Sonos made several major announcements today, launching the company’s products further into their roles as platform-agnostic options in a market increasingly segmented by ecosystem. The last few years have seen an avalanche of new interest in the home speaker space from major players like Amazon, Google, and Apple, and without the accompanying ecosystems those players possess, Sonos stood at a crucial juncture: it could seek to further establish its own platform and compete directly with the tech titans, or it could aim to stand outside that main battleground and make products that tie together the benefits of all ecosystems. They clearly have chosen the latter, and today’s announcements demonstrate the fruits of that decision.
Posts tagged with "music"
In a press release today, Amazon announced the newest feature addition to its Echo devices:
Amazon today announced an all-new Alexa feature that lets you control and synchronize music across multiple Amazon Echo devices in your home. Starting today, you can target music to a specific Echo device or a group of devices—just ask. Soon, this ability will be extended to control multi-room music on other connected speakers using simply your voice.
The feature is currently only available on Echo devices, but Amazon has also announced a couple new tools to help expand Alexa-powered audio to other speakers. There’s a new Alexa Voice Service SDK that device makers can adopt to enable their speakers to play music in sync with Echo devices. That SDK will be made available early next year. And there is also a new set of Connected Speaker APIs, available today, which allow third-party speakers to be controlled via an Alexa-enabled device.
It should be noted that multi-room audio is only available through a handful of music services. Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn are available today, while Spotify and SiriusXM support is coming soon.
I don’t play guitar as often as I used to, but I’ve always enjoyed trying to pick out the chords of my favorite songs. The trouble is, that can be hard to do unless you have a well-trained ear, which I don’t. That is exactly where Capo touch can help. The app can analyze a song, pick out the chords and help you practice it a little at a time at a comfortable pace until you figure out how to play it. This week, Capo touch got a big update that streamlines the learning process and brings powerful features over from Capo for macOS.
The Apple world may be talking about the HomePod a lot in the wake of WWDC, but it's not the first time Apple has tried to reinvent home audio.
In 2006 — just a year before the iPhone appeared — a slightly-under-the-weather Steve Jobs introduced the $349 iPod Hi-Fi.
Shazam for iOS has introduced an update that makes app navigation more simple and streamlined. Gone are the traditional navigation tabs at the bottom of the screen; they have been replaced by a paginated layout where a swipe left or right is used to switch screens.
Launching Shazam lands you on the Home page, which is devoted almost entirely to the Shazam button. Tapping it will cause the app to start listening to what's playing; one change to the Home page is that you now activate Auto Shazam with a long-press on the Shazam button. Auto Shazam allows the app to continue listening to what's playing even after the app closes.
The top of the Home page indicates that there are three pages in total to navigate through. To the left of Home is My Shazam, to the right is Discover1, and swiping back and forth is the primary way to get where you want to go. This type of layout resembles that of apps like Snapchat, only Shazam pulls it off in a less confusing manner. Not only do you always see three navigation dots at the top of the screen to indicate your current place within the app, but the Home page also contains icons that show which pages are placed on the left and right – Snapchat could benefit from similar aids, for new users at least.
My Shazam hasn't changed much from before, but in an effort to consolidate the total number of pages in the app, Discover now includes the contents formerly found in Trending as well. A Chart Update card is included with your daily mix, plus you'll find a button at the top and bottom of your 10 daily updates that takes you straight to Trending.
I appreciate what Shazam has done to try simplifying its app, both in the number of pages to navigate through, and in adopting the swiping gesture to handle that navigation with ease. Not every app would benefit from such a streamlined interface, but it works well here.
- Unfortunately Discover has not yet made it to the iPad, so Trending stands in its place on that device. ↩︎
David Pierce has a fascinating piece for WIRED on a hip-hop producer and artist, Steve Lacy, who makes music start to finish on his iPhone.
Lacy’s smartphone has been his personal studio since he first started making music. Even now, with all the equipment and access he could want, he still feels indelibly connected to something about making songs piece by piece on his phone. He’s also working this way to prove a point: that tools don’t really matter...If you want to make something, Lacy tells me, grab whatever you have and just make it.
He paged through the drum presets in GarageBand for a while before picking a messy-sounding kit. With two thumbs, he tapped out a simple beat, maybe 30 seconds long. Then he went back to the Rickenbacker. He played a riff he’d stumbled on while tuning, recording it on a separate GarageBand track over top of the drums. Without even playing it back, Lacy then reached down and deleted it. It took three taps: stop, delete, back to the beginning. He played the riff again, subtly differently. Deleted it again. For the next half hour, that’s all Lacy did: play, tap-tap-tap, play again. He experimented wildly for a while, then settled on a loose structure and began subtly tweaking it. Eventually satisfied with that bit, he plugged in his Fender bass and starts improvising a bassline. A few hours later, he began laying vocals, a breathy, wordless melody he sang directly into the iPhone’s microphone. He didn’t know quite what he was making, but he was feeling it.
Lacy's recording method is clearly an atypical one in the music industry, but it serves as a great testament to the power of iOS and the iPhone.
Music Business Worldwide reports on a new, multi-year deal Spotify has struck with Universal Music Group. One change tied to the deal is that some new albums from Universal will be exclusive to Premium subscribers for a two-week window. Spotify's CEO Daniel Ek shares:
“We know that not every album by every artist should be released the same way, and we’ve worked hard with UMG to develop a new, flexible release policy. Starting today, Universal artists can choose to release new albums on premium only for two weeks, offering subscribers an earlier chance to explore the complete creative work, while the singles are available across Spotify for all our listeners to enjoy.”
Another change brought by the new deal is highlighted at the end of the article. Quoting a Spotify press release:
'The new agreement will also provide UMG with unprecedented access to data, creating the foundation for new tools for artists and labels to expand, engage and build deeper connections with their fans.'
Although this information is spun by Spotify as a positive, it may be concerning to any more privacy-conscious users.
Even if I'm not a musician, I've always been fascinated by the concept behind Audiobus and its implementation on iOS. Audiobus is the premier iOS ecosystem for inter-app audio – it's an app and an SDK for third-party developers to create audio apps that can collaborate with each other in complex workflows and routines. The developers of Audiobus describe it as creating "virtual cables" between apps, and it's an apt analogy. Take a look at the hundreds of apps that integrate with Audiobus (over 900). Audiobus has fostered an entire mini-ecosystem inside iOS that also includes Apple's own GarageBand.
Audiobus launched a major version 3.0 today and it comes with some deep changes. The MIDI routing system has been rewritten with support for Apple's Audio Unit Extensions, a built-in mixer, superior preset management, and a new feature that can launch audio apps in the background. Just watch the video below to see how impressive Audiobus' inter-app communication based on compatible apps and extensions can be:
I'm surprised every time I come across Audiobus and consider that Apple didn't build this functionality natively into iOS. From a mere technical standpoint, Audiobus is one of the most intriguing and powerful additions to the iPad's music ecosystem. If you're a musician or like to play around with music apps, you should check out Audiobus 3.
After setting a record with 89.9 million streams in its first 24 hours on Apple’s streaming service — over 33 million streams ahead of Sheeran’s Divide in its first 24 hours on Spotify, which has around 80 million more users — it’s clear Drake and his favorite music service have cracked the streaming formula.
So how did Apple manage to break a record with an album that's also available on Spotify, with only 20 million users compared to Spotify’s 100 million? The answer, according to the Apple Music team, is the power of Beats 1 and OVO Sound Radio.
For Drake, Beats 1 has essentially replaced SoundCloud, the platform he once dominated and released singles through — a move that Jackson and Apple VP of apps and content Robert Kondrk said was a risk for Drake at the time. “We weren’t a proven hit, we weren’t a proven entity at all, whatsoever,” says Jackson. SoundCloud just got a shoutout from Chance The Rapper at the Grammys, but the service has been having a rough time since Drake left, with Recode reporting it recently had to raise a $70 million debt round just to stay afloat.
I still wish Beats 1 shows were easier to access and discover, but clearly the system has been working out well for Drake.