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Posts tagged with "Apple Music"

Apple Recaps Its 2021 Services

In a press release today, Apple shared an update on the success of its services. According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services:

Apple’s world-class portfolio of services proved essential in 2021, as people worldwide sought new ways to keep entertained, informed, connected, and inspired. With over 745 million paid subscriptions, Apple continues to connect the world’s developers, artists, and storytellers with users across more than a billion devices, delivering powerful tools, content, and experiences that enrich their lives in profound ways every day.

Apple says that developers have earned more than $260 billion on the apps and games sold through the App Store since its inception in 2008. That’s a $60 billion increase since last year’s services announcement. The company also reports that 2021 was another record year for sales, and the Christmas to New Years Day period saw double-digit sales growth. However, unlike past years, sales numbers weren’t shared for the week between Christmas and New Years Day or for New Years Day.

Apple has created lists of 2021’s most downloaded apps and games, if you are curious about which apps resonated with the most users last year.

Apple’s press release recaps a long list of achievements of its other services, too, recapping the highlights of 2021, including the nominations and awards won by Apple TV+, the expansion of Apple Pay, and the recent additions to Fitness+. Having followed this annual services press release since its earliest days, what’s most impressive is how long the list of services has grown. What was once primarily an App Store and Apple Music recap now covers a much broader range of services.


Nick Heer on Apple Music and Last.fm

Nick Heer perfectly encapsulates what I also think about Apple Music’s lackluster recommendation engine as opposed to the old-school simplicity and pleasure of Last.fm:

Apple Music is a remarkable deal for me: spending ten bucks a month gives me access to almost any record I can think of, often in CD quality or better. There are radio features I do not use and music videos I rarely watch, but the main attraction is its vast library of music. Yet, with all that selection, I still find new music the old-fashioned way: I follow reviewers with similar tastes, read music blogs, and ask people I know. Even though Apple Music knows nearly everything I listen to, it does a poor job of helping me find something new.

Here is what I mean: there are five playlists generated for me by Apple Music every week. Some of these mixes are built mostly or entirely from songs it knows I already like, and that is fine. But the “New Music Mix” is pitched as a way to “discover new music from artists we think you’ll like”. That implies to me that it should be surfacing things I have not listened to before. It does not do a very good job of that. Every week, one-third to one-half of this playlist is comprised of songs from new albums I have already heard in full. Often, it will also surface newly-issued singles and reissued records — again, things that I have listened to.

And on Last.fm, Nick adds:

So: Last.fm. There are a few things I like about it. First, it seems to take into account my entire listening history, though it does give greater weight to recency and frequency. Second, it shows me why it is recommending a particular artist or album. Something as simple as that helps me contextualize a recommendation. Third, its suggestions are a blend of artists I am familiar with in passing and those that I have never heard of.

Go read the whole piece – I was nodding in agreement the whole time.

As Club MacStories members know, after years of inactivity, I re-activated my Last.fm account a few months back and started scrobbling everything I listen to again thanks to the excellent Apple Music client for iPhone and iPad, Marvis. Not only is the Last.fm website more fun to explore than Apple Music, but the reports they generate (on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis) are actually interesting in a way that Apple Music’s barebones ‘Replay’ summary just isn’t.

It feels somewhat odd to type this in 2021 2022, but if music still is in Apple’s DNA, there’s a few things Apple Music could learn from the simplicity and care that permeate Last.fm.

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Managing Music From Your Mac’s Menu Bar

As Club MacStories members know, I use my Mac’s menu bar sparingly. With Bartender, our MacStories Selects Mac app of the year, I limit my menu bar to a handful of frequently-used apps and system controls that take up as little space as possible. That cuts down on clutter and means everything will fit when I’m using my MacBook Air in laptop mode.

However, every rule is meant to be broken, and for me, I break my menu bar rule by tracking and controlling my music from the menu bar, which takes up a lot of space but is worth it. You see, I listen to a lot of playlists as a way to discover new music, but that also means I find myself flipping to the Music app frequently to see artist and album information and perform simple tasks like adding a song to my music library or liking it. The constant context switching was a distraction I didn’t need, which led me to look for a better way.

Apple's Control Center widget takes up limited space, but also doesn't do much.

Apple’s Control Center widget takes up limited space, but also doesn’t do much.

Fortunately, there are a lot of options depending on your needs. The simplest solution is to drag the Now Playing widget out of Control Center on your Mac and use it as a standalone menu bar item. That works well if you want simple playback controls and song information, but the functionality of Apple’s control is limited and requires a click to do anything.

The two third-party solutions I prefer are NepTunes and the recently-released Looking Glass music remote. Both apps live in your menu bar and offer different sets of features that will play a big part in which app will suit your needs best.

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Apple Announces the 2021 Apple Music Awards

The Apple Music Awards are back, honoring artists in several categories. This is the third year Apple has held the awards and, as was the case the past two years, honors were bestowed for Global Artist of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Top Song of the Year, and Top Album of the Year. This year, however, the company also named five Regional Artists of the Year for Africa, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia:

“The past 12 months have proved to be a remarkable year for music, and we’re thrilled to honor the artists who are shaping culture and connecting with fans around the world on Apple Music,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats. “This year we’re also recognizing more regional artists, showing the world the impact of extraordinary talented musicians who are making waves globally.”

Each Apple Music Award is commemorated with a unique award featuring a 12-inch silicon wafer suspended between a sheet of glass and anodized aluminum. Similar to last year, Apple is celebrating the annual awards with “interviews, original content, and more” on Apple Music and the Apple TV app beginning December 7th.

Olivia Rodrigo was honored with three awards this year.

Olivia Rodrigo was honored with three awards this year.

The 2021 Apple Music Awards winners are:

Wizkid was among five Regional Artists of the Year chosen by Apple this year.

Wizkid was among five Regional Artists of the Year chosen by Apple this year.

It’s not surprising that Olivia Rodrigo won multiple awards this year. Few artists have had the immediate impact on music streaming services that Rodrigo has. It’s also good to see Apple add regional Artists of the Year for the first time. Music is a global media force, but that hasn’t diminished the importance and impact of the medium on a regional level. I hope Apple expands the regional Artist of the Year category to other countries and regions in the future.

Also, it will be interesting to see what Apple has in store beginning December 7th. Events like the Apple Music Awards are the sort of opportunity for integration across multiple Apple services that the company hasn’t done a lot of to date. I’d love to see interviews, live performances, music video collections, playlists, album commentaries by the winners, and podcasts brought together in a unified package that makes it easy to access all related content.


Jason Tate’s Dedicated Now Playing Mini-Computer

Source: Chorus.fm.

Source: Chorus.fm.

As you can imagine, Jason Tate, Chorus.fm’s founder, listens to a lot of music. He wanted a dedicated device that displays the music he listens to throughout the day, so as a weekend project, he built what he wanted:

A small Raspberry Pi powered screen that displays what I am currently listening to. It sits, unassuming, next to my computer on the desk. When no music is playing it displays my most listened to albums from the past week, as well as some my music listening stats pulled from Last.fm.

The device consists of a Raspberry Pi Zero WH, a 4” screen, a 3D-printed enclosure, and other parts. The Pi runs Linux, serving a purpose-built website hosted on a Chorus.fm server that periodically polls the Last.fm API to fetch the currently playing song. The Now Playing screen’s design looks fantastic and is inspired by Marvis Pro, an Apple Music client for the iPhone and iPad that I wrote about last week in MacStories Weekly. If nothing is playing, the device shows Tate’s Last.fm listening stats and top albums played during the past week.

A nice final touch is that Tate’s creation can be controlled entirely with a shortcut that run shell scripts on the Raspberry Pi, allowing it to be shut down, rebooted, and refreshed, or the screen to be turned on and off separately.

I love projects like this and immediately began thinking of ways it could be extended using Apple’s MusicKit framework. Tate is using the device he built on his desk, but the size would work in a lot of environments like a kitchen countertop or bedside table. With the cold weather descending on Chicago, this seems like the perfect sort of project to dig into after the holidays. If you’re interested in learning more and building your own, Jason Tate’s story includes everything you’ll need.

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A Comprehensive Guide to 250+ of Apple Music’s New Mood and Activity Playlists

On Monday, Apple announced that it was expanding the integration between Siri and Apple Music. Zane Lowe, Apple Music’s co-head of Artist Relations and radio host, explained that the company’s team of music experts had created hundreds of playlists for moods and activities. Ask Siri to play a playlist for your dinner party, to help you relax, or for hiking and Lowe said Siri will start a playlist that fits the moment.

Apple also announced Apple Music Voice Plan, a $5/month tier for Apple Music that is operated using Siri. The new playlists are perfect for the new monthly plan, but they’re available to all Apple Music subscribers.

Apple's Zane Lowe introduced the company's new mood and activity playlists and Apple Music Voice Plan.

Apple’s Zane Lowe introduced the company’s new mood and activity playlists and Apple Music Voice Plan.

The playlists have begun showing up on Apple Music, so last night, Federico and I began searching the streaming service to see what’s new. What we found was over 250 playlists each designed to fit a mood or activity that use animated cover art with simple line drawings to set them apart from Apple’s other playlist. Although they were announced as Siri playlists during the event on Monday, anyone with an Apple Music subscription can view and play the new playlists in the Music app like any other playlist in the service’s collection.

Anyone with an Apple Music subscription can play the new mood and activity playlists in the Music app.

Anyone with an Apple Music subscription can play the new mood and activity playlists in the Music app.

You won’t find a directory of the new mood and activity playlists in the Music app, and there’s no filter that can be applied to see the entire collection, so we’ve complied a massive link list of all the playlists we have been able to find so far, organized into categories. Think of it as a sort of ultimate MacStories Unwind weekend pick.

To make it fast and easy to access Apple’s new playlists, Federico has also created a shortcut organized by the categories. You can grab the shortcut below or visit the MacStories Shortcuts Archive where you’ll find it along with hundreds of other shortcuts we’ve published over the years.

Apple Music Siri Playlists

View and open Apple Music’s new playlists without using Siri.

Get the shortcut here.

We’ll add to this list as we find new playlists, so if you find one that you don’t see here, get in touch with me or Federico on Twitter and we’ll add it to the list.

Happy

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Shazam Crosses 1 Billion Songs Recognized from Control Center

Today, Shazam surpassed 1 billion songs recognized using its Music Recognition control available in iOS and iPadOS’s Control Center. That’s a huge number, especially considering that the feature was first added in iOS and iPadOS 14.2 less than a year ago.

The Music Recognition control can be added to Control Center from the Settings app. When tapped, the feature creates a digital fingerprint of the audio and sends it over the Internet for matching against Shazam’s database of songs, securely and privately making a match without sending the actual audio. In addition to recognizing songs playing around you, the feature can recognize songs played in any app and even while you’re wearing AirPods.

According to Apple, the ten most Shazamed songs from Control Center are:

  1. “Talking To The Moon” - Bruno Mars
  2. “Astronaut In The Ocean” - Masked Wolf
  3. “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” - Lil Nas X
  4. “Beggin” - Måneskin
  5. “Another Love” - Tom Odell
  6. “Runaway” - AURORA
  7. “Dick” - StarBoi3 Feat. Doja Cat
  8. “Arcade” - Duncan Laurence
  9. “Stay” - The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber
  10. “drivers license” - Olivia Rodrigo

Earlier this summer, the Shazam app crossed 1 billion daily songs recognized and a lifetime total of over 50 billion. With the release of iOS and iPadOS 15, developers will be able to incorporate song recognition into their own apps using ShazamKit, which will undoubtedly accelerate the number of songs recognized even further.

Viewing recently recognized songs from Control Center.

Viewing recently recognized songs from Control Center.

The Music Recognition control doesn’t save songs it recognizes to the Shazam app, which I wish it did, but when iOS and iPadOS 15 are released, users will be able to touch and hold the control to reveal a list of recently-recognized songs. Selecting a song from the list opens it in the Shazam app. Alternately, you can swipe left on an entry to delete it.

I’ve used Shazam since long before it was acquired by Apple, and the Music Recognition control has become one of my most-used Control Center features since it launched. Whether I’m out somewhere and hear a song I like or watching a TV show with an interesting soundtrack, quickly swiping down to access Control Center has become an ingrained habit at this point.


Billie Eilish and Apple Music Promote Spatial Audio with Short Film

Apple and Billie Eilish have collaborated on a video visualizing Spatial Audio, the Dolby Atmos-powered audio technology designed to create an immersive listening experience for music fans. Eilish recently released her album Happier Than Ever, which is available on Apple Music in Spatial Audio and Lossless.

The video begins with Eilish singing Getting Older a cappella in front of a vanity mirror, transitions into a performance of GOLDWING. As Eilish sings, mirrors multiply her reflection, creating a visual metaphor for Spatial Audio.

An audio feature like Spatial Audio isn’t an easy thing to illustrate with video. However, Eilish’s short film hits the nail on the head by capturing the feel of the feature in a beautifully cinematic way that isn’t technical. As a fan of Eilish’s work, I also love her short but captivating performance.


Apple Music to Livestream Sold-Out Atlanta Listening Event for Kanye West’s Next Album, DONDA

In a Beats Studio Buds ad that aired tonight during Game 6 of the NBA finals, it was revealed and later confirmed by Def Jam Recordings that Apple Music will be live-streaming a listening event for Kanye West’s highly anticipated album DONDA. The sold-out event, which is being held at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, will be streamed Thursday, July 22nd at 8 pm Eastern, the day before the album officially drops.

The ad for Beats Studio Buds features American track star Sha’Carri Richardson, the sprinter who was poised to compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games before testing positive for marijuana use. As Richardson gets set to start a race, No Child Left Behind, a track from Kanye West’s upcoming album plays in the background. Rumors of DONDA’s release have been swirling for days, so the Friday release is not a shock to his fans.

Apple Music has participated in some livestream events in the past, such as the live premiere of Billie Eilish’s documentary ‘The World’s A Little Blurry,’ but such events have been few and far between. It’s good to see Apple Music getting involved with big events like this. With the pieces in place to stream audio or video, there’s a lot Apple could do to get involved in live performances too.