Posts tagged with "music"

Apple Releases First iOS 8.4 Beta with Revamped Music App

Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors:

Apple today seeded the first beta of iOS 8.4 to registered developers for testing purposes, just five days after releasing iOS 8.3 to the public. The beta, build 12H4074d, is available for download from the iOS Developer Center, alongside the Xcode 6.4 beta.

The new Music app in the first iOS 8.4 beta doesn't appear to be including any music streaming functionality powered by Beats, but the service is expected to be folded into the app later this year. New features detailed by Apple in the beta such as global search and Up Next would make sense in combination with an on-demand streaming service.

Apple is, in many ways, late to music streaming. And this is why I'm curious to see what they're planning – the company has a chance to reinvent how the Music app (pre-installed on hundreds of millions of devices) works, and I believe they chose the right service to do so.

Over the past year, I've been trying all of the existing music services again – Spotify, Rdio, Beats Music, and, lately, even Google Play Music. There's something unique to each one of them, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Apple will differentiate Music.

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Making Music on iOS: Guitar Amps, Effects Apps & Hardware

BIAS custom amps

BIAS custom amps

Back in the 1980s I played guitar. Yes, I’m that old. I learned from books and by playing along with CDs, and I jacked my Charvel guitar (awesome) into a Session guitar amp (terrible), and I never really got any better.

Now, 30-odd years later, I’m at it again. And like most things, except mobile phones, everything is better than it was in the 80s. Mid-range and even low-end guitars are better-made and cheaper. Amps are cheap and no longer terrible. And we have iOS devices and apps which can replace whole suitcases full of effects pedals.

That’s what we’re looking at today – iPad (and iPhone) guitar amp simulations, along with virtual effects pedals. And along the way, we’ll look at hardware to connect up your guitar to the iPad, and at some speaker options so you can actually hear yourself play.

Spoiler alert – the guitar world has taken a big turn towards the awesome.

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Zane Lowe Leaving BBC Radio 1 for Apple

BBC:

Zane Lowe is leaving Radio 1 after more than a decade at the station.

The 41-year-old DJ, who joined the network in 2003, is moving to the US to work at Apple.

This is an interesting and smart hire from Apple. Beyond the awards and popularity, Lowe has incredible taste in music and has helped discover numerous talents over the years. He curated albums he considered masterpieces with a special section of his show and he has connections with the biggest names of the industry. Between him, Dre, and Jimmy Iovine, Apple is assembling an impressive roster of well-known industry personalities who know good music and artists.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time watching Zane Lowe sessions and interviews with my favorite artists and, to me, this sounds like a big deal from the company on charge of iTunes Radio and Beats Music.

According to The Guardian, Lowe is leaving BBC Radio 1 specifically for Apple's iTunes Radio service. Given his background, iTunes rumors, and focus on curation with Beats Music and iTunes Radio, I'm excited to know more about Apple's music plans this year.

As it turns out, I think my take on Beats Music from last year has aged fairly well:

Computers and algorithms, in spite of modern advancements in data extraction and parsing, don’t understand things like artistic influences, song meanings, subtle references, or the “mood” of a song. Computers can’t compute emotion. They can’t understand what’s behind Dave Grohl’s “Best of You” at Wembley or why Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism is an album about long distance love. Computers don’t have the human touch, and I believe that they will never be able to fully, empathically replicate the ability to appreciate music as an artistic expression.

That’s why Beats Music hired people knowledgeable about music and uses algorithms as a tool, and not the medium: there’s more to music than data.

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Billboard to Start Counting Streaming Services in Top Charts

Ben Sisario, writing for The New York Times:

Now Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan, the agency that supplies its data, will start adding streams and downloads of tracks to the formula behind the Billboard 200, which, since 1956 has functioned as the music world’s weekly scorecard. It is the biggest change since 1991, when the magazine began using hard sales data from SoundScan, a revolutionary change in a music industry that had long based its charts on highly fudgeable surveys of record stores.

It'll be interesting to see how music streaming services will affect the position of recent and older songs in the charts. Here's how the system will work:

SoundScan and Billboard will count 1,500 song streams from services like Spotify, Beats Music, Rdio, Rhapsody and Google Play as equivalent to an album sale. For the first time, they will also count “track equivalent albums” — a common industry yardstick of 10 downloads of individual tracks — as part of the formula for album rankings on the Billboard 200.

Given speculation that Beats Music will be bundled in iOS starting next year, it looks like Apple will have an even bigger influence on the Billboard 200.

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Google Updates YouTube for iOS with New Music Section

Following the announcement of YouTube Music Key earlier today, Google updated its official YouTube app for iOS with a new Music tab in preparation for the service's beta rollout next week.

The new tab, available at the top of the main interface, doesn't bring Music Key functionalities, but instead showcases a selection of music based on popularity and your watching history on YouTube. In this section, YouTube is offering mixes (non-stop playlists based on songs or artists, like radio stations), recommended videos, a history section for music videos you've played before, plus trending and popular videos.

The selections in the new Music area of YouTube are solid when it comes to personal history and recommendations, but they feel a little impersonal as they lack any sort of editorial pick or curated content. The Music tab is very much user-centric at this point: music videos are either recommended based on your history and likes on YouTube or they're already part of your subscriptions and playlists. The execution is nice thanks to large previews, a clean interface, and the ability to quickly start playing a mix or a playlist, but, right now, YouTube's Music tab is obviously not meant to replace the home page of services like Beats Music or Spotify.

You can get the updated YouTube app with the new Music section on the App Store.


Google Announces YouTube Music Key

Widely rumored for the past several months, Google today announced YouTube Music Key, a premium service that, starting at $7.99/month, will offer ad-free videos, the ability to keep listening to videos as music in the background, offline downloads, and access to Google Play Music (the new name for Google Play Music All Access).

From the YouTube blog:

Thanks to your music videos, remixes, covers, and more, you’ve made YouTube the biggest music service on the planet. To turn YouTube into your perfect music service, we’re launching YouTube Music Key as a beta with our biggest music fans first, and then we’ll bring YouTube Music Key to the whole world together. So, if you see an invite in your app or email, try it out for six months for free.

YouTube Music Key follows a plan to revamp YouTube's entire music strategy with a new dedicated section:

Starting today, you’ll see a new home just for music on your YouTube app for Android, iOS and on YouTube.com that shows your favorite music videos, recommended music playlists based on what you’re into and playlists of trending music across YouTube. You can find a playlist to perfectly fit your mood, whether that’s a morning motivators playlist or Boyce Avenue YouTube Mix. Check out the newest songs from channels you subscribe to, like FKA twigs or Childish Gambino. Or quickly find the songs you’ve played over and over and over again.

The YouTube Music Key beta will start rolling out next week, and it appears that current Google Music All Access subscribers will get access to it immediately.

I'm interested in Google's plans with YouTube because the service has what other music streaming services have always lacked: a huge catalogue of videos from artists that go beyond albums and singles. As someone who regularly watches concert videos and demo recordings on YouTube, I'm curious to see how an ad-free experience with web and iOS access could improve content that I can't get anywhere else.

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The New musiXmatch Widget for iOS 8

I've talked about musiXmatch, an app to find lyrics for songs playing on your device, before here on MacStories. Earlier this year, I covered the app's new version for iOS 7, noting how an officially-licensed database of lyrics with a polished interface makes it a superior choice for anyone who wants to read song lyrics on iOS:

Overall, musiXmatch is impressive and accurate. I've discovered lyrics for hundreds of songs and finally learned some of my favorite ones thanks to musiXmatch. The app can listen to songs playing on the same device, and its integration with iOS' local music library means it can display lyrics for songs you already have without having to use the microphone at all. I mostly find myself trying to find lyrics for songs that are playing on my computer or iPad, and the app's on-time, licensed lyrics provide a great experience for those interested in knowing the lyrics of songs they like.

musiXmatch rarely fails to find lyrics for me, and I like its design and integration with Apple's Music app. And last week, they released an iOS 8 update with one of the most impressive widgets I've seen to date.

Here's how it works: start playing a song in Apple's Music app, open Notification Center, and musiXmatch will show you synced lyrics that follow the song you're listening to. If you're used to the traditional musiXmatch experience (in the iOS app or one of their desktop integrations, such as Spotify), you'll recognize the service's display of lyrics and timeliness – only as a widget on iOS.

From both technical and user experience perspectives, this is excellent work from the musiXmatch team. Over the weekend, I tested the widget with music I had in iTunes Match, albums I synced locally, and, today, Taylor Swift's new album, and musiXmatch always found lyrics and displayed them at the right time in the widget, which needs less than a second to appear (tested on an iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6; obviously, musiXmatch needs an Internet connection to work). The widget also has buttons to open the Trending, Music ID, and Search sections in the musiXmatch app as well as playback controls, but synced lyrics with artwork preview in Notification Center were the highlight of this update.

Unfortunately, due to iOS limitations, musiXmatch can't display lyrics in the widget for third-party music streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio, or Apple's Beats Music, but it'll work for apps that use Apple's Music as the background player. The widget can't access the device microphone to identify a song without launching the app, and, for now, musiXmatch can't display lyrics in the widget for iTunes Radio streams either. These limitations narrow the potential user base (people who only use Spotify or Beats won't see lyrics in Notification Center), but hopefully musiXmatch will be able to develop some kind of integration with third-parties.

The musiXmatch widget for iOS 8 is too good to pass up. If you use Apple's Music app and would like a way to see synced lyrics with a single swipe, download musiXmatch for free from the App Store.