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iHeartRadio adds Spotify-like personalized playlists

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

iHeartRadio

iHeartRadio announced today that it’s adding a new playlist for users to stream — a weekly updated selection of tunes based on what you listen to. Your Weekly Mixtape will be refreshed every Monday and will include 30 to 75 songs chosen for you based on the stations and artists you listen to and the tracks you give a thumbs up. It sounds an awful lot like Spotify’s Discover Weekly, even down to the day it’s released. But iHeartRadio’s chief product officer, Chris Williams, told CNET that there is a difference between the two.

Whereas Spotify’s weekly playlist is more about finding users new music they might enjoy, Williams notes, he says that iHeartRadio’s curated playlist is about giving users a selection of songs they know and love. “We want to make sure they’re getting a playlist they can sing along to,” he said. However, the company says the playlist will also include both new releases and trending music a user might like.

Earlier this year, iHeartRadio opened up its activity-, era- and genre-based playlists to all users. And it’s not the only streaming service to offer a Discover Weekly-like playlist. Pandora announced its version in March while Apple Music has a handful of personalized playlists for users to choose from as well. Spotify’s personalized lists also include its Daily Mixes, Your Time Capsule and Your Summer Rewind.

iHeartRadio’s Your Weekly Mixtape is rolling out to all users, paid and free, now. You can find yours through the “For You” tab on the iHeartRadio website or the “Your Library” section of the iOS and Android apps.

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Apple Music documentary chronicles the making of Kesha's ‘Rainbow’

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

LISA O’CONNOR via Getty Images

Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of the release of Kesha’s Rainbow, an album that confronts deep pain, features “spine-shivering feats” as Billboard noted and includes what Rolling Stone called the “best music of her career.” On August 10th, Apple Music will celebrate the album and the woman behind it with a documentary about Kesha and the making of Rainbow. Rainbow – The Film includes never-before-seen footage of Kesha performances, the writing and recording of Rainbow and “psychedelic vignettes” that depict the artist’s struggles and inner demons.

“Making Rainbow the album was such a therapeutic process and given the opportunity to turn it into a three dimensional piece of art has helped me find even deeper healing and catharsis,” Kesha said in a statement. “I hope this film inspires others to never give up even if you feel full of hurt or lost, because after the storm comes a rainbow. Depression, anxiety and mental illness are things we all need to talk about more, and there is no shame in asking for help. Making the decision to work on yourself is the bravest thing you can do. I hope this film helps bring light and love to everyone.”

This is the latest addition to Apple Music’s growing list of documentaries, which include subjects like Major Lazer, Pink, Clive Davis, Cash Money and Harry Styles’ hair.

Rainbow – The Film will be available exclusively through Apple Music. You can check out the trailer below.

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Tech News

AirPlay 2 makes Sonos the best audio option for most iPhone owners

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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For a long time, Sonos was only capable of streaming music to its speakers through a proprietary app, but that’s changed in the last few years. After working with music services like Spotify and Pandora, users can stay in those apps and stream music straight to your Sonos setup. That hasn’t been the case if you’re an Apple Music user, until now: as of today, Sonos supports Apple’s AirPlay 2 protocol. After spending a week or so testing out a beta version of the software, I can say that pretty much all Sonos owners who use iOS devices will get a lot out of this update.

If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, you can now go to Apple Music, start playing an album or playlist, tap the AirPlay button and pick which speakers you want to stream your music to. From the AirPlay interface, you’ll be able to see any compatible Sonos speakers, as well as any other speakers in your setup that support AirPlay 2 (like Apple’s own HomePod, for example). You can shoot music to whatever speakers you want; you can also adjust the volume for each individual speaker as well as the group. This means you can have a multi-room audio setup with a mix of speakers, not just ones from Sonos.

If you’re not an Apple Music user, you’ll still likely get some benefit from the AirPlay 2 update. Pretty much any music app on iOS that supports AirPlay will work with these new features. I’ve tested it with Spotify, Google Play Music, YouTube Music and Pandora, and it works just as well there as it does with Apple’s own music app. For many, this means you won’t have to use the Sonos app at all aside for setup and software updates

AirPlay 2 support also means that Apple Music users can now control their tunes with their voice, thanks to Siri. Sonos’ speakers don’t support Siri directly; they’re Alexa-only for the moment. But, you can speak to your phone or iPad and tell it to play the music of your choice.

You can also use your voice to control on which speaker(s) the music will play. First, you’ll need to set up Sonos speakers in the iOS Home app; once you give them a name identifying what room they’re in, you can tell Siri to play a song or album in a specific room. Or you can just say “play everywhere” to get all your speakers in sync. After that, you can say “stop playing in the living room” to turn off a speaker while letting tunes continue elsewhere.

One of the nice things about AirPlay 2 and Sonos is that once you’ve kicked off music with Siri, you can then use Alexa on your compatible Sonos speakers to control music from there. You can skip tracks, adjust volume, and control which speakers are playing. It’s a little weird to jump between

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Apple Music reportedly has more US subscribers than Spotify

July 6, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Apple

Thanks to a Wall Street Journal report in February, we knew Apple Music was poised to overtake Spotify in terms of US subscribers this summer. Well, it reportedly has happened. According to sources from Digital Music News, Apple’s streaming service now has more than 20 million paying users in the States. The report claims that Spotify also has in excess of 20 million paying customers in the US, but Apple is now in the lead. DBN didn’t mention specific numbers, but says its source is a “US-based, major [music] distributor.”

Spotify still leads outside of the US, tallying 75 million subscribers as part of its first earnings report in May. However, considering the company filed to go public in the US in April, reports that its primary competition there has made up what was once a massive lead won’t be welcome news, especially to investors. But subscriber numbers may not be the only place Spotify is lagging behind Apple.

A recent report from Music Business Worldwide offered a deep dive on the early stats both service released on Drake’s Scorpion. In the first day, Spotify notched 132.4 million streams globally while Apple Music counted 170 million. As MBW notes, there are a number of factors that could’ve contributed to this, including the fact the album appeared on Apple Music right at midnight while it wasn’t available on Spotify until a couple hours later. However, this comparison also indicates Apple Music is more popular in the US than Spotify. And when it comes to one of biggest — if not the biggest — release of the year, that’s a problem for a company trying to prove its profitability.

Earnings season is coming again soon, so we’ll probably get some exact numbers to compare then — if not before.

Nathan Ingraham contributed to this report.

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Drake smashes single-day Apple Music and Spotify records (again)

June 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Drake is back to breaking streaming music records, although this time he’s getting a helping hand. To start, Apple has confirmed that the man from the 6 smashed his own single-day record on its music service, with his album Scorpion resulting in over 170 million streams inside of 24 hours (More Life managed “just” 89.9 million streams). We’ve asked Spotify for its own details, but it did inform Variety that Drake did break the record. Estimates have the star racking up about 132.4 million chart-eligible streams on launch day, trouncing Post Malone’s 78.7 million streams. At one point, Spotify revealed that people were streaming Scorpion over 10 million times per hour — that’s a high rate of Champagne Papi consumption by any standard.

There’s a not-so-secret reason as to why Drake is performing so well, though: both Apple and Spotify bent over backwards to promote Scorpion. Apple Music featured him prominently, added Siri responses to Drake-related questions (such as “what’s Drake’s nickname?”) and created a make-your-own-cover-art website. Spotify, meanwhile, went even further by inserting into numerous playlists, including unexpected ones like Afternoon Acoustic and Ambient Chill. If you used Spotify on the weekend of June 29th, you almost certainly saw some reference to Toronto’s best-known rap export.

Not that this thirst comes as much of a surprise. Drake was instrumental to Apple Music’s early success, due in no small part to his one-week Views exclusive. And Spotify? This represents its chance to make up for Views, not to mention continue undercutting Apple’s urban music strategy. In both cases, Drake’s launch is a bellwether. Apple and Spotify want to show that their services are dictating the musical landscape, and the relentless promotion of a hotly-anticipated album like Scorpion could easily accomplish that feat.

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Apple rumor points to a TV, music and news subscription bundle

June 27, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Engadget

Just three months ago, Apple purchased a company described as the “Netflix of magazine plans” and now The Information reports that it may have bigger ambitions. A plan it’s considering, according to sources, is to integrate Texture’s digital magazine plan with its own Apple News app, and then in the future offer a bundle that includes news, video content (like the kind it will get from Oprah) and Apple Music. While all of the items would still be available separately, it would offer an interesting package to cord-cutters willing to get their media from the same company that makes their phones, laptops, speakers and streaming boxes.

If this is the idea, Apple would hardly be the only one going that route, as Amazon offers similar content under Prime, Google just refashioned YouTube premium plans to cover music and original video streaming, and there are indications Spotify will increase its focus on video. Meanwhile, just in video there’s competition like Netflix, Hulu and traditional TV providers like Comcast or AT&T.

Subscription rumors are nothing new for Apple, whether it’s about video, news (from 2010!), or anything else. As usual, offering exclusive content is a way to increase revenue from its customers in between their hardware upgrades, and keep them tied in with its products. Nothing appears to be confirmed yet, but The Information’s report follows a recent rumor from Bloomberg that said the news package could launch next year.

Tech News

Beyoncé and Jay-Z's Tidal exclusive lasted less than two days

June 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

Beyoncé did a Beyoncé thing (along with her husband Jay-Z) over the weekend and released her (their) new album on Tidal with no prior warning. The pair are part-owners of Tidal, which was also the exclusive home of her previous album, Lemonade. But Tidal’s sole dominion over the Carters’ Everything Is Love didn’t last long; it’s already available to stream on Spotify Premium, Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited. The album will hit Spotify’s free tier in two weeks.

The Spotify release is particularly surprising. On the album track “NICE,” Beyoncé raps, “Patiently waiting for my demise ’cause my success can’t be quantified / If I gave two fucks about streaming numbers woulda put Lemonade up on Spotify.” So, it doesn’t seem that expanding availability so quickly was ostensibly about boosting streaming stats to help Everything Is Love soar up the Billboard charts this week (though it will definitely do just that). Lemonade is still not available on Spotify, two years after it was released. Ironically, Tidal has been accused of inflating streaming numbers for Beyoncé and Kanye West.

It’s also hard to imagine that the short exclusivity window will prove effective in hooking new paid subscribers for Tidal; newcomers get a free 30-day trial, and signing up for more accounts with dummy email addresses is a cinch. The album announcement unquestionably grabbed a bunch of new listeners for Tidal, but how many, and whether they stick around beyond the trial, remains to be seen — especially now the album is available elsewhere. Keeping one track as a Tidal exclusive probably won’t move the needle too much in the long-term either.

Stream #EverythingIsLove now, exclusively on TIDAL. Also stream a TIDAL-exclusive track. https://t.co/OHRZ7lnF8n pic.twitter.com/70xd4Box4P

— BEYONCÉ (@Beyonce) June 16, 2018

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Apple hires another BBC veteran in its bid to rule hip-hop music

June 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Hip-hop is quickly becoming a key battleground for streaming music services: companies like Spotify and YouTube have been poaching influencers in a bid to become tastemakers and lure millions of listeners. And Apple is certainly no exception to the rule. Music Business Worldwide has learned that Apple has hired Ryan Newman, the Editor for the BBC’s hip-hop and grime-focused Radio 1Xtra. He was responsible for creating and implementing the station’s strategy, suggesting he’ll have a similar role at Apple Music for its on-demand streaming, its Beats 1 station or both.

We’ve asked Apple if it can comment on the reported hire.

This isn’t Apple’s first score from the BBC, of course — it recruited Radio 1’s Zane Lowe as one of the main DJs at Beats 1. It also isn’t 1Xtra’s first major staffer to leave for a streaming job, as music lead Austin Daboh left to become a senior editor for Spotify’s UK programming. However, Newman’s apparent job change shows just how important hires like this have become. If Apple didn’t hire people with extensive connections to artists and an ear for what’s hot and trending, it risked losing its influence in urban music (such as its ability to land exclusives).

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Apple Music makes it easier to see new albums that are on the way

June 8, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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AOL

Apple is releasing some updates to Apple Music today that will make it easier to see what new music is on the way and when it’s set to arrive. MacRumors reports that a new “Coming Soon” section is rolling out to both the iOS and macOS versions of the music streaming service and it currently shows upcoming albums from artists like Florence + The Machine, Interpol and Gorillaz. To get there, go to the Browse tab, select New Music and then scroll down until you find the Coming Soon section. Tapping the albums listed will bring up additional information like the expected availability date and track listings.

Expected release dates are also now available on some upcoming albums’ Apple Music pages even when the albums aren’t listed in Coming Soon. Additionally, it appears that artist profiles are getting tweaked as well. On iTunes, MacRumors notes that the artists’ portraits are now circular and Featured Releases are highlighted along with their release dates. And a play button appearing next to the artist’s name will shuffle their music.

Apple Music, which hit 40 million subscribers in April, has been gaining on rival Spotify and to boost that effort, Apple is now working on its own music publishing division.

Image: Apple Music

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Apple Music's web player now streams whole songs

June 3, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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To date, playing full songs on Apple Music has meant firing up iTunes or the mobile app. You could listen to samples on the web, but that wasn’t much different than playing iTunes Store clips years ago. This appears to be changing, though. Reddit users have discovered that Apple Music’s embeddable web player now plays complete songs as long as you sign in to your account. You can even add albums and playlists to your library without having to leave your browser.

This isn’t a full-fledged web player à la Spotify. You can’t browse the catalog, create playlists or see what your friends are playing. There’s no guarantee you’ll see a dedicated web client in the future. However, it’s still miles above the previous functionality, and suggests that Apple is taking web playback seriously where it previously served as a marketing tool for the company’s native music apps. Don’t be surprised if Apple says about this at WWDC.

In some ways, Apple might not have had much choice. If it’s going to catch up to Spotify, that means offering players everywhere Spotify is an option — and that includes the web. You may be more likely to subscribe if your favorite review site can embed Apple Music’s version of an album instead of alternative services. This also helps Apple offer some form of its service on devices where installing an app just isn’t possible, such as a locked-down work PC or a Chromebook.

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