Category: Spotify

KCRW launches Spotify application

A screenshot from the KCRW Spotify app
Spotify earlier this week unveiled an upgrade to its streaming radio features, allowing mobile users to sample stations based on artists, genres and time periods, as well as hatch a more personalized station from a selected playlist or track. Today, Spotify added an actual in-real-life radio station to its stable, as influential Santa Monica public radio station KCRW-FM (89.9) has launched its very own application for the popular music-on-demand service. 

Dubbed "KCRW Music Mine," the app is inspired by the station's already-developed iPad app and offers a very streamlined experience. Upon launching via Spotify's desktop client, users can scroll through up to 100 tracks at a time, as well as view selections handpicked from KCRW personalities and listen to up-to-the-minute, on-air playlists. If there's an obvious difference between the Spotify and iPad apps, it's that the latter format allows for more editorial and design flourishes.

KCRW's Spotify app is updated with the day's top track, and one can easily explore the breadth of an artist's Spotify catalog from the app's home page. Also, Spotify users who missed a favorite KCRW show -- or didn't catch the name of a specific act while driving to work -- can easily head to the app, click a DJ's photo and set aside the playlist for later exploration.

KCRW boasts that it is the first U.S. radio station to launch a Spotify app.

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Image: A screenshot from KCRW's Spotify application.

Spotify updates its radio function, takes on Pandora

Spotify radio
The popular music service Spotify announced today an update and improvement to its radio function, one that aims to go head to head with Pandora, the online streaming service that handpicks playlists based on listeners' favorite artists and musical styles. To wit: The Spotify app, once available only to premium subscribers, is now also available to users of the free service.

The major update is aimed at mobile devices, an outlet on which Pandora has a virtual lock when it comes to listening to streamed music on the go. That company's popular app is ubiquitous on smart phones; by updating its application and concentrating on radio, Spotify hopes to parlay its increased visibility into taking a chunk of Pandora's market share.

So that's the business aspect. But how does Spotify measure up from a listener's perspective? I've always been of the mind that there are two types of listeners: those who prefer to pick their own soundtrack, and those who rely on tastemakers to help them match their mood with their music. That's one reason why I have been a vocal fan of Spotify and have devoted less attention to Pandora. I choose my music, and opt for other means of discovery. But I have the luxury of access to a lot of music.

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Spotify's new apps help the quest for love

Tastebuds

A week after Spotify released its long-awaited iPad application, the popular online music streaming service is helping its millions of users look for love with two new apps.

Tastebuds and Fellody, which were released Thursday, plug into users’ musical tastes and provide matches based on their personalized playlists –- those who find it a deal breaker if a potential mate hates Kanye West or Katy Perry can find out online instead of during an awkward first date.

Tastebuds matches users with a potential partner based on the artists they have listened to the most on Spotify, and Fellody lets users drag and drop their playlists before searching for matches. Both apps allow users to filter results by gender, age and location.

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Robb McDaniels of INgrooves dishes on the state of digital music

Robb McDaniels InGrooves

What do Thievery Corporation, Universal Music Group and Dolly Parton have in common? They all use INgrooves to distribute their music to more than 600 digital stores worldwide, including iTunes, Amazon.com, eMusic, 7Digital, Verizon Wireless and countless others.

San Francisco-based INgrooves has been in business for 10 years, but few people have heard of it or its chief executive, Robb McDaniels. That’s beginning to change, in part because the company earlier this year purchased Fontana, a Los Angeles distributor of physical albums for more than 200 independent labels.

INgrooves is turning the most heads, however, for its role in the new digital economy. Last year, INgrooves distributed songs that rang up roughly $1 billion in digital revenue. And while it's true that distribution isn’t the kingmaker it once was, as only a handful of labels have the resources to ship albums to thousands of physical stores, it's an interesting perch from which to witness the digital tidal wave that has permanently transformed the music industry’s retail landscape.

As a sign of how much things have changed, McDaniels, 37, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address on Wednesday at the annual Music Biz conference of the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers, the 54-year-old group once dominated by the likes of Tower Records, HMV and Virgin Megastore.

We spoke with McDaniels, a former financial analyst for Marsh & McLennan Securities, about the next wave of technology to hit the mainstream music industry in the solar plexus -- on-demand streaming services such as Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG, Rdio, Slacker, Muve and others.

Now instead of getting pennies per download, artists are having to wrap their heads around building their careers on fractions of pennies per play. Here’s an edited version of the interview.

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Spotify for iPad arrives, aims to become 'the OS of music'

Photo
The race for digital music supremacy got a little more interesting this morning when Spotify, the online music streaming service that has quickly become both an industry standard and a key online innovator, released its long-awaited iPad application, replacing the dinky half-size iPhone app that preceded it. The new software, available free to premium subscribers, aims to further erode Apple's dominance in digital music -- through Apple's own devices.

Though available only to listeners who pay the monthly $9.99 fee, Spotify is currently offering a free 48-hour trial, which can be extended to 30 days after the initial run expires if (of course) you're willing to sacrifice some information/data about yourself. It's a good way to make your own decision about whether or not the service merits all the hubbub that has sprung up around it.

Granted, Spotify has a mere 3 million premium subscribers, and not all of them have iPads, so the percentage of listeners/readers who will be affected by this news is relatively small. But that doesn't mean that the new app hasn't advanced the conversation on the future of digital music yet another step.

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Grooveshark: Still free, but now with strings

Grooveshark_Logo_Horizontal

Grooveshark, the popular if controversial digital music service, on Friday said it has launched a video advertising program that it hopes will generate revenue from corporate sponsors.

The service lets people listen to millions of songs for free. It also has a premium service that lets users listen without ads for $6 a month, or access the service music on Android of BlackBerry phones for $9 a month.

To help defray the cost of the free service, Grooveshark is testing ways to get its users to pay either with their credit cards or their time. Frequent Grooveshark users who don't pay money will be prompted to watch a sponsored video. Each time they watch a video, which can last anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute, they get four hours of free listening. 

The Gainesville, Fla., company is trying to make the proposition more palatable to its audience by featuring videos promoting "up-and-coming indie" artists such as the Tenant and Quiet Company that are paid for by corporate sponsors. 

Outside the U.S., Grooveshark is also testing a prompt that asks some users to contribute anywhere from $2 to $9 to "keep the music going." Opting to pay nothing would cue up a video ad. 

While Grooveshark is a hit with music listeners (it counts more than 30 million registered users), it is less popular with music-rights holders. The company currently faces lawsuits from three of the four major record labels -- Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music.

Only EMI Music, along with a number of independent labels, has granted Grooveshark licenses to use its music catalogs. Those songs are on the legal up-and-up, so to speak. Many "files" streamed on the Grooveshark service, however, were copyrighted uploaded by its users in violation of Grooveshark's terms of service.

Grooveshark has maintained that, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is not responsible for the actions of its users so long as its executives do not know about, sanction or benefit financially from the infringements.

If this legalese is making your eyes cross, imagine what it's doing to the attorneys' fees racking up on both sides. No wonder Grooveshark is rattling its tin cup.

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Tracing the history of music with Spotify's new Facebook timeline

Spotify unveiled a Facebook Timeline that seeks to offer a chronology of music from the last 900 years
It used to take years of study -- geeked-out reading, connecting far-flung dots in random discographies, combing liner notes for dates and label mates, taking a "jazz, pop and rock" class in college -- to give yourself a well-rounded music education. But Spotify this morning introduced a tool that seeks to offer information and advice on music over the last 900 years, and in the process connect dots in a much easier way: A Facebook Timeline that spans the centuries and pinpoints important dates, recordings, movements, births and key releases across the entire world of music.

Considering that even five years ago something like this would have been impossible to construct due to licensing restrictions and technological shortcomings, the new timeline is impressive to behold; but even more intriguing is its potential. 

Here's what Spotify says about the idea in a post about the new timeline:

"We've decided to take our page one step further and turn it into a destination where you can discover and listen to the history of music. If you're looking to learn when Frank Sinatra released his first album, what year Monteverdi was born, when Britney released ... Baby One More Time, what were the biggest music stories in 1969, or just how old you were when L’il Wayne put out Tha Carter III then we've got you covered."

That's a pretty remarkable breadth, and although the timeline has gaping holes in it, the architecture is there. Drop down to, say, 1959, and factoids on important moments from that year, with links to key recordings, offer context: a link to Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" album notes that it was the first million-selling jazz album, and sits in the timeline aside a tidbit on Ornette Coleman's "epochal" record "The Shape of Jazz to Come." You can compare their sounds side by side, then move below to listen to another important jazz record from that year, Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue," which sits alongside an entry on the birth of Motown Records, which started in 1959 in Detroit. 

Jump anywhere along the timeline and school yourself on the year-by-year evolution of music. What happened in 1098? Hildegard of Bingen, seminal early composer, was born (of course). What happened 900 years later? Britney Spears released her first single, "... Baby One More Time," Sinatra died, and Gorillaz released their debut full-length.

Granted, this is a work in progress; the only three entries in 1991 thus far are about Nirvana, Massive Attack and Bryan Adams, and there are only two so far in 1990. But Spotify in its announcement assures its listeners/readers that this is just the beginning and that the timeline will continue to add dates over the coming weeks. 

Even better, the company has invited fans to chime in on what important dates should be included. Already grand declarations have arrived espousing the importance of topics including the arrival of grunge and Soundgarden and punker Sid Vicious' death. There's also a suggestion that "everything from Pimp C and UGK" be added.

One commenter notes that there's a gaping hole of classical composers from the 18th and 19th centuries, including Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and more. But it's still early, so ignore the fact that the dearth of rap music is noticeable, that there's no mention of the Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society" but there is mention of the Monkees, that the overall coverage is spotty and that some of the entries may spark arguments. The important thing is that something like this exists, and its potential utility is obvious.

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@liledit

Spotify extends free unlimited music. But why?

Spotify is completely free -- for now

Nine months after Spotify launched in the U.S., the Swedish digital music company announced that it will extend its unlimited free service -- at least for the time being.

The free service comes with advertising, and Spotify continues to offer a premium, ad-free service that costs $5 a month for computer access to its catalog of 16 million tunes or $10 a month to listen on mobile devices.

So the "honeymoon," as the company calls it, continues.

That could mean one of two things. The first is that Spotify is so successful at converting free users to paid users that it doesn't feel the need to start limiting the all-you-can-eat buffet for its non-paying users.

While Spotify does not release U.S. specific numbers, it did update its figures to say that it currently has 3 million paying customers out of 10 million "active users," that is, people who have logged into the service at least once in the last 30 days. 

The second possibility is that Spotify is selling more ads for the free service, making it less of a financial drag on the company. Spotify must pay labels a fee each time a song is played on the free service. The conventional wisdom has been that the ad revenue Spotify receives has not been enough to cover those costs. If that equation has changed, Spotify would have less of a reason to move people on to the premium service.

In Europe, Spotify also rolled back its five-spins-per-song limit, put in place back in April 2011, for Finland, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands and Spain. (The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland still have such limits.) And all 12 European countries continue to operate with a 10-hour-a-month cap. New Spotify users are exempt for caps until after they've used the service for six months.

But Americans are getting an indefinite break. Enjoy it while it lasts. 

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Artwork courtesy of Spotify. 

 

Is Spotify the new music platform? Songkick thinks so

Songkick_founders_pete_michelle_ian

Bands may think of platforms as stages for their performances. But in the digital world, the platforms themselves are the new rock and roll. Just think -- Android is a platform. Apple's iOS is a platform. And so is Facebook. 

Next up: Spotify? Ian Hogarth, the charismatic chief executive of Songkick, certainly thinks so. Last year, when Spotify announced it would welcome music applications on its digital music streaming service, Songkick was among the first to sign on.

The Songkick app clues Spotify listeners when their favorite bands will be in town and hooks them up with ticket vendors. Those who use Songkick end up attending twice as many concerts a year after downloading the app as they did before, leading big investors such as Sequoia Capital to invest $10 million in the London-based company.

What makes platforms so sexy and valuable is their ability to gather big audiences that make purchases by the billion. Android, for example, is embedded in more than 300 million mobile phones and tablets. Apple's iOS is so prevalent that the company recently boasted 25 billion application downloads. And Facebook has 800 million active users.

Hogarth now believes that Spotify is the next big audience aggregator, except in a narrower sense. 

"Spotify is the first mainstream vertical platform for music," said the 30-year-old British entrepreneur.  

His proof: The Songkick app has been downloaded 100,000 times since it was made available on Spotify late last year, Hogarth announced Wednesday. While that's just a fraction of the 5 million people who use Songkick each month, Hogarth is convinced that it will take off.

Right now, that might seem like a stretch, he admits. Though Spotify counts 10 million active users, 3 million of whom pay for the premium versions, it has just a dozen or so apps on its platform, including ones from Rolling Stone magazine, Def Jam, Warner Music, Tweetvine and others.

Is Hogarth correct? Time will tell.

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Photo: Songkick co-founders Pete Smith, Michelle You and Ian Hogarth. Credit: Songkick. 

SXSW 2012: Sean Parker predicts a 'war' between labels, artists

Spotify
Late Tuesday in Austin, Texas, two outdoor stages at the annual festival and conference that is South by Southwest were being erected in an empty lot. Around the corner, a twentysomething-looking gentleman was hawking a dog. “Healthy dog, $12,” he said. The canine peddler received little more than quizzical looks. It’s almost as if he were trying to convine the music industry that there’s money to be made in online streaming services.

The cash, however, is very real, according to Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who spoke at a SXSW panel. While pledging an allegiance to neutrality, Parker essentially sounded the sirens of battle and predicted a bout between labels and artists.

“There’s blood in the water,” said Parker, who has invested in Spotify and sits on the company’s board. He vowed that the service, which entices users to sign up for subscriptions after utilizing a free, ad-supported version, will soon become one of the biggest sources of income for labels.

PHOTOS: South by Southwest

“Spotify is returning a huge amount of money. We’ll overtake iTunes in terms of what we bring to the record industry in under two years,” Parker said.

Meanwhile, major artists such as Coldplay, the Black Keys and Paul McCartney have opted out of some of the streaming services. Parker said Spotify must remain “neutral." If artists aren’t seeing cash from the service, he said, it's due to outdated label contracts.

“There’s definitely some sort of dissent brewing between labels, publishing companies and artists,” Parker said. “A lot of it has to do with older licensing schemes. There’s a lot of artists whose contracts are written in such a way that they do not get paid for what’s happening on streaming services.”

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