Category: Spotify

Billboard Hot 100 now counts on-demand streams

Billboard Logo

Is your song hot or not? 

Billboard, the publisher of the Hot 100 singles and other music charts, will be incorporating spins from on-demand streams from services such as Spotify, Rhapsody, Muve, MOG, Slacker and Rdio in determining which songs top its charts. It will also publish a new chart for top on-demand streaming tunes, with the first chart debuting Wednesday.

The change in the industry's de facto hotness formula is a joint effort between the magazine, Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems and the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers.

"With some of these services growing exponentially and integrating into the social web, the time is right to launch a streaming chart and to incorporate this activity into the Hot 100," said Bill Werde, Billboard's editorial director.

The charts will rely on data from Nielsen, which has been tracking digital music streams since 2005, but had not publicly shared the information. In the first 70 days of this year, Nielsen said it captured 4.5 billion audio streams -- 494 million during the week that ended March 4, up from 321 million in the week ended Jan. 1. Nielsen does not track Pandora, which does not provide data to Nielsen on its personalized radio streaming service to more than 20 million users. 

Among the nuggets found in Nielsen's data, which will be released Wednesday along with Billboard's new On-Demand Songs chart and the revamped Hot 100, is that streaming activity decreased 17% in the week after Christmas, while digital download sales jumped 20% -- presumably from people cashing in their iTunes and gift cards.

Those looking for evidence that streaming services eat into music sales will be disappointed -- even as on-demand streams hit all time highs this year, digital track sales are up 7% so far this year compared with the same period in 2011.


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The Black Keys black out Spotify, others from streaming 'El Camino'

-- Alex Pham

Facebook makes listening to music downright social

Just heard a great new track you can't wait to have your friends experience? Facebook now makes it easy to listen to it together.

Facebook makes listening to music downright social
Everywhere you look, people are going about their lives to the tunes of their own personal soundtrack. They sweat through “YMCA” at the gym, pound out programming code to Rammstein's brutal beats and nurse broken hearts with a mournful Bach cello concerto.

In the last few decades, technology has transformed music from a social gathering experience to an intensely solitary one in which donning a pair of headphones in public is equivalent to shouting, “Leave me alone!”

But in a move that shows the pendulum is swinging back toward a more social listening experience,Facebook just rolled out a feature that allows users to listen to music online with their friends — and host virtual DJ parties.

“You can listen to the same song, at the exact same time,” Alexandre Roche, a product designer at Facebook, wrote in a blog post last week announcing the new feature, “so when your favorite vocal part comes in you can experience it together, just like when you're jamming out at a performance or dance club.”

The concept of “social listening” is a modern day twist on the days when friends got together to take turns playing music for each other. A Saturday night's entertainment meant bringing a stack of albums and a six-pack to someone's house.

On Facebook, listeners can be miles away, engaged in different activities but still be sharing a narrow slice of life.

“Someone else can be going about whatever they are doing, and through music, you can just jump into that reality and experience what they're experiencing,” Roche said in an interview. “If they're having a bad day, you can experience that with them. If they see that a friend is listening with them, it might even brighten their day.”

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The Black Keys black out Spotify, MOG, Rdio and Rhapsody

The Black Keys
The Black Keys' latest album, "El Camino," is out everywhere -- except Spotify, Rdio and Rhapsody.

The band's decision, first reported by Digital Music News, comes after Coldplay and Mac Miller made similar calls earlier this year to withhold their newest releases from streaming music services that give subscribers online access to millions of albums on demand -- either for free during a trial period or for a monthly fee.

The move highlights a fear among bands and music labels that having a new album available for streaming would result in lower sales.

Spotify has refuted this notion, saying music sales in aggregate tend to increase in markets where it introduces its service. Other music services have argued that streaming music actually helps listeners discover new songs that lead to purchases that would not have occurred otherwise.

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Facebook's music ambitions get louder

Facebook Timeline

Online streaming service Spotify has been quick to lend its support to Facebook's new music integration features, which the social media site unveiled at its F8 conference Thursday. Spotify chief Daniel Ek not only appeared at F8, but his company also unveiled a video in which it immediately declared that Spotify "hearts" Facebook. 

It doesn't take much scanning of social networking sites to see that a signficant number of users are, perhaps, more skeptical of the changes than are Ek and Spotify. Yet if Facebook's users ultimately adapt to the company's newly designed profiles, dubbed Timeline, they will find that music has the potential to play a more prominent role on the social network than ever before. With Timeline, which can be previewed on Facebook, each profile wall becomes sort of an online magazine, and applications are slotted in mini, block-like sections. 

The goal is to make it easier to listen and share music directly from a Facebook profile. So if a user, for instance, recommends a song from Spotify and allows that application to appear in a Timeline, a friend/follower can simply press a play button to listen to that song on the service. From the previews available online, it appears that such a feature would require both users to have an application installed. 

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Spotify as the industry's savior? Century Media doesn't think so

Spotify waited more than a year to come to the U.S. market. Metal label Century Media, which has its U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles, waited about a month to pull its content from the ad-supported streaming service.

In a detailed post, Century noted that CD and vinyl "sales are dropping drastically in all countries where Spotify is active." Don Robertson, Century Media Records North American president, is on site today at the Warped Tour, but responded to questions via email. Although Robertson didn't break out his responses to each Pop & Hiss inquiry, he  was asked whether the label, which has a greater presence in Europe, had seen a specific drop-off in sales overseas before making the decision to remove its content.

"Certainly, overseas statistics influenced this choice, but it was not the only factor," Robertson wrote. "Although we whole-heartedly recognize Spotify as a new and exciting avenue for fans to gain access to music, in its current form, it does not allow for the artists on the Century Media roster and its affiliated labels to derive the profit needed to sustain their respective careers ... and it would appear to hurt both new music and catalog sales equally."

Spotify today responded to Century's decision to leave the service.

"We are sorry that Century Media have opted not to offer its music to their fans through Spotify," read a statement from the company. "Spotify was launched out of a desire to develop a better, more convenient and legal alternative to music piracy.  Spotify now monetises an audience the large majority of whom were downloading illegally (and therefore not making any money for the industry) before Spotify was available."

While neither Robertson's comment nor Century Media's published statement offers any hard numbers as evidence, the question as to whether or not ad-supported streaming services could support a label's business has long been a concern for the industry. It's not news that streaming services have long been targeted for giving labels relatively small payouts.

Brian Brandt, who runs the classical- and jazz-focused label Mode Records, today posted an essay on, which was subsequently picked up by Billboard Magazine. Brandt posted some Spotify figures from June: "A big individual seller that month, by composer Luciano Berio, was streamed 1,326 times through Spotify; our income $4.18. So, we earn about 1/3 of a penny per stream. And these meager amounts should be split with the artists and composers."

Still, Spotify noted that the company has become a rather sizable business.

"Spotify," continued the company in its statement, "is now generating serious revenues for rights holders; since our launch just three years ago, we have paid over $100 million to labels and publishers, who, in turn, pass this on to the artists, composers and authors they represent. Indeed, a top Swedish music executive was recently quoted as saying that Spotify is currently the biggest single revenue source for the music industry in Scandinavia."

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Critic’s Notebook: With Spotify, the future of music is here

Unlimited access to a huge chunk of the world’s recorded music library (15 million songs and counting) — shareable and searchable — has become reality.

IT’S HERE: Spotify has finally arrived in the U.S.

On a recent afternoon while driving down Beverly Boulevard, I had 15 million songs sitting in the little tray between the driver and passenger seat. If they were on LP or compact disc, the entire assortment — available via the Spotify application I’d installed on my phone earlier in the day — would fill dozens of tractor trailers and weigh thousands of tons. Sitting next to my morning coffee, the collection jiggled as I hit a bump, but the music coming out of my stereo didn’t skip a beat.

Assuming an average of four minutes per song, I figure that’s roughly 114 years of continuous music at my fingertips. It includes music as diverse as baroque composer H.I. Biber, pop star Justin Bieber, Emmett Miller, Ma Rainey, Eminem, Sun Ra, and Tyler, the Creator. It’s more than anyone could possibly want or need to listen to, but that’s not the point. It’s that it’s all there, a millisecond away. 

This year might not be remembered for a revolution in pop music — so far the most sonically surprising thing on the charts has been Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now.” But we’re currently in the middle of something big, a fundamental shift in the ways in which we experience and interact with recorded music. A notion barely fathomable a decade ago — unlimited access to a huge chunk of the world’s recorded music library — has become reality. With this innovation, not only is the entire experience of hearing and learning about music changing, but the ways in which we share our passion is, as well. And if history is any indication, the way in which artists make music will evolve along with it.

With the arrival of Swedish-born, London-based cloud service Spotify on American shores July 14, along with the progress of Google Music, and the impending launch of Apple’s iCloud music service, this year will be remembered as the year in which keeping our own copies of music, be it physically on CDs and LPs, or digitally as MP3s on our hard drives, became a decision, not a necessity, for both casual fans and music obsessives.

No longer do we need to worry about where to store it, nor try to recover it from a fried hard drive, nor even keep it separate from the collections of our friends. We have been nearing this milestone for a while; with a little work, you can listen to virtually any song for free by cobbling together the search results of YouTube, Rhapsody, Mediashare links and Google search results. But Spotify is on everyone’s lips, and for good reason. 

What, exactly, is Spotify? It’s an application that offers users access to high quality streams of music from throughout history, one whose catalog includes the holdings of the world’s four largest record companies and an equally monolithic consortium of independent labels. It’s currently available by invitation as an application you can download to your computer, smartphone, or Web-connected home audio system. Once installed, any of these 15 million songs are available for free with a double-click.Don’t feel like enduring advertisements? Pay $4.99 a month and they’re gone, or pay $9.99 a month for premium, which also offers better sound quality.

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Spotify launches (at last) in the U.S. on Thursday

Spotify Spotify, the popular European digital music service, says  it will launch in the U.S. on Thursday.

The news has long been anticipated, since the company announced more than a year ago its plans to play in the U.S., the world's largest and most competitive market for music.

Spotify's offerings will be largely similar to what it has in Europe, namely a free service supported by advertising and two premium tiers that let users listen without ads and on mobile devices. The free tier will let users listen to the company's catalog of more than 15 million songs from a computer connection for six months. After that, free users will be capped at 10 hours a month and up to five spins for any particular song.

Spotify's paid tiers include a plan for $4.99 a month that will let users listen without ads, and another for $9.99 a month that allows users to access music from a smart phone such as an iPhone, Android, Palm or Windows 7 device.

The company plans to open the doors to its service at 5 a.m. Thursday morning. Free users will need an invitation from the company (you can enter your email on the company's website to receive an invitation). Paying subscribers will not need an invitation to start using the service.


Spotify alters its streaming rules: You gotta pay to play

Spotify reportedly close to licensing deal with EMI in the U.S.

-- Alex Pham

Photo courtesy of Spotify

Spotify alters its streaming rules: You gotta pay to play

Spotify-logo For the lucky few in the U.S. who have access to Spotify's digital music service, unlimited free play will soon be over.

The popular Swedish music service on Thursday announced that it would start limiting how much free music nonpaying subscribers can access.

Beginning May 1, listeners who don't pay for Spotify's premium service will be limited to 10 hours of music a month. In addition, they will be able to play a particular song only five times.

Those who pay for the premium service, 10 pounds a month in the U.K. or 10 euros elsewhere in Europe, will continue to have unlimited access to Spotify's catalog of 10 million songs.

Spotify is technically not available in the U.S., since the Swedish music company has not been able to secure the necessary licenses from all the major record labels to operate here. A number of Americans, however, have been able to jack into the service nonetheless, either through complimentary trial accounts or by hacking their their way in.

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Spotify reportedly close to licensing deal with EMI in the U.S.

Spotify, the Swedish music streaming service used by 10 million people across Europe, is close to landing a deal to license EMI Group's songs for use in the U.S., according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

Kanye West EMI, which publishes such acts as Kanye West, Pink Floyd and Garth Brooks, would be the second major label, after Sony Music Entertainment, to sign on to Spotify's plans to introduce its popular music service to the U.S. That leaves Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group as the two big holdouts.

It's unclear whether Spotify would have enough songs to launch a service in the U.S. without Universal or Warner. EMI had 10% of the U.S. music market in 2010, while Sony accounted for 28% of the market last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Spotify's free, ad-supported streaming service lets listeners dial up millions of songs on demand and has been wildly popular in the seven countries in which it operates in Europe. But only 7.5% of its 10 million users pay money for Spotify's premium service, which costs 10 pounds a month in the U.K. and 10 euros elsewhere.

Should Spotify debut in the U.S., it would face competition from Napster, Rhapsody, MOG, Rdio, eMusic and Thumbplay. It would also meet with resistance from U.S. consumers, who have been reluctant to pay a monthly fee -- even for unlimited access to millions of songs.

You can read more about the deal with EMI and Spotify on The Times' sister blog Company Town.

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Kanye West is among the artists represented on the EMI label. Credit: Nousha Salimi / Associated Press.


Spotify: One step closer to the U.S.?


Touted as a potential savior to the U.S. music business, the much-beloved European streaming service Spotify today took one step closer to launching in America. How big of a step, however, is not yet known. Already boasting more than 10 million users in seven European territories, Spotify's American invasion has been little more than hype dating back to late 2009.

Yet perhaps there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

The service has signed a distribution agreement with Sony Music Entertainment, according to those familiar with negotiations between Spotfy and the major labels. Yet there was no indication that that the Sony deal would lead to a flurry of additional announcements, and it was unknown whether talks with other labels were near an agreement.

It is still believed that Warner Music Group will continue to take a wait-and-see approach, as it has taken a very public stance against companies that offer free music streaming.

A spokesman for Sony said the company had no comment, and refused to confirm or deny that the deal was done. Spotify representatives could not be reached for comment.

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