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Posts tagged with "music"


Shazam Launches Redesigned, Simplified iOS App

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 Gone are the traditional navigation tabs at the bottom of the screen; they have been replaced by a paginated layout where a swipe left or right is used to switch screens.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.


  1. Unfortunately Discover has not yet made it to the iPad, so Trending stands in its place on that device. ↩︎

How One Rising Musician Works from an iPhone

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.

Pierce describes a recording session he observed where Lacy used GarageBand, an iRig, and the iPhone's built-in microphone to create music.

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.

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Spotify Will Offer Time-Limited Exclusives of Some Albums to Premium Members

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.

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Audiobus 3.0

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.

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How Drake and Apple Music Broke Streaming Records with More Life

Fascinating look by Micah Singleton at how Drake's latest mixtape More Life broke streaming records on Apple Music despite not being exclusive to it:

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.

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Pandora Announces On-Demand Streaming Service

Pandora has a competitor to Apple Music and Spotify on the way called Pandora Premium. The company announced today that its $9.99/month streaming plan will be launching soon, and it's now taking signups for the first invitations to the service.

Though Pandora Premium enters the on-demand streaming market somewhat late in the game, Pandora seems to have worked hard to create a solid experience that's not just a knock-off of its competitors. Besides many of the basic features you would expect, there are several highlights that seem noteworthy.

Quick playlist creation seems to have been simplified:

In Pandora Premium, start a playlist with one or two songs of your choice, tap “Add Similar Songs” and put the power of our Music Genome Project to work to quickly and effortlessly create the perfect playlist for any activity, mood or party.

In addition,

Thumb up a handful of songs on your favorite radio station and Pandora Premium will automatically create a playlist of these songs. Thumb more songs and we’ll add those to the playlist too.

Pandora Premium also claims to have more robust search than other services:

In Pandora Premium, we’ve done the hard work of separating the killer from the filler for you. We’ve filtered out karaoke tracks, knock-off covers and pet sounds (but not Pet Sounds) that slow down other services. You get fast, accurate search results that get even smarter over time.

Based on the screenshots, Pandora seems to have done a great job not only thinking through the features of the app, but also creating a visually appealing, simple app to navigate. Though I'm a mostly-content Apple Music user, I look forward to giving Pandora Premium a try.


Record Bird Is Apple Music’s Missing Discovery Tool for New Releases

When it comes to keeping track of new music releases from my favorite artists, streaming services have always been a disappointment. After nearly eight years of streaming music every day, I've realized that the problem lies on the two ends of the New Releases spectrum: these days, services either prioritize front page curation skewed towards new pop, R&B/hip-hop, or EDM tracks (the most popular and lucrative genres), or they algorithmically suggest new releases for artists I may like, but which I'm not necessarily familiar with.

I've tried all of the major streaming services since 2009, and only two of them have gotten close to my ideal implementation of "Here's everything artists you already know have released or are about to release".

Rdio (forever in our hearts) had a solid New Releases section featuring a mix of variegate editorial picks culled from a variety of genres, labels, and trends. Unlike the modern equivalents in Spotify and Apple Music, I remember Rdio's New Releases page1 offered a more balanced, heterogeneous mix of new songs.

Spotify, on the other hand, has invested heavily on algorithmic and serendipitous discovery of songs, but it still hasn't quite figured out how to display every new release from every artist you care about. Spotify can send emails for new release highlights, but those are only a subset of new releases from your favorite artists – usually, only the most popular ones. Other Spotify features are similarly focused on highlights.

In comparing the treatment of new music releases among different services, I realized that this is largely what Apple had set out to solve with Connect in Apple Music: a way to follow all your favorite artists and view updates for their announcements – whether they were new songs, video clips, tour dates, or photos.

Apple Music Connect, however, has faltered due to Apple's inability to scale a music-centric network (twice) and because it was predicated on a commitment from artists – both superstars and smaller acts – to post regular updates on their Connect feeds. After an initial spur of song previews and photos published on Connect, Apple Music's network has mostly turned into a ghost town of sporadic updates, often automatically cross-posted to other networks (without any exclusivity), with hashtags that can't be tapped and shortened links that open Safari webpages after multiple redirects. It's not a good user experience. Apple Music Connect is an afterthought; it's also been regarded as such by Apple itself with the removal of the dedicated page in iOS 10.

Fortunately, there are still people who understand what a music lover with a broad range of preferences wants from a tool designed to discover new music. For the past couple of months, I've been using Record Bird, a free iPhone app hailing from Austria, to check on updates from my favorite artists every day, stream songs, watch videos, and even read related stories.

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Picky: Music Rediscovery Through Powerful Filtering

My music collection is too big to browse in Apple’s Music app. With over 15,000 songs, browsing by track is out of the question, and because I have only one or two songs by many artists, scrolling my entire artist list is impractical too. As a result, I typically use search to find songs in the Music app. The trouble is, search only works if you already know what you want to hear, and it hampers rediscovery of music you haven't listened to for a while. Apple Music’s algorithmically-generated ‘My Favorites Mix’ helps with this, but sometimes I would rather discover old favorites on my own. For those times, I turn to Picky by Charles Joseph.

Picky lets you filter and sort music in more ways than you can probably imagine. Add to that the ability quickly queue up songs from anywhere in the app, and the result is a powerful music utility that is perfect for getting reacquainted with your favorite tunes.

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