Tag Archives: music

Vevo’s reboot starts with iPhone app that knows the right tunes for you

After six months at the helm of the Internet’s biggest library of top music videos, Erik Huggers wants to show off the new Vevo. That begins with a revamped app.

Erik Huggers is ready to jump-start Vevo.

Six months ago, Huggers took command of the company, best known as home to many of the most popular music videos on the Internet. A revamp of its iPhone app, launched Thursday, is the prelude to more changes, he said, as Vevo updates its original content, considers new partners among social networks and telecom companies, and weighs a venture into subscriptions.

“Call it the reboot,” he said in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

Vevo is a powerful force in online music. Its catalog of 150,000 top official videos draws 12 billion views a month. But the company has grappled to establish an identity separate from YouTube. Though people can go to Vevo.com to watch its clips, the firm’s channel on Google’s massive video site is where most of the viewership of Vevo’s content occurs, and that means sharing ad revenue with Google. Huggers’ goal, starting with a mobile app that plays and discovers the right music videos for you, is for Vevo to mean more than just a logo at the bottom of popular YouTube clips.

That challenge is heightened by its ownership. Vevo is a joint venture of two of the three major music labels, Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. The two rivals have to smooth their hackles for the business of Vevo to advance. In addition to outside investor Abu Dhabi Media, YouTube parent Google also holds a stake in Vevo, buying a roughly 7 percent share two years ago. That makes YouTube a partner, an investor and a competitor.

In fact, YouTube launched its own music-focused app hours before Vevo released its new app Thursday. The development of YouTube Music didn’t involve Vevo, according to T. Jay Fowler, YouTube’s head of music products, even though Vevo supplies the site with the preponderance of the most popular videos.

“Some people will love the YouTube app. Other people, we hope, will love the Vevo app,” Huggers said. Over the next few months, Vevo plans to introduce similar programs for devices run by Google’s Android system and for Apple TV.

Huggers’ outlook for Vevo made exploration a common refrain.

For one, the company is considering partnerships with new powerful players. This week, Vevo was among the video sites participating in a program at wireless carrier T-Mobile that lets some customers watch unlimited video that doesn’t count against their data allotment. Asked if social networks, telecom carriers or Internet service providers were in Vevo’s sights, Huggers said the company is exploring “anything and everything.”

“[That] list was very precise,” he said. “Certainly, that thought hasn’t been lost on us.”

Huggers wants to move the company into new frontiers for its own shows, as well. He said “mobile-first, premium short-form original content” would be “very, very important.” Clips like that are “a white space that is still to be figured out,” he said. He pointed to his hiring of Andy Parfitt as an indication of change. Like Huggers, Parfitt worked at the BBC, where he most recently led Radio 1. “We’re experimenting, and we will turn up the volume,” he said.

The company may eventually consider a subscription option to pair with its current business of ads that rack up revenue from free viewing. For now, though, Vevo is “completely focused” on the advertising-based model because the volume of viewing “blows the mind,” he said.

Vevo’s owners failed to sell Vevo last year, and longtime chief Rio Caraeff departed in November. Huggers took the reins in April. He previously ran chipmaker Intel’s effort to make an Internet TV service that was eventually sold to Verizon. Huggers rose to prominence as the executive who launched the BBC’s iPlayer online service, a vanguard of online television streaming.

For today, however, Huggers is focused on the company’s fresh app for Apple mobile devices.

The app is set up so first-time users visually pick through some favorite artists and say how they want to discover new content. The app has a Spotlight feature for content from favorite artists, and it simplifies playlist creation.

The goal was “making it simple, making it easy, making it clean,” he said, adding that sites like YouTube are the “one-stop shop for everything.” Vevo, he said, wants to be “a beautiful place for artists to showcase their work.”

He’s betting viewers will flock to beauty too.

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Apple Music subscriptions: Time to pay the piper

The all-you-can-eat streaming service has been free for the past three months. As the first trial periods expire this week, the true test begins for the subscription model.

Apple’s first subscription service is taking off its training wheels.

The Cupertino, California, tech giant introduced Apple Music in June as its first foray into monthly charges. To get consumers to try the service, Apple offered a free, three-month trial with unlimited streaming. The first wave of trials expires Wednesday.

It’s an about-face for Apple, considering co-founder Steve Jobs vocally opposed subscriptions. Apple also has a lot to lose. It remains the king of digital track downloads, which are the primary way music makes money today. But with streaming models on the rise and downloads shrinking, Apple risked losing its crown if it continued to ignore the shift in consumer behavior.

Now that customers must either pay to continue using Apple Music or give it up, Wednesday will mark the first test of whether the company’s service has legs. Even as a free trial, the service faced criticism for its complicated interface and how it handles your music library.

The backlash started even before the service launched.

Nine days before the debut of Apple Music, pop juggernaut Taylor Swift warned she would keep her hit album “1989” off Apple Music because of a licensing loophole: zero payments during the three-month free trial. Less than 24 hours after Swift posted the message on her blog, Apple’s head of software and services, Eddy Cue, tweeted that Apple would capitulate and pay artists for every stream during the trial period.

The service also sparked a rant from one of Apple’s most vocal fans.

Jim Dalrymple is a writer who has tracked Apple for nearly two decades, most recently on The Loop blog. In a July blog post titled “Apple Music is a nightmare and I’m done with it,” Dalrymple recounted how songs in his music library disappeared as he tried to integrate his collection with Apple Music. “Adding music to my library is nothing short of a mind-blowing exercise in frustration,” he wrote.

He later noted that he recovered most of his music.

Apple Music also irritated an influential music industry commentator. On the first day Apple Music was publicly available, Bob Lefsetz, who writes a blog called The Lefsetz Letter, compared Apple to cable providers, long a prime example of American dissatisfaction with corporations. “When you make it hard to install and want me to give my credit card up front…you look like a sleazy American company, like a hated cable operation, and you make people reluctant,” Lefsetz wrote.

Music listening is only one part of Apple Music. The service introduced a blog-like social network for artists called Connect. Earlier this month, website Music Ally studied artists’ posts and found that they were occurring weekly rather than daily and that much of the content was recycled from Instagram or mundane promotional messages. “In June, Apple’s services boss Eddy Cue said that Pharrell Williams would be posting photos, lyrics and raw mixes of songs — but at the time of writing, he’s posted a single photo two months ago,” according to Music Ally.

Apple declined to comment on complaints about Apple Music. However, earlier this month an executive acknowledged that the service had its problems. Oliver Schusser, vice president of iTunes International,told UK news site The Guardian that Apple is “adding features and cleaning up certain things” in Apple Music.

Now that Apple Music is about to begin charging for its first subscriptions, where does it stand?

Based on what people say online, interest in the service has declined but reactions to it have grown more positive, according to Amobee Brand Intelligence, a marketing technology company that analyzes online reactions. Buzz around Apple Music peaked on July 1, the day after the service first became available. In July, Apple Music was the subject of 808,000 Tweets, and Twitter sentiment was 19 positive and 13 percent negative, Amobee said. So far in September, 310,000 Tweets have been 28 percent positive and 10 percent negative.

In a study last month by researcher Musicwatch, 77 percent of people who use an Apple mobile device in the US are aware of Apple Music, and 11 percent reported they were using Apple Music. While 64 percent of those Apple Music users said that they were extremely or very likely to pay for it after their free trials end, almost as many (61 percent) reported that they had already turned off the auto-renewal option.

Now that Apple is about to start charging, the company isn’t taking any more chances. This week, it started posting videos that explain how Apple Music works. The company may soon find out whether offering tutorials three months into the game is too late.

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Music streaming just became a billion-dollar industry

Revenues from streaming music online have surpassed $1bn for the first time

Revenues from streaming songs on the internet has passed $1bn for the first time, new figures have shown.

Digital downloads of songs continued to fall out of favour in the first half of the year, while free and paid music-streaming revenue kept growing, even without much of a bump from the launch of Apple Music.

That’s according to mid-year sales figures released by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on Monday. They show overall music industry revenue fell a half percentage point to $3.2bn.

Revenue from paid subscriptions to services like Spotify and Rhapsodygrew 25pc to $478m, while revenue from free services like Pandora grew 22pc to $550m. Streaming revenue as a whole surpassed $1bn in the first half of the year for the first time.

Download sales revenue fell 4pc to $1.3bn, while physical disc sales dropped 17pc to $748m.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice-president of internet software and services, launches Apple Music

Apple Music, the tech company’s online music subscription service, launched on the last day statistics were recorded.

Cary Sherman, RIAA chief executive, said in a statement that while streaming music revenues continued to grow healthily, he criticised the rates being paid to labels and artists for streaming music, saying they “do not always equal fair market rates”.

Certain rates for Internet radio are set by government bodies.

The rise of digital streaming has helped the industry maintain annual revenues of around $7bn since 2010, offsetting the decline in revenue from digital downloads of single tracks that began in 2013. But the level is far below the industry peak in 1999 of $14.6bn, when compact discs were dominant.

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Vine can now put perfectly looping music over your videos

Vine is getting into music. With an update rolling out Friday, Vine will begin letting its users add music to their videos. The music will be selected and licensed by Vine — it’s not yet clear whether you’ll be able to dig into your private library to put “Bad Blood” over everything. Instead, after shooting a video, you’ll be able to look through a selection of tracks that Vine has picked out. You can place a song over your clip however you’d like, but Vine is hoping that you’ll use a feature it’s made called “Snap to Beat,” which will trim the music and video to the audio loop as perfectly as possible.

Avicii, Migos, and Odesza are among the first artists who will be included in Vine’s “Featured Tracks.” Vine is also pitching this as a way to discover new music. When a Vine video includes one of those tracks, a music note will appear beside it that you can tap to get information on the song and artist. Artists will also be able to include a link to wherever they choose, be it a social media profile, a website, or a music store, so that you can find out more about them. I’m not convinced that it’ll be an amazing way to sell songs, but it should definitely make for more pleasantly loopable Vines.

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Sony’s Metal Gear Solid Walkman is a truly tasteful video game tie-in

In celebration of the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Sony has released a bunch of Phantom Pain-branded electronics, including a new version of its high-fidelity Walkman, the super-expensive ZX2. The customized music player is listed for ¥140,000on Sony’s site (that’s around $1,126 — the same as a normal ZX2), and has the game’s title stamped on the front. It also comes with a leather case branded with the logo of the game’s Outer Heaven mercenary group, as well as four pre-installed Phantom Painwallpapers, a handful of HD Metal Gear songs, and original packaging.

The Phantom Pain-branded NX2 and NW-A16 MP3 players. (Sony / Konami)

If luxury MP3 players aren’t your thing though, Sony is also offering similarly-branded Xperia Z4 and Z3 Compact tablets, as well as a special edition J1 Compact smartphoneand a less-pricey NW-A16 Walkman. All of these come with similar perks to the ZX2, including Outer Heaven branding (either on the rear of the device in the case of the NW-A16 and J1 Compact, or on limited edition cases for the tablets), pre-loaded wallpapers, and a handful of HD tracks.

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New music messaging app MSTY allows you to communicate via song

Grant Bovey, former boss of Imagine Homes and ex-husband of Anthea Turner, is trying his hand at messaging apps and the world of digital music

A music messaging app that enables people to communicate with song clips launched on Thursday in a bid to capitalise on the growing popularing of messaging apps and throw a lifeline to the struggling music industry.

MSTY, an acronym for My Song To You, allows users to send each other 30-second segments of songs, from Happy Birthday to the latest chart-topper, combined with a photo and text.

The UK-based company has launched the app in 155 countries with a catalogue of 2,000 song clips, cut down to the most meaningful 30 seconds by humans rather than the computer algorithms that create previews on services such as iTunes. The songs are curated into playlists by mood or genre such as flirt, celebrate, sport, pop hits and seventies music.

Users can browse 2,000 curated song clips organised by category

It claims to be the first dedicated legal music messaging app.

“It’s absolutely bonkers that this does not already exist,” said founder and CEO Grant Bovey, who previously started and ran Imagine Homes, the prominent buy-to-let property company that went bust in 2009.

“People have always utilised music in a very powerful way, from film and television to advertising. Why can’t you send that emotion in a message? It seems very obvious.”

A handful of similar messaging apps do exist – such as La-La (which sends whole songs, not clips with pictures and words) and Rithm (which charges users for certain functions) – but MSTY is one of the few that combines images and text with human-curated short music clips that are legally sourced directly from the record labels.

The app allows users to combine a 30-second song clip with an image and text

MSTY – which signed licensing deals with Universal, Sony and Warner before launching, giving it legal access to 22m songs – is also integrated with Apple Music. Users can click through from a song clip they are sent in the app to the album on Apple Music, where they are able to stream or purchase the song.

Mr Bovey believes MSTY will create a new revenue stream for artistswho have been struggling to monetise their music in the face of digital developments in the music industry such as piracy and streaming.

“We are revitalising the back catalogues of these record labels,” because classic songs sent via the app will help users discover or rediscover older music. “MSTY will be able to drive people’s decision-making in what they listen to.”

But Mr Bovey insists that MSTY is “not Spotify” and primarily competes in the messaging space, not the music space.

“WhatsApp is text, Instagram is pictures and MSTY allows the user to convey emotion in another way,” he said.

Those apps have around 800m and 300m users respectively, and are both owned by Facebook following $19bn and $1bn acquisitions. The social network also has 700m active users on Facebook Messenger andunsuccessfully tried to buy Snapchat, which has around 100m users, for $3bn in 2013.

MSTY founder Grant Bovey, whose previous business Imagine Homes went into administration following the property crashMusic messaging apps, most of which are primarily about sharing music rather than communicating using songs, are also picking up momentum with investors and industry insiders.

Music Messenger has raised $35m from Roman Abramovich, Abba’s Benny Andersson, David Guetta, Nicki Minaj and Will.i.am, among others, and is reported to be gaining a million users a month. Rithm and Boomio have reportedly raised $1m each in seed funding.

Mr Bovey had a short-lived music career himself in 1988 under the name Grant Michael with a pop song called Don’t Turn Your Back that peaked in the charts at number 99, and was until recently married to former Blue Peter presenter Anthea Turner. He self-funded his app with an initial investment of £200,000 before raising further capital from private individuals including music industry insiders.

Mr Bovey plans to monetise the app, which is free to users and does not have banner ads, by arranging sponsorship deals, such as a Mother’s Day partnership with a florist that will allow users to send flowers through the app. MSTY also makes £5 for every user who signs up to Apple Music via the app and collects a commission is a song reached through the app is downloaded.

And to answer the most pressing question for any new technology product in the music world: yes, the app includes songs by Taylor Swift.

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Apple Music snags 11 million trial users, but how many will pay to stay?

Yes, 11 million sounds like an impressive number, but Apple faces challenges in trying to achieve its reported goal of more than 100 million subscribers.

Apple Music has already grabbed 11 million trial users a little more than a month after its debut.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, revealed the 11 million figure in an interview with USA Today published Thursday, adding that “we’re thrilled with the numbers so far.”

Released on June 30 with the iOS 8.4 update to Apple’s software for mobile devices, Apple Music is the company’s response and rival to other music-streaming services, such as Spotify, Pandora and Rdio. Apple Music offers streaming music with playlists curated by “music experts,” a 24/7 radio station called Beats 1 and a social feature called Connect that puts together musicians and their fans. Available as a free trial for the first three months, the service costs $9.99 per month for an individual plan and $14.99 for a shared family plan for up to six people.

Cue didn’t shed any numbers on the individual plans but said that 2 million people have already subscribed to the more expensive family plan.

Apple Music is important to the company as a way of competing with Spotify and other services for a chunk of the increasingly popular music-streaming business. But it’s also a way to bring more users into the Apple ecosystem. By offering its own music-streaming service for iOS devices, Apple hopes to sell more iPhones and iPads. Selling more iOS devices means more users who will buy items from iTunes and potentially other Apple products and services. And Apple already has around 800 million iTunes subscribers, all of whom are part of that huge ecosystem.

But among the 11 million people in the trial stage, how many will actually stick with Apple Music once they have to shell out a monthly fee? That depends in part on the music on hand, but also on the usability of the service. Still in its early stages, Apple Music has received some criticism from users, with complaints centering on matters such as misidentified songs and duplicate playlists.

Cue acknowledged the initial glitches, saying that “we’re aware that some users have experienced some issues, and we hate letting them down, but we’re releasing updates as fast as we can to address those issues.”

Even assuming all 11 million people shelled out for a subscription, Apple Music’s paid membership would be just over half of the 20 million people who pay for a Spotify account. And Spotify’s ranks have been growing at a fast clip. In May 2014, Spotify had 10 million paid subscribers and 40 million active users. Those numbers jumped to 15 million paid and 60 million active by the end of last year. In addition to the 20 million paid subscribers, Spotify now has 75 million active users.

Beyond fixing the glitches in Apple Music and convincing trial users to subscribe, Apple needs to spread the word about its new service among the general public. The company is planning a wide marketing initiative using billboards, TV spots and radio ads to tout the service’s ability to connect listeners with both established artists and up-and-comers, USA Today said. And to capture more than just iOS users, Apple is cooking up an Apple Music for Android service.

Apple reportedly has set a goal of winning over 100 million subscribers for Apple Music, a lofty one as that would be more than double the number of subscribers of all current music services combined, USA Today noted. Offering streaming music, a radio station and the Connect social feature all in one place, Apple Music can be confusing to navigate and use at first. But promoting and explaining the service is only one of the challenges Apple faces.

“For many people outside of the US (Apple Music launched in 100 countries), you still have to explain what it is and how it works,” record producer and now Apple executive Jimmy Iovine told USA Today. “Beyond that, there’s still the issue of winning over millennials, who never pay for music, by showing them you’re offering something that will improve their lives. And finally, there are people out there who I think understand its value, but we still have to go out and get them.”

Russ Crupnick, managing partner of research firm MusicWatch, said that the significance of the 11 million trial subscribers is a matter of perspective since the service is still in a free period. Apple Music is available in North and South America and Europe, as well as Russia and India, so the 11 million trial members seems relatively low. And it leaves Apple far short of its purported goal of 100 million members.

“But Spotify and Pandora didn’t get there overnight either,” Crupnick added.

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BBC iPlayer watched abroad by ‘more than 60 million people’ for free

Viewers have been using location blockers to watch the BBC iPlayer, according to new research

The BBC’s iPlayer is supposed to be inaccessible outside the UK but, according to new research, more than 60 million people are bypassing the services restrictions to watch BBC programmes online.

The research, conducted by GlobalWebIndex, found that people have been using proxy servers or virtual private networks which make it seem like their computers are located in the UK.

The company carried out interviews with more than 47,000 people from around the world and in China alone they believe that more than 38 million people are using iPlayer to watch shows such as Sherlock.

“Although the iPlayer is funded by the UK licence fee and is therefore geo-restricted to be viewable only by people resident in the country, GWI’s data shows that the service has a huge global audience – with many turning to virtual private networks (VPNs) or proxy servers in order to access the service from abroad,” the report said.

In 2011, the BBC launched a global iPlayer service and charged viewers a monthly subscription, with European users paying £4.30 a month, Canadians paying £3.70 and Australians paying £3.80. It was, however, a pilot scheme and was closed last month.

These new figures now suggest that the BBC could be missing out on millions in potential income from abroad.

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A BBC spokesperson said: “BBC iPlayer, and the content on it, is paid for by UK licence fee payers to watch and download in the UK and the terms of use reflect that. We do not comment on individual cases regarding breaches of BBC iPlayer’s terms of use, but we take steps where appropriate to protect the intellectual property belonging to rights holders.”

The report reveals that around a quarter of adults around the world use VPN technology to access better entertainment. And it is not just the iPlayer that they are accessing. Earlier this year, Netflix took steps to try and ban users who were using VPNs.

The streaming site is not yet available in all countries and, in those that it is, the programmes and films available vary, with the US having the biggest selection. When Netflix updated its terms and conditions, a clause was added that allows the company to terminate users’ accounts if they circumnavigate the geographic restrictions.

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YouTube Close to Launching Subscription Music Service (Breaking)

YouTube Close to Launching Subscription Music Service (Breaking)

YouTube is preparing a premium on-demand music service — akin to a Spotify, but with video — to launch later this year, according to several sources familiar with the plans.

The service, designed with mobile listening in mind, will have a free component and a premium tier that offers unlimited access to a full catalog of tracks similar to what’s already available via YouTube’s parent company, Google Inc., via its All Access subscription music service. Premium features would include the ability to cache music for offline listening and removing ads.

The free tier is likely to be unlimited, on-demand access to full tracks on all platforms, including mobile, said several people who have been briefed on the proposed service. In that sense, the paid tier is more of a “soft sell” as YouTube’s primary goal is to continue to amass ears and eyes to its mobile platform to sell ads.

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But having a paid tier, with all the required licenses for a premium on-demand product, gives YouTube more flexibility in packaging and selling music with fewer restrictions on what it can do with the music, multiple sources pointed out. In addition, there are strategic reasons for developing a premium music video service that could be paired up with other Google products in the future, including Google Glass.

YouTube declined to comment on its plans.

“We’re always working on new and better ways for people to enjoy YouTube content across all screens, and on giving partners more opportunities to reach their fans,” YouTube said in a statement. “However, we have nothing to announce at this time.”

Google Play Music All Access Dials Up Verizon for Mobile Music to Rival AT&T’s’s Push for Two-Tier Plan

While the timing of the service’s launch has not been determined, YouTube has said it is hoping to release a product this year. If it succeeds, YouTube could come out ahead of Beats Music, which is supposed to launch later this year, but could be delayed until early next year, according to several people knowledgeable with Beats.

YouTube, through its parent company Google, already secured most of the licenses it needs to launch a music service earlier this year, beginning with Warner Music Group in March, followed by Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group. The licenses obtained were for both Google’s All Access service, which launched in May, and for a YouTube music service. 

Many younger listeners already use YouTube as a free, on-demand jukebox — searching for, and finding, official music videos of major releases. The challenge for YouTube has been to create a service that would be better than what it currently offers its audience in order to justify a monthly fee of around $10.

Warner Music Inks Deal With Google for Music Subscription Services

One big added feature could be the ability to stream full albums. Currently, not all songs in an album are available on YouTube because artists generally select one or two tracks from any single album to feature in a music video. A second potential premium feature would be offline cacheing of songs and videos so users can listen on their mobile devices even when they’re not connected or when they’re trying to save on bandwidth costs or battery consumption. Finally, the removal of ads would almost certainly be a feature in the premium offering, sources said.

The introduction of a premium music tier is likely to coincide with a larger redesign of the YouTube mobile app that would give users a simple, clean interface in which to listen to music, create custom playlists and watch videos at the same time.

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