comparison, YouTube Music’s Top Songs and Music Videos charts seem to have the potential to be more stale than those on rival services. For example, when Apple announced its Top 100 Songs chart would be available both as global and local playlists, it said it would update them daily at 12 AM PT based on Apple Music streams. Spotify’s top charts are also available both as daily and weekly charts.

“The charts, currently topped globally by Ariana Grande’s ‘thank u, next,‘ are the most accurate reflection of what’s happening in music culture and based purely on the number of views from more than 1 billion global music fans on YouTube each month,” noted the post, which does speak to YouTube Music’s strength.

Apple Music and Spotify are both fighting to break into the triple-digit millions in terms of paying customers, while Spotify is nearing 200 million total actives. But YouTube has a billion-plus users from which to generate its data. That’s not insignificant.

The new charts-turned-playlists are now available in the YouTube Music app. The playlists will appear on users’ home screens and be surfaced through search, says YouTube.

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Spotify tests native voice search, groundwork for smart speakers

Posted by | Apps, Entertainment, Mobile, smart speakers, Spotify, Startups, streaming music, TC, voice control, voice search | No Comments

Now Spotify listens to you instead of the other way around. Spotify has a new voice search interface that lets you say “Play my Discover Weekly,” “Show Calvin Harris” or “Play some upbeat pop” to pull up music.

A Spotify spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that this is “Just a test for now,” as only a small subset of users have access currently, but the company noted there would be more details to share later. The test was first spotted by Hunter Owens. Thanks to him we have a video demo of the feature below that shows pretty solid speech recognition and the ability to access music several different ways.

Voice control could make Spotify easier to use while on the go using microphone headphones or in the house if you’re not holding your phone. It might also help users paralyzed by the infinite choices posed by the Spotify search box by letting them simply call out a genre or some other category of songs. Spotify briefly tested but never rolled out a very rough design of “driving mode” controls a year ago.

Down the line, Spotify could perhaps develop its own voice interface for smart speakers from other companies or that it potentially builds itself. That would relieve it from depending on Apple’s Siri for HomePod, Google’s Assistant for Home or Amazon’s Alexa for Echo — all of which have accompanying music streaming services that compete with Spotify. Apple chose to make its HomePod speaker Apple Music-only, cutting out Spotify. Its Siri service similarly won’t let people make commands inside third-party apps, so you can ask your iPhone to play a certain song on Apple Music, but not Spotify.

To date, Spotify has only worked with manufacturers to build its Spotify Connect features into boomboxes and home stereos from companies like Bose, rather than creating its own hardware. If it chooses to make Spotify-branded speakers, it might need some of its own voice technology to power them.

Spotify is preparing for a direct listing that will make the company public without a traditional IPO. That means forgoing some of the marketing circus that usually surrounds a company’s debut. That means Spotify may be even more eager to experiment with features or strategies that could be future money-makers so that public investors see growth potential. Breaking into voice directly instead of via its competitors could provide that ‘x-factor.’

For more on Spotify’s not-an-IPO, check out our feature story:

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To fix SoundCloud, it must become the anti-Spotify

Posted by | apple music, Apps, Dubset, eCommerce, Entertainment, Mobile, Opinion, Remixes, soundcloud, Spotify, Startups, streaming music, TC | No Comments

 Startups die by suicide, not competition. It wasn’t that anyone was stealing SoundCloud’s underground rappers, bedroom remixers and garage bands. SoundCloud stumbled because it neglected these hardcore loyalists as it wrongly strove to usurp Spotify as the streaming home of music’s superstars. Read More

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Pandora made $80M in U.S. app store revenue in Q3, booting Netflix from the top grossing spot

Posted by | app revenue, app stores, Apps, Mobile, Music, Pandora, sensor tower, streaming music | No Comments

 In the face of fierce competition from Spotify and Apple Music, Pandora has been growing its in-app subscription revenues, according to new data from Sensor Tower. The streaming music service earned the number one spot on the chart of top grossing apps in Q3 2017, excluding games. It’s the first time Pandora has held that position since the third quarter of 2015.
Fueling the music… Read More

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Spotify launches an app for artists with real-time streaming data, audience demographics

Posted by | Apps, artists, iOS apps, Media, Mobile, Music, Spotify, streaming, streaming music, TC | No Comments

 In the music streaming era, artists want to know how their music is being discovered, who’s listening, where, how many have streamed their release and what else their fans are into, among other things. Today, Spotify is releasing an app for artists that aims to answer these questions, while also giving artists a way to update their profile and connect with listeners while on the go. Read More

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