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Posts tagged with "music"

Quartz Analyzes a Month of Beats 1 Tracks

Fascinating findings by Quartz after collecting a month worth of songs played on Beats 1:

To get a sense of the station’s tastes and habits, we analyzed data on more than 12,000 songs played on Beats 1 from early July to early August. The song data was collected by Callum Jones, a programmer at Nitrous, who has open-sourced his tool over on GitHub. Jones also has a Twitter bot that automatically tweets whatever song is playing.


Beats 1 has something that is rare in the world of digital music: scarcity. Listeners can’t choose a song and play it over and over. (They can do that elsewhere on Apple Music.) But curation doesn’t mean songs aren’t repeated. We counted 12,445 tracks but only 3,371 unique songs, meaning each track was played an average of 3.7 times. Eighteen of the 20 songs in the table above were played over 50 times.

“Edgy enough” seems like a fitting description. I'm an avid listener of recent releases, but I discovered a lot of new stuff with Beats 1 so far.


Streaming Music and Offline Modes

Writing for Wired, David Pierce argues that most music streaming services aren't optimized for offline listening:

Streaming music has an offline problem. As they’ve fallen all over themselves reminding us how wonderful it is to have 30 million songs only a few taps away, all for the low, low price of $10 a month, these companies have forgotten that the key to a great music experience is pressing play and hearing music. That shouldn’t be as hard as they’re making it.

Sure, offline listening is an option in Rdio, Spotify, Google Play Music, and Apple Music, but it always feels like it's hidden just enough to make you forget it exists.

As I noted last week on Connected, I don't usually need to keep music saved offline because I'm either on WiFi or I have plenty of 4G data on my plan for streaming not to be an issue. But I occasionally prefer to save some music offline because of poor cellular coverage (such as at the beach where I go every summer), and browsing offline content feels like a bet against the streaming service.

Even in Apple Music – the successor to the iPod and Music app – browsing offline content in Airplane Mode mostly breaks everything else (static, last-seen previews aren't cached in the For You and New tabs), and playlists saved for offline listening are still displayed alongside those that are not (even after toggling the offline switch).


Shazam Update Adds Apple Music Support

I'm excited to start using Apple Music next week, but I was concerned that one of my favorite ways to discover songs I hear around me – Shazam – wouldn't be ready to support Apple Music at launch. Thankfully, an update released today adds an Apple Music button that, like other streaming integrations before, will let you listen to tagged songs on the new service.

I've been preparing for the launch of Apple Music – I deleted Spotify from my iPhone and re-subscribed to Beats Music last night so I can report on the transition – because I've been waiting for an Apple music streaming service for a long time, and I want to understand what they've built as quickly as possible. The fact that third-party utilities like Shazam and Musixmatch should already work with the updated Music app makes the transition even better.


Taylor Swift Criticizes Apple Music for Lack of Artist Compensation in Free Trial Period

Taylor Swift, writing on her personal blog, criticizes Apple for lacking any sort of artist compensation during the three-month free trial period of Apple Music:

These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.

I realize that Apple is working towards a goal of paid streaming. I think that is beautiful progress. We know how astronomically successful Apple has been and we know that this incredible company has the money to pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period… even if it is free for the fans trying it out.

This is not the first time Swift has criticized music streaming services with free trials that can't pay artists enough (or at all). Notably, her latest album, 1989, is only available for digital purchase and has been withdrawn from streaming services – the same will be the case with Apple Music.

Here's what Swift wrote in an article for the Wall Street Journal last year:

There are many (many) people who predict the downfall of music sales and the irrelevancy of the album as an economic entity. I am not one of them. In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace. Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.

In a media industry increasingly driven towards free downloads and monetization through other channels, I find Swift's overall position both sensible and a little too optimistic.

Apple's terms for the free trial are controversial and I wonder if they could handle this differently. It's not like Apple doesn't have the resources to offer a free trial for users and make it up to artists on their own. I think Swift makes a solid argument here.

But I want to touch on the bigger theme as well. Swift is also hoping that an entire generation now accustomed to free YouTube videos and ad-supported streaming will somehow rediscover the lost value of the digital album. Nostalgia can be a powerful selling factor, but, in this case, I'd tend to believe that convenience of free services (or very cheap ones) is a stronger motivation for millions of people.

It sounds sad, but, for many, music has become an easily accessible good with no exclusive value – the money is in concerts and merchandising (basically, emotions and memories that are personal, not online). Ask Nickelback (seriously, read their story). The over 8 million global copies sold by 1989 are sadly an exception these days, and most artists are now rethinking what it means to monetize music at scale. Often, this includes using streaming services and social media to find and nurture future concert-goers.

When even Apple is willing to cannibalize traditional album sales with a cheap streaming service that has a feature to connect artists with fan, you have to wonder if the money really is elsewhere at this point.

If only there could be live shows for app developers too.


Review: JamStik+ Is More Game Controller Than Musical Instrument


The JamStik+ is two things: a guitar learning tool, and a guitar-like MIDI controller[1]. It’s also pitched as a travel guitar, or at least, something a guitarist can use to practice when on the road, but – as we’ll see – it performs that duty rather badly. You should also know that the JamStik+ is a Kickstarter project, and follows the rules of all Kickstarter hardware/software combos. That is, the hardware is good, but the apps are not.

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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.


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


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.