Apple Music is using Shazam to solve the streaming industry’s problem with DJ mixes

Apple Music announced today that it’s created a process to properly identify and compensate all of the individual creators involved in making a DJ mix. Using technology from the audio-recognition app Shazam, which Apple acquired in 2018 for $400 million, Apple Music is working with major and independent labels to devise a fair way to divide streaming royalties among DJs, labels, and artists who appear in the mixes. This is intended to help DJ mixes retain long-term monetary value for all creators involved, making sure that musicians get paid for their work even when other artists iterate on it. And, as one of Apple’s first major integrations of Shazam’s technology, it appears that the company saw value in

Historically, it’s been difficult for DJs to stream mixes online, since live streaming platforms like YouTube or Twitch might flag the use of other artists’ songs as copyright infringement. Artists are entitled to royalties when their song is played by a DJ during a live set, but dance music further complicates this, since small samples from various songs can be edited and mixed together into something unrecognizable.

Apple Music already hosts thousands of mixes, including sets from Tomorrowland’s digital festivals from 2020 and 2021, but only now is it formally announcing the tech that enables it to do this, even though Billboard noted it in June. As part of this announcement, Studio K7!’s DJ Kicks archive of mixes will begin to roll out on the service, giving fans access to mixes that haven’t been on the market in over 15 years.

“Apple Music is the first platform that offers continuous mixes where there’s a fair fee involved for the artists whose tracks are included in the mixes and for the artist making those mixes. It’s a step in the right direction where everyone gets treated fairly,” DJ Charlotte de Witte said in a statement on behalf of Apple. “I’m beyond excited to have the chance to provide online mixes again.”

Image Credits: Apple Music

For dance music fans, the ability to stream DJ mixes is groundbreaking, and it can help Apple Music compete with Spotify, which leads the industry in paid subscribers as it surpasses Apple’s hold on podcasting. Even as Apple Music has introduced lossless audio, spatial audio, and classical music acquisitions, the company hasn’t yet outpaced Spotify, though the addition of DJ mixes adds yet another unique music feature.

Still, Apple Music’s dive into the DJ royalties conundrum doesn’t necessarily address the broader crises at play among live musicians and DJs surviving through a pandemic.

Though platforms like Mixcloud allow DJs to stream sets and monetize using pre-licensed music, Apple Music’s DJ mixes will not include user-generated content. MIDiA Research, in partnership with Audible Magic, found that user-generated content (UGC) — online content that uses music, whether it’s a lipsync TikTok or a Soundcloud DJ mix — could be a music industry goldmine worth over $6 billion in the next two years. But Apple is not yet investing in UGC, as individuals cannot yet upload their personal mixes to stream on the platform like they might on Soundcloud. According to a Billboard report from June, Apple Music will only host mixes after the streamer has identified 70% of the combined tracks.

Apple Music didn’t respond to questions about how exactly royalties will be divided, but this is only a small step in reimagining how musicians will make a living in a digital landscape.

While these innovations help get artists compensated, streaming royalties only account for a small percentage of how musicians make money — Apple pays musicians one cent per stream, while competitors like Spotify pay only fractions of cents. This led the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) to launch a campaign in March called Justice at Spotify, which demands a one-cent-per-stream payout that matches Apple’s. But live events remain a musician’s bread and butter, especially given platforms’ paltry streaming payouts — of course, the pandemic hasn’t been conducive to touring. To add insult to injury, the Association for Electronic Music estimated in 2016 that dance music producers missed out on $120 million in royalties from their work being used without attribution in live performances.

#apple, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #apps, #artist, #audible, #audible-magic, #billboard, #computing, #disc-jockey, #entertainment, #media, #mixcloud, #music-industry, #online-content, #operating-systems, #shazam, #soundcloud, #spotify, #streaming, #streaming-media, #technology, #twitch

Apple’s dangerous path

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review.

Last week, we dove into the truly bizarre machinations of the NFT market. This week, we’re talking about something that’s a little bit more impactful on the current state of the web — Apple’s NeuralHash kerfuffle.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny


the big thing

In the past month, Apple did something it generally has done an exceptional job avoiding — the company made what seemed to be an entirely unforced error.

In early August — seemingly out of nowhere** — the company announced that by the end of the year they would be rolling out a technology called NeuralHash that actively scanned the libraries of all iCloud Photos users, seeking out image hashes that matched known images of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). For obvious reasons, the on-device scanning could not be opted out of.

This announcement was not coordinated with other major consumer tech giants, Apple pushed forward on the announcement alone.

Researchers and advocacy groups had almost unilaterally negative feedback for the effort, raising concerns that this could create new abuse channels for actors like governments to detect on-device information that they regarded as objectionable. As my colleague Zach noted in a recent story, “The Electronic Frontier Foundation said this week it had amassed more than 25,000 signatures from consumers. On top of that, close to 100 policy and rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, also called on Apple to abandon plans to roll out the technology.”

(The announcement also reportedly generated some controversy inside of Apple.)

The issue — of course — wasn’t that Apple was looking at find ways that prevented the proliferation of CSAM while making as few device security concessions as possible. The issue was that Apple was unilaterally making a massive choice that would affect billions of customers (while likely pushing competitors towards similar solutions), and was doing so without external public input about possible ramifications or necessary safeguards.

A long story short, over the past month researchers discovered Apple’s NeuralHash wasn’t as air tight as hoped and the company announced Friday that it was delaying the rollout “to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features.”

Having spent several years in the tech media, I will say that the only reason to release news on a Friday morning ahead of a long weekend is to ensure that the announcement is read and seen by as few people as possible, and it’s clear why they’d want that. It’s a major embarrassment for Apple, and as with any delayed rollout like this, it’s a sign that their internal teams weren’t adequately prepared and lacked the ideological diversity to gauge the scope of the issue that they were tackling. This isn’t really a dig at Apple’s team building this so much as it’s a dig on Apple trying to solve a problem like this inside the Apple Park vacuum while adhering to its annual iOS release schedule.

illustration of key over cloud icon

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch /

Apple is increasingly looking to make privacy a key selling point for the iOS ecosystem, and as a result of this productization, has pushed development of privacy-centric features towards the same secrecy its surface-level design changes command. In June, Apple announced iCloud+ and raised some eyebrows when they shared that certain new privacy-centric features would only be available to iPhone users who paid for additional subscription services.

You obviously can’t tap public opinion for every product update, but perhaps wide-ranging and trail-blazing security and privacy features should be treated a bit differently than the average product update. Apple’s lack of engagement with research and advocacy groups on NeuralHash was pretty egregious and certainly raises some questions about whether the company fully respects how the choices they make for iOS affect the broader internet.

Delaying the feature’s rollout is a good thing, but let’s all hope they take that time to reflect more broadly as well.

** Though the announcement was a surprise to many, Apple’s development of this feature wasn’t coming completely out of nowhere. Those at the top of Apple likely felt that the winds of global tech regulation might be shifting towards outright bans of some methods of encryption in some of its biggest markets.

Back in October of 2020, then United States AG Bill Barr joined representatives from the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India and Japan in signing a letter raising major concerns about how implementations of encryption tech posed “significant challenges to public safety, including to highly vulnerable members of our societies like sexually exploited children.” The letter effectively called on tech industry companies to get creative in how they tackled this problem.


other things

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

LinkedIn kills Stories
You may be shocked to hear that LinkedIn even had a Stories-like product on their platform, but if you did already know that they were testing Stories, you likely won’t be so surprised to hear that the test didn’t pan out too well. The company announced this week that they’ll be suspending the feature at the end of the month. RIP.

FAA grounds Virgin Galactic over questions about Branson flight
While all appeared to go swimmingly for Richard Branson’s trip to space last month, the FAA has some questions regarding why the flight seemed to unexpectedly veer so far off the cleared route. The FAA is preventing the company from further launches until they find out what the deal is.

Apple buys a classical music streaming service
While Spotify makes news every month or two for spending a massive amount acquiring a popular podcast, Apple seems to have eyes on a different market for Apple Music, announcing this week that they’re bringing the classical music streaming service Primephonic onto the Apple Music team.

TikTok parent company buys a VR startup
It isn’t a huge secret that ByteDance and Facebook have been trying to copy each other’s success at times, but many probably weren’t expecting TikTok’s parent company to wander into the virtual reality game. The Chinese company bought the startup Pico which makes consumer VR headsets for China and enterprise VR products for North American customers.

Twitter tests an anti-abuse ‘Safety Mode’
The same features that make Twitter an incredibly cool product for some users can also make the experience awful for others, a realization that Twitter has seemingly been very slow to make. Their latest solution is more individual user controls, which Twitter is testing out with a new “safety mode” which pairs algorithmic intelligence with new user inputs.


extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

Our favorite startups from YC’s Demo Day, Part 1 
“Y Combinator kicked off its fourth-ever virtual Demo Day today, revealing the first half of its nearly 400-company batch. The presentation, YC’s biggest yet, offers a snapshot into where innovation is heading, from not-so-simple seaweed to a Clearco for creators….”

…Part 2
“…Yesterday, the TechCrunch team covered the first half of this batch, as well as the startups with one-minute pitches that stood out to us. We even podcasted about it! Today, we’re doing it all over again. Here’s our full list of all startups that presented on the record today, and below, you’ll find our votes for the best Y Combinator pitches of Day Two. The ones that, as people who sift through a few hundred pitches a day, made us go ‘oh wait, what’s this?’

All the reasons why you should launch a credit card
“… if your company somehow hasn’t yet found its way to launch a debit or credit card, we have good news: It’s easier than ever to do so and there’s actual money to be made. Just know that if you do, you’ve got plenty of competition and that actual customer usage will probably depend on how sticky your service is and how valuable the rewards are that you offer to your most active users….”


Thanks for reading, and again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny

Lucas Matney

#american-civil-liberties-union, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #artificial-intelligence, #australia, #bryce-durbin, #bytedance, #canada, #china, #computing, #electronic-frontier-foundation, #encryption, #extra-crunch, #facebook, #federal-aviation-administration, #icloud, #india, #ios, #iphone, #japan, #linkedin, #new-zealand, #pico, #richard-branson, #siri, #spotify, #tech-media, #technology, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #virgin-galactic, #virtual-reality, #y-combinator

Apple buys classical music service, Primephonic

In a bid to expand its classical music offering, Apple today announced that it has Primephonic. The Amsterdam-based service, which launched in 2014, will bring a laser focus on a music genre that’s been sorely lacking in Apple Music’s generalized approach to streaming.

The service will effectively be discontinued as a standalone offering, as it’s absorbed into the broader Apple Music platform. On September 7, Primephonic will shut down for good, while Apple readies the 2022 launch of a classical music app based on its own streaming service.

“Artists love the Primephonic service and what we’ve done in classical, and now we have the ability to join with Apple to deliver the absolute best experience to millions of listeners,” Primephonic co-founder and CEO Thomas Steffans said in a release issued by Apple. “We get to bring classical music to the mainstream and connect a new generation of musicians with the next generation of audience.”

According to an interview with Primephonic’s CTO published last year, the service has launched in 150 countries. It also appears to have an older demographic than more generalized streaming services.

“Most of our users are age 55 plus and are highly educated and relatively well off,” Henrique Boregio told Mixpanel in 2020. “We joke in the office that we don’t know whether you start liking classical music and then you become wealthy, or if it’s the other way around.”

Apple notes of the upcoming offering, “Apple Music Classical fans will get a dedicated experience with the best features of Primephonic, including better browsing and search capabilities by composer and by repertoire, detailed displays of classical music metadata, plus new features and benefits.”

While the new classical service is being built out, the company is offering an olive branch to existing Primephonic users in the form of six free months of Apple Music.

#apple, #apple-music, #apps, #entertainment, #ma

Spotify’s Podcasts Subscriptions service is now open to all U.S. creators

Spotify is today opening up access to Podcast Subscriptions to all podcast creators in the U.S., after first launching the service for testing with a smaller number of creators back in April. Through Spotify’s podcast creation tool Anchor, podcasters of all sizes will now able to mark select episodes as subscriber-only content, then publish them to Spotify and other platforms. Since launch, over 100 podcasts have adopted subscriptions, Spotify says. Based on the early feedback from these creators, the company is now making a couple of key changes to both pricing and functionality as the service becomes more broadly available.

Before, creators could choose between one of three price points: either $2.99, $4.99, or $7.99 per month. Creators were able to choose which price point made the most sense for their audience.

But the company learned that creators wanted even more flexibility in pricing, which is why it’s now expanding the number of price points to 20 options, starting as low as $0.49 and then increasing all the way up to $150.

Image Credits: Spotify

 

Spotify explained that its research found that creators wanted some sense of where to start with pricing, rather than offering a completely open-ended system. That’s why the pricing isn’t something creators today manually enter. Going forward, Spotify will show the three price points that tested well — $0.99, $4.99 and $9.99 — before listing the other 17 options. Of those three, the company told us $4.99 was the best performing.

In addition to the ability to set pricing and gain access to a private RSS feed that can be used by listeners who prefer using a different podcast app, Spotify will now offer podcast creators the ability to download a list of contact addresses for their subscribers. This allows them to further engage with their subscriber base to offer them more benefits, the company notes. It could also be a selling point for creators who would otherwise not want to get on board with a paid subscription offering like this, if it meant losing out on a more direct relationship with their customer.

Image Credits: Spotify

 

Spotify is not the only service offering paid podcasts. Apple recently announced its own podcast subscription platform. But Spotify’s is currently the more affordable of the two. Apple will take a 30% cut from podcast revenue in year one, dropping to 15% in year two — similar to other subscription apps. Spotify, meanwhile, is keeping its program free for the next two years, meaning that creators keep 100% of revenues until 2023. After that, Spotify plans to take just a 5% cut of subscription revenues.

With this first step into a marketplace model, it’s notable to see Spotify — a staunch Apple critic in the antitrust fight — taking such a small percentage of creator revenues. Spotify has argued for years that Apple’s cut of Spotify’s own subscription business is an anticompetitive practice, especially since Apple is a business rival via its subscription-based Apple Music service, and now, its podcast subscriptions, too.

Today, Spotify hosts a number of subscription-based podcasts, including bigger names like NPR (which is on Apple’s paid podcasts service, too), as well as independent creators like Betches U Up?, Cultivating H.E.R. Space, and Mindful in Minutes. Creators who choose to work with Spotify aren’t locked in — they can share private RSS fees with their customers and publish to other platforms, like Apple Podcasts.

The news of Spotify’s broader launch follows a growing chorus of complaints from podcasters that Apple’s own subscriptions service is off to a rough start. A report from The Verge documented creators’ complaints about bugs, confusing user interfaces, interoperability issues, and more. In the meantime, Spotify claims its waitlist for creators interested in its podcast subscriptions had “thousands” of sign-ups.

The company says it will expand access to international customers soon. Starting on September 15, international listeners will gain access to subscriber-only content. And shortly after, creators will gain access to Podcast Subscriptions, too.

#apple, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #apple-news, #media, #operating-systems, #podcast, #software, #spotify, #technology, #united-states

Social listening app Earbuds raises $3 million in Series A funding

Most startup origin stories don’t begin on an NFL field, but that’s where founder, CEO and offensive tackle Jason Fox conceptualized the idea behind Earbuds. As he watched first overall draft pick Cam Newton warm up before a game in 2011, dancing to music, Fox couldn’t help but wonder what the future NFL MVP was listening to — and he bet that the crowd of 85,000 fans were curious too.

Ten years later, Earbuds has raised a $3 million Series A round for its social listening app, led by Ecliptic Capital with additional investment from the Andre Agassi Foundation and LFG Ventures.

Since its launch in 2019, Earbuds has allowed users — whether they’re famous artists, NFL stars or ordinary people — to share their favorite playlists, livestream music like a DJ and comment on other people’s music picks. Some notable figures on the app include the artist Nelly and professional quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes, the highest-paid player in the NFL. Mayfield and Mahomes are also investors in the app.

With this recent raise, Fox and his team of six plan to expand the app to add creator monetization tools, incentivizing people to use the app. Plus, Earbuds also announced that it hired two former product and engineering leaders from Apple, David Ransom and Sean Moubry, who joined Earbuds as head of Product and head of Engineering, respectively. Tech veteran Drew Larner also came aboard as a senior advisor and investor — in 2015, he sold the streaming app Rdio to Pandora. Pandora was then sold to Sirius XM for $3.5 billion in 2018.

Image Credits: Earbuds’ interface allows users to search for athlete accounts/Earbuds.

To use Earbuds, users must have a paid account on Spotify or Apple Music. Soon, Fox says, Earbuds should have integrations with paid versions of Amazon Music and Pandora, too. These integrations are how the app, available on both iOS and Android, is able to source music for streaming. But regardless of which platform a listener uses, they can still take advantage of the social features on Earbuds, listening along to live playlists and commenting along with other listeners.

When you connect your account, you’re able to easily import your existing playlists. Then, on the app, you can add voice clips to comment on your song choices. When listening to a stream, users have the option to save the playlist to their streaming service or share it as an Instagram story.

Fox declined to share monthly active user numbers, but expressed confidence that soliciting users from other streaming platforms’ existing subscriber base won’t be a big hurdle for user acquisition; when it comes to paid streaming music subscribers, Spotify has 165 million users, Apple Music has at least 60 million and Amazon music has at least 55 million.

“We want to continue to add additional streaming partners to accommodate everyone. We want to connect with all users regardless of what platform they use,” Fox said.

Image Credits: Earbuds founder and CEO Jason Fox/Earbuds.

Fox wants more musical artists to use the app, but given his background as an NFL player, much of the company’s existing marketing has been targeted toward athletes and sports fans — a particularly interesting potential market for Earbuds is NCAA athletes, who are newly able to monetize their image and likeness. 

“You’ve got the quarterback before the big rivalry game, and they want to be able to monetize the fans while they’re listening to music and getting amped up with them before the game,” Fox explained.

Since these monetization tools haven’t rolled out yet, there’s currently no in-app purchases available on Earbuds. This would give Earbuds, which isn’t yet profitable, another income stream. So far, the app has made money through in-app sponsored posts from partners like the NBA, the NFL playoffs, smart speaker companies and beverage companies.

“We can continue to do that, but we feel like the majority of growth and revenue moving forward will be through partnerships, integrations and supporting the creator economy,” Fox said. Currently, Earbuds has a partnership with Apple Music, so if someone subscribes to the platform via Earbuds, Earbuds gets a cut of their subscription payment.

As streaming services like Spotify grow, social listening apps like Earbuds are emerging too. Spotify itself has rolled out more social listening features lately, including a Music + Talk platform similar to Earbuds’ existing offerings.

#amazon, #android, #apple-music, #apps, #artist, #earbuds, #ecliptic-capital, #music-streaming, #nba, #ncaa, #nfl, #pandora, #recent-funding, #spotify, #startups

Spotify’s podcast ad revenue jumps 627% in Q2

In the minutes before its quarterly earnings call this morning, Spotify played advertisements for its Originals & Exclusives, like the true crime show “Deathbed Confessions,” and the sex and relationships podcast “Call Her Daddy,” which Spotify recently acquired in a deal worth $60 million. Sure, it’s kind of hilarious to hear a recording of host Alex Cooper’s voice say, “Hey, daddy gang!” as investors log in to an 8 AM call, but the subtext rang clear: Spotify is serious about growing its podcast business.

Given how many podcasting companies Spotify has acquired over the past few years, it would be concerning if there hadn’t been significant growth in this realm. Among Spotify users who already listen to podcasts, podcast listening increased 30% year over year, with total hours consumed up 95%. Meanwhile, podcast ad revenue increased by 627%, which out-performed expectations. Spotify attributes this success to a triple-digit year over year gain at its in-house studios (The Ringer, Parcast, Spotify Studios, and Gimlet), and exclusive deals with “The Joe Rogan Experience” and the Obamas’ Higher Ground studio. Spotify also referenced its November acquisition of Megaphone, a podcast hosting and ad company.

“The continued out-performance is is currently limited only by the availability of our inventory, which is something we’re actively solving for,” said CEO Daniel Ek. “The days of our ad business accounting for less than 10% of our total revenue are behind us, and going forward, I expect ads to be a substantial part of our revenue mix.”

Image Credits: Spotify

In April, Spotify launched paid podcast subscriptions — through Anchor, the podcast host that it bought in 2019, creators can choose to certain content behind a paywall. Apple launched a similar feature too, but it’s still too early to know how these subscription services will impact listeners and creators. However, Spotify did share a bit more information about its Audience Network, an audio ad marketplace. Since its rollout in April, Spotify’s “monetizable podcast inventory” tripled. Spotify has also seen a “meaningful” increase in unique advertisers and a “double-digit lift” in CPMs (cost per thousand ad impressions), but didn’t provide specific figures.

Still, the more power a platform like Spotify has over the podcasting industry, the fewer options creators will have for monetization — already, the ubiquity of streaming platforms has taken a toll on musicians, who are working together to demand better compensation from Spotify. The Justice at Spotify movement points out that on average, artists get $0.0038 per stream of a song, which means that a song needs to be streamed 263 times to make a single dollar. Spotify has continued to grow during the pandemic, but since live shows are musicians’ best way to make money in the age of streaming, artists have struggled while it’s unsafe to go on tour.

On this morning’s earnings call, Ek pointed to live performances on Greenroom, Spotify’s Clubhouse clone, as a potential way for musicians to increase revenue. In the past quarter, Spotify has tested live concerts as an income stream, partnering with artists like The Black Keys. Still, smaller artists might not trust the platform given its refusal to make streaming itself a more viable way to get paid for their work.

“Live is a meaningful thing for many of our creators, and it’s something that we’re excited about,” said Ek, adding that Spotify saw positive results from its digital live events thus far. “We want to provide as many opportunities for creators to create more ways to turn a listen into a fan, and turn fans into super fans, and increase the monetization for those creators.”

Though Spotify missed its target for monthly active users (MAUs) in Q2, other key metrics trended upward, like paid subscriber growth and revenue. The platform attributes this road bump in MAU growth to the lingering impact of COVID-19, as well as an issue Spotify had with its third-party email verification system.

“In full disclosure, this was an issue on our end,” said CFO Paul Vogel. “The estimate right now was that it was about 1 to 2 million of MAU growth that was impacted by the friction created by this email verification change. It’s since been corrected and should not be an impact in Q3.”

Of Spotify’s 365 million MAUs, 165 million (about 42.5%) are paid subscribers — that’s still far beyond its next biggest competitor, Apple Music, which had 60 million subscribers in 2019, but hasn’t released updated figures since.

#apple-music, #apps, #ceo, #cfo, #clubhouse, #daniel-ek, #earnings, #entertainment, #joe-rogan, #megaphone, #parcast, #podcast, #podcasting, #software, #spotify, #streaming-media, #subscription-services, #technology

Apple Music brings its spatial audio and lossless streaming to Android

It takes a really specific consumer to buy an Android phone, yet use Apple Music. But the small overlap in that venn diagram may be getting bigger. Last month at WWDC, Apple unveiled a free update for Apple Music subscribers that added lossless audio streaming and spatial audio with support for Dolby Atmos. Now, Android users can access these features too.

Last year, Google shut down its Google Play Music app (RIP) with the intent for users to migrate to YouTube Music. Some longtime Android fans are still unpleased about that decision and don’t feel that YouTube Music is up to par — but for audiophiles, these Apple Music updates might be what it takes to get them to switch. However, not all Android devices support Atmos yet.

Apple Music isn’t the only streaming platform ramping up its audio quality. On the same day that Apple announced its upgraded audio features at WWDC, Amazon Music also announced that it would support lossless streaming and spatial audio with Atmos functionality. Like Apple, Amazon offers these enhancements at no extra cost for subscribers. Spotify plans to launch a lossless audio feature as well called HiFi, but it will be a premium add-on, rather than a free upgrade like Apple Music or Amazon Music. YouTube Music doesn’t yet offer a comparable feature.

Currently, Spotify leads the streaming industry with 158 million paid subscribers. For comparison, Apple Music had 60 million subscribers in June 2019, and Amazon Music had 55 million in January 2020, but both companies haven’t shared updated numbers since then; YouTube Music has at least 20 million paid users. Even on consumer-grade headphones, you can hear the difference between a lossless FLAC file and a compressed mp3 — but if you’re such a keen audiophile that you need to listen to master-quality audio, just get Tidal.

#amazon, #amazon-music, #android, #apple-music, #apps, #atmos, #audio-streaming, #computing, #google, #google-play-music, #mobile-software, #mp3, #software, #spotify, #surround-sound, #technology

Apple Music launches Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio, adds Spatial Audio playlists

Last month, Apple announced it would soon add lossless audio streaming and Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos to its Apple Music subscription at no extra charge. That upgrade has now gone live, Apple announced this morning — though many noticed the additions actually rolled out yesterday, following the WWDC keynote.

The entire Apple Music catalog of 75+ million songs will support lossless audio.

The lossless tier begins at CD quality — 16 bit at 44.1 kHz, and goes up to 24 bit at 48 kHz, Apple previously said. Audiophiles can also opt for the high-resolution lossless that goes up to 24 bit at 192 kHz. Apple has said you’ll need to use an external, USB digital-to-analog converter to take advantage of the latter — simply plugging in a pair of headphones to an iPhone won’t work.

Apple Music subscribers will be able to enable the new lossless option under Settings > Music > Audio quality. Here, you’ll be able to choose the different resolutions you want to use for different connections, including Wi-Fi, cellular, and download.

When you make your selection in Settings, iOS warns that lossless files will use “significantly more space” on your device, as 10 GB of storage would allow you to store approximately 3,000 songs at high quality, 1,000 songs with lossless, or 200 songs with high-res lossless.

Image Credits: Apple

Meanwhile, Spatial Audio will be enabled by default on hardware that supports Dolby Atmos, like Apple’s AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip. The latest iPhone, iPad, and Mac models also support Dolby Atmos. Spatial Audio on Apple Music will also be “coming soon” to Android devices, Apple said.

To kick off launch, Apple Music is today rolling out new playlists designed to showcase Spatial Audio. These include:

Apple is also adding a special guide to Spatial Audio on Apple Music, which will help music listeners hear the difference. This will include tracks from artists like Marvin Gaye and The Weeknd, among others. And Apple will air a roundtable conversation about Spatial Audio featuring top sound engineers and experts, hosted by Zane Lowe at 9 am PT today on Apple Music.

Because songs have to be remastered for Dolby Atmos specifically, these guides and playlists will help music fans experience the new format without having to hunt around. Apple says it’s working with artists and labels to add more new releases and the best catalog tracks in Spatial Audio. To help on this front, Apple notes there are various initiatives underway — including doubling the number of Dolby-enabled studios in major markets, offering educational programs, and providing resources to independent artists.

Apple also said it will build music-authoring tools directly into Logic Pro. Later this year, the company plans to release an update to Logic Pro that will allow any musician to create and mix their songs in Spatial Audio for Apple Music.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

#apple, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #atmos, #computing, #ios, #ipad, #iphone, #media, #mobile, #wwdc-2021, #zane-lowe

Apple introduces SharePlay for co-watching, streaming, and screen sharing over FaceTime

As part of its FaceTime update in iOS 15, Apple introduced a new set of features designed for shared experiences — like co-watching TV shows or TikTok videos, listening to music together, screen sharing and more — while on a FaceTime call. The feature, called SharePlay, enables real-time connections with family and friends while you’re hanging out on FaceTime, Apple explained, by integrating access to apps from within the call itself.

Image Credits: Apple

Apple demonstrated the new feature during its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote this afternoon, showing how friends could press play in Apple Music to listen together, as the music streams to everyone on the call. Shared playback controls also let anyone on the call play, pause or jump to the next track.

The company also showed off watching video from its Apple TV+ streaming service, where the video was synced in real-time between call participants. This was a popular trend during the pandemic, as people looked to virtually watch movies and TV with family and friends, prompting services like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video to add native co-watching features.

But Apple’s SharePlay goes much further than streaming music and video from just Apple’s own services.

The company announced a set of launch partners for SharePlay including Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, NBA, Twitch, TikTok, MasterClass, ESPN+, Paramount+, and Pluto TV. It’s also making an API available to developers so they can integrate their own apps with SharePlay.

Image Credits: Apple

Users can screen share via SharePlay, too, so you can do things like browse Zillow listings together or show off a mobile gameplay, Apple suggested.

“Screen sharing is also a simple and super effective way to help someone out and answer questions right in the moment, and it works across Apple devices,” noted Apple SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi.

The feature will roll out with iOS 15.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

#amazon-prime-video, #api, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #apple-tv, #apps, #computing, #craig-federighi, #disney, #espn, #facetime, #hbo, #hulu, #ios, #itunes, #mobile-applications, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #software, #technology, #tiktok, #twitch, #wwdc-2021, #zillow

Apple Music subscribers will get lossless and spatial audio for free next month

Today, Apple announced that its Apple Music streaming app will get two major new audio features next month: lossless audio support and spatial audio with Dolby Atmos for a wide range of supported headphones and speakers.

Apple Music will play songs in Dolby Atmos automatically when users play the music over the built-in speakers in “the latest versions” of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, as well as through a connected Apple TV 4K or AV receiver. Songs will also automatically use Atmos when played on AirPods or Beats headphones that have Apple’s H1 or W1 chips. Users will be able to manually enable Atmos on other headphones by tweaking the app’s settings.

Spatial audio will be limited to certain songs, but Apple says “thousands of songs” across numerous genres “including hip-hop, country, Latin, pop, and classical” will support it at launch, with more to come.

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#apple, #apple-lossless, #apple-music, #audio, #dolby-atmos, #gaming-culture, #itunes, #lossless-format, #music, #spatial-audio, #streaming, #tech

Apple to add lossless audio to Apple Music at no additional cost

Apple has announced that it is adding some new features to its music streaming service Apple Music. Starting next month, users will find some new options, such as spatial audio with support for Dolby Atmos as well as lossless audio files.

Spotify recently announced a new high-end subscription tier with CD-quality, lossless audio files. But Spotify HiFi isn’t included in Spotify Premium by itself. You’ll have to pay a bit more money to stream lossless audio. Pricing hasn’t been disclosed yet.

Apple’s move is a bit different as lossless audio is going to be included in the basic Apple Music subscription tier. For $9.99 per month, you’ll be able to choose between various audio quality settings. By default, Apple and other streaming services compress audio files so that it doesn’t require a lot of bandwidth.

You can also choose CD-quality, lossless streaming — 16 bit at 44.1 kHz. In that case, you’ll receive lossless audio files. Behind the scenes, Apple uses its own lossless audio format (ALAC, Apple Lossless Audio Codec). But that shouldn’t have an impact as FLAC, WAV or ALAC files sound exactly the same — it’s lossless audio.

If you have a truly unlimited mobile plan, you can even choose 24 bit at 48 kHz or 24 bit at 192 kHz. In that case, the average weight of a song should be around 250MB — yep, that’s a lot of bytes. Apple says you have to use an external, USB digital-to-analog converter to take advantage of the hi-resolution lossless tier. Plugging a pair of headphones with your iPhone won’t cut it.

The entire Apple Music catalog of 75 million songs will support lossless audio. Music distributors already upload lossless audio files when they submit a song to streaming services. Adding lossless audio is all about surfacing those files to the end users.

As for spatial audio, it’ll be enabled by default on hardware that supports Dolby Atmos, such as AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip. The most recent iPhone, iPad and Mac models also support Dolby Atmos. But it sounds like songs have to be remastered for Dolby Atmos specifically.

At first, only “thousands of songs” will support spatial audio. Artists include J Balvin, Gustavo Dudamel, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Kacey Musgraves and The Weeknd. You’ll be able to identify those tracks with a badge in the user interface.

#apple, #apple-music, #apps, #entertainment, #mobile

Musicians Say Streaming Doesn’t Pay. Can the Industry Change?

Services like Spotify and Apple Music pulled the business back from the brink. But artists say they can’t make a living. And their complaints are getting louder.

#apple-music, #audio-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #music, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #royalties, #shah-nadine, #soundcloud, #spotify, #tidal-aspiro-ab

EU says Apple’s 30% cut from rival music providers violates competition law

App icons for Spotify, Apple Music, and other apps on an iPhone screen.

Enlarge / Spotify and Apple Music on an iPhone in 2018. (credit: Getty Images | stockcam)

The European Commission today charged Apple with violating antitrust law, alleging that “it distorted competition in the music streaming market as it abused its dominant position for the distribution of music streaming apps through its App Store.”

The EC sent a Statement of Objections to Apple reflecting its preliminary conclusion that Apple violated European Union competition law. This kicks off a legal process in which Apple will be able to respond in writing and request an oral hearing before a final judgment is made. The EC took today’s action in response to a complaint from Spotify.

“If the case is pursued, the EU could demand concessions and potentially impose a fine of up to 10 percent of Apple’s global turnover—as much as $27 billion, although it rarely levies the maximum penalty,” according to Reuters.

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#app-store, #apple, #apple-music, #european-commission, #policy, #spotify

Apple releases iOS 14.5, the biggest update since iOS 14 first launched

Apple's 2020 iPad Air.

Enlarge / Apple’s 2020 iPad Air. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Today is the day: Apple has finally released iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 worldwide after a longer-than-usual beta period. If you’re using a supported device, you should be able to find the update on the software update page in the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch’s Settings app.

This is arguably the biggest update of the iOS 14 cycle that began with iOS 14.0 and iPadOS 14.0 on September 16 of last year. The most consequential change for many is App Tracking Transparency, a new policy whereby app developers are required to get user opt-in to track users between apps.

But iOS 14 and iPadOS 14.5 also introduce a long-needed workaround for using Face ID when wearing a mask, support for the new AirTag accessory, several changes aimed at making experiences within the software more inclusive for a diverse user base, new Siri features and voices, and changes to the Reminders, News, Music, and Podcasts apps, among other things.

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#airtag, #app-tracking-transparency, #apple, #apple-music, #apple-news, #apple-podcasts, #apple-watch, #dualsense, #emoji, #face-id, #ios, #ios-14, #ios-14-5, #ipad, #ipados, #ipados-14, #ipados-14-5, #iphone, #privacy, #tech

To Be Tracked or Not? Apple Is Now Giving Us the Choice.

With Apple’s latest mobile software update, we can decide whether apps monitor and share our activities with others. Here’s what to know.

#apple-inc, #apple-music, #chen-brian-x, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #facebook-inc, #ios-operating-system, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #podcasts, #privacy, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #siri-inc, #social-media, #voice-recognition-systems, #wearable-computing

Apple Music streaming revenue detailed in letter to artists

Streaming revenue has been a longtime concern for musicians, especially those scraping by in the wake of an industry-wide implosion of record labels. Of course, a year that has made touring an impossibility has only brought those issues into starker relief as the primary revenue source for many has completely dried up.

Apple is hoping to clarify some of the major questions around streaming revenue in a letter it sent to artists. The note, reported by The Wall Street Journal, outlines a revenue that amounts to around double what Spotify pays out.

“As the discussion about streaming royalties continues, we believe it is important to share our values,” the company notes. “We believe in paying every creator the same rate, that a play has a value, and that creators should never have to pay for featuring music in prime display space on its service.”

The company’s comment is a clear shot at Spotify’s much more varied payment model. What that actually works out to at the end of the day, however, is a slightly more complicated question. Things start at around a penny-per-stream (though it can go down from there). That amount is paid out to rights holders — be they record labels or publishers. It’s another in a long line of issues that have led many musicians to question the efficacy of intermediaries in 2021.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek fanned the flames in an interview last year, stating, “Some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough.”

At the end of the day, it’s a battle of pennies — or fractions thereof, for many artists. And it has become immensely difficult for mid-tier and truly independent artists to maintain a living as the world has shifted to a streaming model. Services like Bandcamp and Soundcloud have worked to make things more manageable for smaller artists, but the life of a modern musician remains a struggle — especially in the age of COVID-19.

 

#apple, #apple-music, #media, #spotify

Apple invests $50M into music distributor UnitedMasters alongside A16z and Alphabet

Independent music distribution platform and tool factory UnitedMasters has raised a $50M series B round led by Apple. A16z and Alphabet are participating again in this raise. United Masters is also entering a strategic partnership with Apple alongside this investment. 

If you’re unfamiliar with UnitedMasters, it’s a distribution company launched in 2017 by Steve Stoute, a former Interscope and Sony Music executive. The focus of UnitedMasters is to provide artists with a direct pipeline to data around the way that fans are interacting with their content and community, allowing them to connect more directly to offer tickets, merchandise and other commercial efforts. UnitedMasters also generally allows artists to retain control of their own masters.

Neither of these conditions are at all typical in the music industry. In a typical artist deal, recording companies retain all audience and targeting data as well as masters. This limits an artist’s ability to be agile, taking advantage of new technologies to foster a community. 

While Apple does invest in various companies, it typically does so out of its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to promote US manufacturing or strategically in partners that make critical components of its hardware like silicon foundries or glass manufacturing. Apple does a lot more purchasing than investing, typically, buying a company every few weeks or so to supplement one product effort or another. UnitedMasters, then, would be a relatively unique partnership, especially in the music space. 

I spoke to UnitedMasters CEO Steve Stoute about the deal and what it means for the businesses 1M current artists and new ones. Stoute credits Apple executive Eddy Cue having a philosophy aligned with the UnitedMasters vision with getting this deal done. 

“We want all artists to have the same opportunity,” says Stoute. “Currently, independent artists have less opportunity for success and we’re trying to remove that stigma.”

This infusion, Stoute says, will be used to hire talent that are mission oriented to take UnitedMasters global. They’re seeking local technical talent and artists talent to build out the platform worldwide. 

“Every artist needs access to a CTO,” Stoute says. “Some of the value of what a manager is today for an artist needs to be transferred to that role.”

UnitedMasters wants to provide that technical edge at scale, allowing artists to build out their fanbase at a community level.

Currently, UnitedMasters has deals with the NBA, ESPN, TikTok, Twitch and others that allow artists to tap big brand deals that would normally be brokered by a label and manager. It also has a direct distribution app that allows publishing to all of the major streaming services. Most importantly, they can check stream, fan and earnings data at a glance. 

“Steve Stoute and UnitedMasters provide creators with more opportunities to advance their careers and bring their music to the world,” said Apple’s Eddy Cue in a release statement. “The contributions of independent artists play a significant role in driving the continued growth and success of the music industry, and UnitedMasters, like Apple, is committed to empowering creators.”

“UnitedMasters has completely transformed the way artists create, retain ownership in their work, and connect with their fans,” said Ben Horowitz, Co-Founder and General Partner of Andreessen Horowitz in a release. “We are excited to work with Steve and team to build a better, bigger, and far more profitable world for musical artists.” 

We are currently at an inflection point in the way that artists and fans connect with one another. Though there have been seemingly endless ways for artists to get their messages out or speak to fans using social media and other platforms, the actual business of distributing work to a community and making money from that work has been out of their hands completely since the beginning of the recording industry. Recent developments like NFTs, DAOs and social tokens, as well as an explosion of DTC frameworks have begun to re-write that deal. But the major players have yet to make the truly aggressive strides they need to in order to embrace this ‘artist centric’ new world. 

The mechanics of distribution have been based on a framework defined by DRM and the DMCA for decades. This framework was always marketed as a way to protect value for the artist but was in fact architected to protect value for the distributor. We need a rethinking of the entire distribution layer.

As I mentioned when reporting the UnitedMasters + TikTok deal, it’s going to be instrumental in a more equitable future for artists:

It’s beyond time for the creators of The Culture to benefit from that culture. That’s why I find this UnitedMasters deal so interesting. Offering a direct pipeline to audiences without the attendant vulture-ism of the recording industry apparatus is really well-aligned with a platform like TikTok, which encourages and enables “viral sounds” with collaborative performances. Traditional deal structures are not well-suited to capturing viral hype, which can rise and fall within weeks without additional fuel.

In music, Apple is at the center of this maelstrom along with a few other major players like Spotify. One of the big misses in recent years for Apple Music, in my opinion, was Apple’s failure to turn Apple Music Connect into an industry-standard portal that allowed artists to connect broadly with fans, distribute directly, sell tickets and merchandise but — most importantly — to foster and own their community. 

A UnitedMasters tie up isn’t a straight line to that goal, but it’s definitely got the ingredients. I’m looking forward to seeing what this produces. 

Image Credits: Steve Stoute

#advanced-manufacturing-fund, #alphabet, #andreessen-horowitz, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #apple-store, #artist, #ben-horowitz, #ceo, #co-founder, #companies, #cto, #eddy-cue, #espn, #executive, #general-partner, #manufacturing, #music-industry, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #operating-systems, #social-media, #software, #sony-music, #spotify, #steve-stoute, #streaming-services, #tc, #twitch, #united-states, #unitedmasters

Apple clarifies iOS default music app feature, and it’s not what people thought

Siri in iOS 14.

Enlarge / Siri in iOS 14. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Over the past several weeks, there have been several reports (including one of our own) on a feature found in recent beta releases of iOS 14.5 that appeared to allow users to change the default music app on their iPhones. However, Apple just clarified to TechCrunch that the feature is not as it first seemed.

In the initial reports, users claimed that they were prompted to select a preferred music app, such as Spotify or Apple Music, when they asked Siri to play a song. They then found that Siri seemed to honor that choice on future requests.

Further, they noticed that using the usual command “Hey Siri, play [song name] on Spotify” would cause Siri to use Spotify again in the future when they spoke the same request sans the “on Spotify” part. (In the current public version of iOS, users must say “on Spotify” every single time to play songs in that app instead of Apple Music.)

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#apple, #apple-music, #ios, #ios-14-5, #siri, #spotify, #tech

Apple clarifies you can’t actually set a ‘default’ music service in iOS 14.5

Apple has clarified that the iOS 14.5 beta is not actually allowing users to select a new default music service, as has been reported. Following the beta’s release back in February, a number of beta testers noticed that Siri would now ask what music service they would like to use when they asked Siri to play music. But Apple doesn’t consider this feature the equivalent to “setting a default” — an option it more recently began to allow for email and browser apps.

Instead, the feature is Siri intelligence-based, meaning it can improve and even change over time as Siri learns to better understand your listening habits.

For example, if you tell Siri to play a song, album or artist, it may ask you which service you want to use to listen to this sort of content. However, your response to Siri is not making that particular service your “default,” Apple says. In fact, Siri may ask you again at some point — a request that could confuse users if they thought their preferences had already been set.

Image Credits: iOS 14.5 screenshot

Apple also points out there’s no specific setting in iOS where users can configure a “default” music service, the way there is with email and browser apps. While many earlier reports did note this difference, they still referred to the feature as “setting a default,” which is technically incorrect. 

More broadly, the feature is an attempt to help Siri to learn the listening apps you want to use for different types of audio content — not just music. Perhaps you want to use Spotify to listen to music, but prefer to keep up with your podcasts in Apple Podcasts or some other third-party podcasts app. And you may want to listen to audiobooks in yet another app.

When Siri asks you the which service you want to use for these sorts of audio requests, it will present a list of the audio apps you have installed for you to choose from.

Image Credits: iOS 14.5 screenshot

In addition to Siri’s understanding of your habits — which are based on your responses and choices — app developers can optionally use APIs to provide Siri with access to more intelligence about what people listen to in their app and why. This could allow Siri to fulfill users’ requests with more accuracy. And all this processing takes place on the device.

The audio choice feature, of course, doesn’t prevent users from requesting a particular service by name, even if it’s not their usual preference.

For instance, you can still say something like “play smooth jazz radio on Pandora” to launch that app instead. However, if you continued to request Pandora by name for music requests — even though you had initially specified Apple Music or Spotify or some other service when Siri had first prompted you — then the next time you asked Siri to play music without specifically a service, the assistant may ask you again to choose a service.

Image Credits: iOS 14.5 screenshot

Although this may seem like a minor clarification, it has a greater importance given the increased regulatory scrutiny Apple is under these days over how its App Store and app ecosystem work. Spotify, in particular, has alleged that Apple is behaving in anti-competitive ways — for instance by requiring a commission on Spotify’s in-app purchases even though Apple runs a rival music service that Spotify claims has first-party advantages.

The audio choice feature had first appeared in iOS 14.5 beta 1, but had been pulled in beta 2. It has since returned with the release of beta 3, which again drew attention and headlines — as well as Apple’s response.

Although it’s not technically allowing you to set a “default,” the Siri-powered feature could eventually feel like one for users with consistent listening behavior. The iPhone will simply become smarter about how to play what you want to hear, without necessarily forcing you to use Apple’s own apps if you don’t want to.

 

#apple, #apple-music, #apps, #beta, #default, #ios, #ios-14-5, #music, #siri, #tc

Soon, you may be able to change the default music service in iOS

It had long been an inescapable fact about Apple’s iOS operating system for iPhones that you couldn’t change your default apps away from those made by Apple itself. But only a few months after Apple changed course and allowed users to change the default email or browser apps, it now appears that same choice is coming for music-streaming services.

After Apple recently pushed out the first public beta of iOS 14.5, a Reddit user quickly discovered that the first time they asked Siri to play a song after updating, they were given a prompt to pick which streaming service to use. Subsequent prompts then obeyed that selection.

Other users on Reddit and MacRumors confirmed similar experiences. They also confirmed that it works if you specify the streaming service verbally, for example, by saying, “Hey Siri, play Heroes by David Bowie on Spotify.”

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#apple, #apple-music, #beta, #homepod, #homepod-mini, #ios, #ios-14, #ios-14-5, #siri, #spotify, #tech

What We Learned From Apple’s New Privacy Labels

Requiring that app makers list the data they collect reveals a lot about what some apps do with our information (ahem, WhatsApp) but creates confusion about others.

#advertising-and-marketing, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #audio-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #computer-security, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-service, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #e-commerce, #instant-messaging, #labeling-and-labels-product, #mobile-applications, #privacy, #signal-open-whisper-systems, #software, #spotify, #web-browsers, #whatsapp-inc

Daily Crunch: Google smart speakers add Apple Music support

You can listen to Apple Music on your Google Nest device, Apple is working to top Intel with its next set of chips and Cisco acquires Slido. This is your Daily Crunch for December 7, 2020.

The big story: Google smart speakers add Apple Music support

Google announced this morning that devices including the Nest Audio, Nest Hub Max and Nest Mini will now be able to play Apple Music via voice commands.

Google’s speaker ecosystem already supports a range of streaming audio services, including Spotify and Pandora, but Apple Music was a big exception until now. (Apple’s HomePod and HomePod mini already supported the service, of course, as did Amazon’s Alexa-enabled smart speakers.)

To set this up, Google device owners will need to link their Apple Music accounts in their Google Home app and set it as their default music service. Then they can start using commands like, “Hey Google, play New Music Daily playlist” or “Hey Google, play Rap Life playlist.”

The tech giants

Apple reportedly testing Intel-beating high core count Apple Silicon chips for high-end Macs — According to Bloomberg, the new chips include designs that have 16 power cores and four high-efficiency cores.

Cisco is buying Slido to improve Q&A, polls and engagement in WebEx videoconferencing — Slido lets people moderate questions and interactions from a larger group, whether at virtual conferences or in-person events.

Tinder makes it easier to report bad actors using ‘unmatch’ to hide from victims — Tinder notes that users have always been able to report anyone on the app at any time, even if the person used the unmatch feature, but most users probably didn’t know how.

Startups, funding and venture capital

SpaceX snags $885M from FCC to serve rural areas with Starlink — This funding is part of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction, which is distributing billions to broadband providers so they can bring internet to under-served rural areas.

Tech growth fund Highland Europe raises €700M to ‘double-down’, strengthens team — The new fund means Highland Europe’s assets under management have risen to €1.8 billion.

Luko raises $60M for its home insurance products — Luko is selling home insurance products for both homeowners and renters.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

The IPO market looks hot as Airbnb and C3.ai raise price targets — So much for a December slowdown.

Three questions to ask before adopting microservice architecture — Madison Friedman of Vertex Ventures examines “the multiheaded hydra that is microservice overhead.”

Why does TechCrunch cover so many early-stage funding rounds? — TechCrunch writers and editors discuss why funding-round stories are our bread and butter.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

California’s CA Notify app to offer statewide exposure notification using Apple and Google’s framework — The state of California has now expanded access of its CA Notify app to everyone in the state.

Original Content podcast: Hulu’s ‘Happiest Season’ casts fresh characters in a familiar story — I’m an easy movie crier, but man, this one made me cry.

Mixtape podcast: Making technology accessible for everyone — Featuring a panel on how advances in AI and related technologies will alter the landscape of assistive technology.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#apple-music, #daily-crunch, #google, #hardware

Google adds support for Apple Music to its Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers and displays

Google announced this morning it’s adding support for Apple Music to its Google Nest smart speakers, and other Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers and displays in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and Japan. This means Google’s flagship smart speaker devices, including Nest Audio, Nest Hub Max, and Nest Mini, will now be able to play Apple Music songs, albums and playlists by way of voice commands, as will others.

The update makes Google’s own smart speakers more competitive with both Apple’s HomePod and newer HomePod Mini, as well as Alexa-enabled smart speakers like the Echo, which has supported Apple Music since late 2018.

To stream from Apple Music, Google device owners will need to first link their Apple Music account in the Google Home app then optionally set it as their default music service. After doing so, they’ll be able to use voice commands like “Hey Google, play New Music Daily playlist” or “Hey Google, play Rap Life playlist,” for example, or ask for any other specific song, artist or playlist the service offers.

Users will also be able to ask Google Assistant to stream music based on genre, mood, or activity, or they can request Apple Music to stream from their own library of songs by saying, “Hey Google, play my library.”

Apple Music will also work in multi-device households, allowing Google device owners to stream across all their speakers at once, or to move music from one device to the others.

Today, many Google smart speakers owners may use a third-party service like Spotify, Pandora or Deezer — which are already supported in the Google Home app. But those who had been longtime Google Play Music customers have more recently had to make a decision as to whether to jump ship to a new service or stay within Google’s ecosystem, following the Google Play Music service shut down which saw the service merge with YouTube Music. As a result, some former Google Play Music customers moved to Apple Music to leverage its library feature.

Apple Music allow users to have up to 100,000 songs in their music library, which appeals to some of Google Play Music’s past customers. It also offers over 70 million songs for on-demand, ad-free streaming.

Google says the new Apple Music support is rolling out starting today to supported devices.

#apple-music, #assistant, #google, #google-nest, #google-play-music, #nest-audio, #nest-hub-max, #nest-mini, #smart-speakers, #tc

Apple Music adds 10 new playlists aimed at Gen Z, including one with TikTok hits

Apple Music is targeting Gen Z users in its battle with Spotify . On Friday, Apple launched ten new Apple Music playlists focused on the music interests of Gen Z users — including one playlist that features the latest tracks to go viral across social media apps like TikTok. Other playlists feature emerging artists and sounds, experimental or cross-genre selections, or music by mood — like playlists for getting energized to go out or one to destress, for example.

One of the more interesting additions from this new group — at least from a technology perspective — is the new editorial playlist, “Viral Hits.” While Apple doesn’t specifically mention TikTok by name here, the short-form video app’s influence is apparent.

TikTok’s music-laden memes and trends today heavily influence what younger users are listening to. The app has also long-since proven its ability to break new artists and send tracks, both new and old, up to the top of the streaming charts across Spotify and Apple Music, as well as the Billboard charts, at times.

With the “Viral Hits” playlist, Apple will round-up the songs that are making the leap from social media channels to “the broader cultural stream,” the company explains.

“Social media hasn’t just changed how we communicate, but also what we listen to and how we hear it,” says Apple.

Image Credits: Apple Music, screenshot by TechCrunch

Because of the nature of viral trends, there’s no set schedule as to when the “Viral Hits” playlist will update. Instead, Apple Music editors will updated the selections throughout the week, as needed.

Currently, there are 98 songs representing nearly 5 hours of music on the playlist, including many tracks that are also now on Apple Music’s top charts. But the tracks on “Viral Hits” aren’t ranked by number of plays they’re receiving — it’s an editorial selection, not a chart.

Apple isn’t alone in formally acknowledging the power TikTok has over popular music. Spotify last week launched a new feature for artists that would allow them to promote tracks that were going viral on TikTok.

Image Credits: Apple

In addition to “Viral Hits,” the other new Apple Music playlists aimed at a Gen Z demographic include the following additions:

  • Superbloom: Apple describes this playlist as a “new home for young, risk-taking visionaries who think about music differently.” The selections will feature artists who often have developed grass-roots followings across social media, where they’ve experimented and sparked trends.
  • Lifted: This cross-genre playlist is a melting pot of music Apple describes as “a little underground, but too dynamic for the mainstream to ignore.” Tracks will range from the poppy end of the spectrum to hip-hop, R&B, and indie rock, Apple says.
  • Wildflower: This playlist will feature emerging voices across a mix of hip-hop, R&B, dance, indie pop and rock.
  • Glow: An upbeat playlist of “feed-good, mood-boosting” tracks.
  • The Nerve: This playlist features “downcast hybrids” of hip-hop, pop punk, emo, and grunge that are “a little too raw for broader audiences.” Apple says the music can be “bleak.”
  • The Sound: A playlist featuring the best in new rock.
  • Verified Hits: Another cross-genre playlist, this one featuring hit songs from genres including pop, indie, arty R&B, and electronic.
  • Catching Feelings: Music for chilling that’s a little slow moody, mellow and low-key.
  • Do Not Disturb: Music on this playlist aims to help listeners not feel alone when dealing with mental health issues, like the ups, downs, crashes and the coping, says Apple.

Apple says the new playlists were created specifically with the needs of Gen Z users in mind, describing this young group as “tech savvy, social media mavens” as well as “rabid music lovers.”

In addition to the Gen Z playlists, Apple Music released 24 brand-new playlists aimed at helping users center and find a few moments of calm. These playlists follow what has been a tense week in the U.S., particularly, due to the 2020 Presidential Elections and their delayed results.

#apple, #apple-music, #media, #social-media, #spotify, #tiktok

Apple One, Apple’s answer to Amazon Prime, is finally launching

Apple One tiers.

Enlarge / Apple One tiers. (credit: Apple)

Apple’s all-in-one subscription services bundle, Apple One, launches today, according to a confirmation given to Bloomberg by Apple CFO Luca Maestri.

CEO Tim Cook also confirmed the bundle’s imminent launch on the company’s quarterly investor call yesterday.

Apple One offers three plans: individual, family, and premier. Each offers some subset or combination of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, iCloud, Apple News+, and soon, Apple Fitness+.

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#apple-arcade, #apple-fitness, #apple-music, #apple-news, #apple-one, #apple-tv, #tech

Apple One services subscription bundles start launching tomorrow

Apple is launching its Apple One services bundle tomorrow, though the company’s workout service Fitness+ isn’t quite ready yet.

On an earnings call today, CEO Tim Cook revealed tomorrow’s rollout and called the service the “easiest way for users to enjoy Apple services.” In a conversation with Bloomberg, Apple CFO Luca Maestri revealed the launch timing for Fitness+ as well. The company also detailed that it has 585 million total paid services subscriptions and expects to reach 600 million before the end of the 2020 calendar year.

The subscription bundle is designed around bringing more users into more Apple Services. It’s a big play to get subscribers to switch from Spotify to Apple Music as that is likely the crown jewel of the offering.

The company’s $14.99 per month individual plan includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and 50GB of iCloud storage. Apple also sells $19.99 family plans that bump up the storage to 200GB and is planning to debut a “premiere” plan for $29.99 that includes Fitness+ and Apple News+.

Apple’s Services division is growing in importance to the company’s bottom line, with the group reaching an all-time-high in revenue and reaching past half of the quarter’s iPhone revenues. You can read more on their earnings release below.

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1980s MTV is back, sort of: Apple launches Apple Music TV channel

Today, Apple launched a 24-hour streaming video channel called Apple Music TV that will harken back to the early days of MTV by playing mostly music videos—but in this case, it’s ad-free.

Viewers will be able to watch the channel in either the TV app (on an Apple device like a Mac, iPhone, or Apple TV) or the Music app (it’s found in the Browse tab). Additionally, you can find it at apple.co/AppleMusicTV.

There is no live chat, there aren’t any interactive features, and there’s no integration at all with the Apple Music app (like the ability to favorite songs), so users may find the service is barebones compared to some other music-focused streaming offerings.

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#apple, #apple-music, #apple-tv, #music, #music-videos, #streaming, #tech

Apple launches a U.S.-only music video station, Apple Music TV

Apple is expanding its investment in music with today’s launch of “Apple Music TV.” The new music video station offers a free, 24-hour livestream of popular music videos and other music content, including, exclusive video premieres, curated music video blocks, live shows, fan events, chart countdowns and guest appearances.

The service doesn’t have its own dedicated app, but is instead offered as a new feature within two of Apple’s existing entertainment apps. At launch, you can watch Apple Music TV from within the Browse tab of either the Apple Music app or the Apple TV app. (Accessible via apple.co/AppleMusicTV).

While Apple Music is a paid subscription service, Apple Music TV will be free to users in the U.S., the company says.

To kick off its launch, Apple Music TV today began with a countdown of the top 100 most-streamed songs ever across all of Apple Music, based on U.S. data.,

During brief tests of the new service, we found it to be a fairly basic (if uncensored) experience. The video stream only offered artist and song details at the beginning, instead of as the music played. It also didn’t take advantage of the integration with Apple Music to offer additional features to paying subscribers — like being able to favorite the song or add it to a playlist, for instance.

The stream would stop when the Apple Music app was closed, as it didn’t support background play.

Image Credits: Apple

There also weren’t any on-screen tools to share what you were watching via a social media post. You had to dig to find the “share” button under the three-dot, “more” menu. This would give you a link to tweet, but wouldn’t pre-fill it with text or hashtags, like the artist name or song.

While listening, you could stop the livestream and then return after a short pause. But after a bit, the stream would disconnect and the thumbnail of the paused music video reverts to the placeholder Apple Music TV image. When live, the text and icons will be shown in red. They revert to white when you’ve disconnected, as a visual cue.

Despite its simplicity, Apple Music TV gives Apple an immediate new home for its music-related original content, which over the years has included exclusive interviews, concert films, and more. It also provides Apple with another advantage with it goes to negotiate with artists for their premieres, as it introduces additional platform for reaching an artist’s fans — not only with the premiere itself, but by offering artists blocks of airtime leading up to their next debut that they can use to promote their releases.

The new station can also leverage content produced for the Apple Music 1 (formerly Beats 1) radio station, as it goes about running these promotions.

For example, on Thursday, October 22, Apple Music TV will promote the upcoming release of Bruce Springsteen’s “Letter to You” with music video blocks featuring his greatest videos, plus as exclusive interview with Zane Lowe, and a special livestream fan event.

Fridays, meanwhile, will focus on new music. This Friday, October 23, at 9 AM PT Apple Music TV will showcase two new exclusive video premieres – Joji’s “777” and SAINt JHN’s “Gorgeous.”

Apple Music TV’s biggest advantage, of course, is the fact that it’s freely accessible to millions of Apple device owners.

But it may struggle for traction as it lacks the features that make other livestream fan events or premieres engaging — like group chats or direct interactions with creators.

Instead, it’s more like a traditional TV broadcast — even MTV-like — compared with other online destinations where artists today connect with fans and promote their albums, like YouTube, VEVO, or more recently, Facebook, which just this year launched music videos.

Apple didn’t say if it planned to expand the new station outside the U.S.

#apple-inc, #apple-music, #apple-tv, #apps, #ios, #media, #mobile, #music, #streaming-video

Recorded music revenue is up on streaming growth, as physical sales plummet

With touring ground to a halt for the foreseeable future, 2020 has become the most difficult year for musicians in recent memory. One’s ability to survive on music depends on a variety of factors, of course, including things like audience, reach and how their fans access their output.

The world of recorded music has been a mixed bag throughout the pandemic. New industry figures from the Recording Industry Association of America out this week show that revenue for recorded music is actually up for the first half of 2020, owing, unsurprisingly, to the growth of music streaming.

With vastly more people stuck inside seeking novel methods of entertainment, paid subscriptions (Spotify, Apple Music, et al.) are up 24% year-over-year. Revenues on streaming music are up 12% overall, hitting $2.4 billion for the first half of the year. The figured has been hampered by an overall drop in ad sales that certainly isn’t limited to the music industry. That has had a sizable impact on services like YouTube, Vevo and Spotify’s free tier.

Physical sales of CDs and vinyl took a massive hit to an already rocky foundation, down 23% for that time period. Streaming now makes up 85% of all revenue in the U.S., with physical sales only commanding 7% — just slightly higher than the 6% made by digital downloads. It’s a troubling figure, given the difficulty many more independent artists have faced in monetizing streaming.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek faced backlash from the industry for comments surrounding streaming revenue. “There is a narrative fallacy here, combined with the fact that, obviously, some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough,” the executive said in a recent interview.

The comments came as many musicians have struggled to keep their heads above water during a sustained touring hiatus. They also come as the streaming service has continued to pump money into acquisitions in an attempt to build out its podcasting presence.

#apple-music, #entertainment, #riaa, #spotify, #streaming, #youtube

The Positive Grid Spark is a versatile smart amp perfect for guitarists stuck at home

Powered amps for electric guitars have gotten some neat tricks powered by modern mobile tech over the years, but the new Positive Grid Spark ($299) might be the one that packs the most intelligence and versatility into a single package. From a companion app, to voice commands, to tunable modeling and home recording — on top of doubling as a standalone Bluetooth speaker — the Spark offers features for beginners and pros alike.

The basics

The Positive Grid Spark looks physically like your average, portable practice amp. It’s just over a foot long and about half-a-foot wide and tall, and it weighs just under 12 lbs. There’s a removable leather carrying strap attached for moving it around, and it includes a 1/4″ guitar input, a 1/8″ auxiliary input and a 1/8″ headphone jack for connecting your audio gear, as well as a USB port for recording and acting as a USB audio interface for connecting to your computer.

The Spark has a host of integrated controls, including a dial for choosing from a number of preset amp types, as well as individual dials for adjusting gain, bass, mid, treble, master, mod, delay and reverb on the fly. There’s a physical control for output volume, and for music volume, as well as four user-programmable buttons for calling up presets, and a tap/tuner button for accessing the onboard tuner and other features.

Image Credits: Positive Grid

Built-in to the amp are 30 different potential amp models, as well as 40 effects to allow you to customize sound, including a noise gate, a compressor, distortion, modulation, delay and reverb. The Spark also features Bluetooth connectivity for streaming audio. Inside, there are two four-inch speakers for true stereo sound, and it’s rated at 40 watts.

Features and design

The Spark’s design on the outside isn’t very far off from most standard practice amps out there — but it feels high quality, and the grill is done in a nice, retro finish that looks really good even when it’s not in use and just sitting on a side table. The leather is synthetic, making it more durable and more ethical, and the knobs have excellent color-matched brass-tone detailing that completes the look. The metal flip switch for power on and red LED leave no confusion as to whether you’re ready to jam, and the touch buttons have similar bright backlighting.

Spark’s integrated handle, which you can remove when you’re not using, is comfortable and does its job well. The amp also features rubber feet to keep it elevated off surfaces and provide stability while it’s in operation.

In terms of basic performance and features, the Spark is already an excellent amp. Even if you never download the Positive Grid app (which you should) and instead just plug in your guitar, bass, ukulele or electric-acoustic, you can use the physical control to set up a sound you like and go to town. But when you download the app, you get a whole bunch more functionality that really extends the value of the Spark to elevate it above just about every other amp in its price range (and beyond).

Image Credits: Positive Grid

The app has a number of features, including Positive Grid’s “Smart Jam,” which effectively learns your style as you play and can then create auto-generated bass and drum tracks to accompany you. It’s a very cool feature that takes all the work out of trying to find generic backing or accompanying tracks for when you’re just looking to jam and come up with some interesting compositions.

There’s also an auto-chords feature for when you’re not looking to come up with your own stuff, but are rather looking to master your favorite existing song. This integrates with Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, meaning you should be covered no matter which music service you subscribe to, and will automatically display the guitar chords for a song on your device as you play along. You can even slow down the track, or loop specific sections, if you’re stuck on one bit or just starting out.

The Spark app also provides access to more than 10,000 guitar and bass amp presets, extending the versatility of the amp hardware. Plus, it’s voice controlled, so you can just ask it to provide you with a virtual band, for instance, and it’ll do that on demand.

Bottom line

The Positive Grid Spark is a unique offering in the field of amps, offering a lot of extensible smarts via the companion app — or a great, highly-customizable but more bare-bones experience if you’d rather leave your phone out of it and just get to playing. At $299, it’s hard to argue with it as a top pick, given how much more you get for your money once you factor in the advanced software features and its versatility as a pretty great Bluetooth speaker, too.

#apple-music, #bass, #bluetooth, #electric-guitars, #gadgets, #hardware, #music, #musical-instruments, #positive-grid, #reviews, #smart, #spotify, #tc

TikTok’s big UnitedMasters deal is the way forward for creators looking to secure their bag

TikTok is right in the jaws of a thorny situation with the U.S. Government regarding its ownership, but it’s sending a clear message today that it is not sitting on its heels with big deals. Yesterday, it announced a deal with UnitedMasters to allow artists on TikTok to distribute their songs directly to streaming services and other partners directly.

UnitedMasters is the un-record-label label — in fact a direct distribution company founded by former president of Interscope Records, Steve Stoute. The firm allows musicians (especially budding ones) to pay a competitive distribution rate to get access to Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, Apple Music and other services. It also gets them access to analytics, retargeting, CRM tools and individual deals that UM makes with brands like ESPN and the NBA.

Normally, the path between an artist being able to go viral on TikTok and be included in the next NBA 2k or before an official game on the air would be a long one involving a lot of knives out for pieces of the pie. UnitedMasters shortcuts all of this.

The simple scenario is this:

  • An aspiring artist or songwriter puts out a song or riff on TikTok (likely one of many).
  • This one has something and it catches on the algorithm and generates numbers.
  • The creator opts in to participating in UnitedMasters’ program.
  • They give up a cut of 10% but get direct distribution into the major streaming buckets and potential A-grade partners. (There’s also a $5/mo subscription option.)
  • They can also market things like tickets, merch and more directly to fans using UM’s customer tools.
  • The artist keeps 100% of their royalties.

Which is why a tie up with TikTok makes a hell of a lot of sense. One of the biggest issues with viral social platforms has been the way that they reward creators. Twitter’s Vine, of course, squandered their opportunity there. Even YouTube has had major problems providing consistent revenue to many of its top creators, with a long trend towards big hitters monetizing off platform in order to earn consistent, durable money.

TikTok has already announced a creators fund with a significant purse, but it needs to go beyond that. We’ve seen over and over how young creators on the platform create viral waves of attention for TikTok and millions of re-enactments and remixes. Often, though, those creators are offered little recourse to monetize or benefit from their creations. Dance creators and musical talents, often young Black women, are literally crafting culture in real-time on TikTok and the pathways for them to benefit materially are very rare. Sure, it’s great when an originator gets called out by a Times reporter willing to do the work to trace the source, but what about the thousands of others being minted as a real voice on the platform every month?

It’s beyond time for the creators of The Culture to benefit from that culture. That’s why I find this UnitedMasters deal so interesting. Offering a direct pipeline to audiences without the attendant vulture-ism of the recording industry apparatus is really well aligned with a platform like TikTok, which encourages and enables ‘viral sounds’ with collaborative performances. Traditional deal structures are not well suited to capturing viral hype, which can rise and fall within weeks without additional fuel.

In terms of overall platforms, TikTok clearly has the highest concentration of incredible and un-tapped musical talent on the market. It’s just wild how many creators I see on there that are just flat out as good if not better than what you hear on the radio. Opera, rap, soul, folk, comedy, songwriting, it runs the gamut.

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer came to the company after a long stint at Disney ending with a very successful Disney+ launch. Almost immediately, he was dropped into a political firestorm between China and the U.S. government. Parent company ByteDance must sell within 90 days, says Trump, or get shut down. Microsoft might buy them. Other tech companies are circling. This deal is a pretty crisp forward-looking signal that TikTok sees a way through this and is not waiting to innovate on one of the trickier components of this era of user generated businesses.

And on top of that, it charts a course for how user generated platforms should look to service creators and keep them in their universe. All UGC plays garner significant value from the creative energies of their users, but few have found a way to make that relationship reciprocal in a way that feels sustainable.

This UnitedMasters deal feels different, and the start of a larger trend that could pay big dividends to platforms and, finally, creators.

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