All posts in “apple music”

To fix SoundCloud, it must become the anti-Spotify

Startups die by suicide, not competition. It wasn’t that anyone was stealing SoundCloud’s underground rappers, bedroom remixers, and garage bands. SoundCloud stumbled because it neglected these hardcore loyalists as it wrongly strived to usurp Spotify as the streaming home of music’s superstars.

But four months ago after laying off 40% of its staff, SoundCloud scored a do-or-die investment of $169.5 million that saved the company and brought in a new CEO. Now the question is whether SoundCloud can get back in the groove. I sounded the alarm about SoundCloud’s mishandled headcount cuts, misguided direction, and morale problems, so it feels important to lend some suggestions alongside the criticism.

SoundCloud has something no one else does: the world’s biggest archive of user uploaded music and audio — around 120 million tracks. And so that must be the center of the service.

It once was, but rather than doubling down on independent creators, helping them monetize with ads and commerce, and selling subscriptions to enhanced ad-free access, SoundCloud wasted years chasing the major record labels in hopes of building a Spotify competitor full of the most popular music. Finally in mid-2016 it launched the $9.99 SoundCloud Go+ subscription with ad-free access to mainstream music and indie stuff, but it was already years behind Spotify and Apple Music.

In the meantime, the distraction led to extraordinarily slow progress on scaling up advertising, both in terms of the volume of ads on the sites and the independent artists who could get a revenue share. Ads weren’t a big part of SoundCloud, so many users don’t feel its worth paying to get rid of them. Creators strayed to YouTube and Patreon, investing their attention and driving their audience to where they could earn money. And spurious take-downs of creators’ music that they already paid SoundCloud to host further burned the company’s cred with its core constituents.

It’s on this guy, SoundCloud’s new CEO Kerry Trainor, to right the ship. I’ve met him, and he’s cooler than he seems.  (Photo by Todd Williamson/WireImage)

Luckily, SoundCloud has now booted its former management team, replacing Alex Ljung with former Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor. That gives SoundCloud an opportunity to realign its strategy with the creators who made it unique in the first place. Here’s what we think it needs to do:

Don’t Fight Spotify Head On

SoundCloud will never be the #1 pop music streaming platform, and it needs to accept that. It got started on subscriptions too late, doesn’t have the industry buy-in the way Spotify does from taking the labels on as investors, the recommendation data Spotify got from acquiring Echo Nest, the massive device install base or war chest to leverage like Apple Music, or massive ad-supported audience like 1 billion-user YouTube.

So instead of trying to compete with the big dogs directly, SoundCloud should invade from downstream. Rather than marketing its $10 SoundCloud Go+ subscription to casual music fans, it should concentrate on locking in hardcore listeners who love its indie stuff via its free tier or $5 SoundCloud Go subscription just for user generated content. Then it should upsell them to the $10 plan by touting the convenience of listening to everything in one place, rather than paying $10 a month just for mainstream music elsewhere. The $5 plan should be the focus, and the $10 plan should be the bonus.

Protect The Legal Grey Area Of Music

SoundCloud buddied up to the major labels at the expense of the DJs who fueled its ascent. The legal grey area of unofficial remixes and DJ sets are what made SoundCloud indispensable, but are also what got criminalized and sometimes booted off the platform after its label deals. SoundCloud needs to figure out how to settle the copyright payouts on this kind of content so it can stay up on the platform. Whether that means developing its own rights disbursement technology, partnering with a provider of this payout distribution tech like Dubset, or outright acquiring it, SoundCloud must be a safe home for this content you can’t find anywhere else. Otherwise, SoundCloud isn’t special.

Become The Musician Fan Club Platform

Everyone knows streaming music platforms only pay out a fraction of a cent per listen. That can add up to millions a year if you’re Taylor Swift, but often isn’t enough to support the livelihood of smaller niche artists. But no matter how big or small, almost every artist has a percentage of listeners who are diehard fans, willing to pay far more than they’d earn a creator in streaming royalties or ad revenue share.

That’s why artists of all types have turned to subscription patronage platforms like Patreon where you don’t need millions of fans, just a few thousand paying a buck a month. YouTube, Apple Music, and even Spotify have failed to go deep in assisting artists with direct commerce. YouTube is testing Patreon-esque Sponsorships, and Spotify offers some tiny merchandise and concert ticket options on artist profiles.

BYRON BAY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 27: Fans react to The Wailers performing live on stage at the 2016 Byron Bay Bluesfest on March 27, 2016 in Byron Bay, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

But SoundCloud has a massive opportunity here because it knows its artists can’t sustain themselves on royalties, and the type of listeners on SoundCloud are serious music aficionados. SoundCloud should provide bold options for artists to sell merch and tickets and teach them how to use data to create goods their fans want to buy.

That also means pushing artists towards new revenue streams like offerings exclusive experiences. Help artists sell phone calls, meet-and-greets, signed memorabilia, webcam footage of studio sessions, exclusive video streams, and more. And finally, provide a channel for artists to communicate directly with their top listeners in more intimate ways than email blasts and Twitter broadcasts.

SoundCloud should be the modern fan club. In an era where you don’t “own” music anymore, the app’s audience of early-adopting hipsters might be eager to show their allegiance to their favorite artists with their wallets, not just their ears. And that’s good for everyone.

Let Spotify and Apple Music be the impersonal place for superstars who don’t care about you. SoundCloud could give listeners a deeper experience, artists a bigger paycheck, and itself a lucrative corner of the otherwise overcrowded music space. So, Kerry, what are you gonna do?

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

SoundShare’s new app lets you create playlists with friends, stream them to Apple TV


SoundShare, an app that lets you text your friends entire songs, was already one of the more clever iOS applications available. Recently, the app rolled out an update that introduces a redesign and whole new experience called “Party Mode,” that lets friends play songs through your device – like at get-togethers, where everyone wants to hear their favorite music. These collaboratively chosen songs can also stream through YouTube to your Apple TV, by way of AirPlay.

While there are other apps that support sharing music with friends – Apple Music has an iMessage app, as does Spotify – the benefit to using SoundShare is that you and your friends don’t have to be on the same service.

The app supports sharing music – including individual tracks and playlists – that can be streamed via Spotify, Apple Music, or Deezer, as well as YouTube.

By default, the app uses iTunes as the music search engine and YouTube as the audio source.

But if you connect your preferred music service account to the app, SoundShare replaces the search engine and audio source with your music service. The songs will also play in your music service’s player, instead of in SoundShare’s in-app player, after you’re linked up.

In practice, what this means is that you can search on your connected Spotify account for a song then send it over to a friend, who can listen to it using their Apple Music account.

However, if you prefer to watch the music videos when receiving songs, you can now opt to make YouTube your default player.

There’s a social element, too, allowing friends to see each others’ listens and shares (unless they’re using the new “stealth mode.”)

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While the original version of the app was meant for sharing music while you’re apart from friends, the version 3.0 adds a feature for sharing music when you’re together.

Now users can start a “Party” inside SoundShare, then invite friends to control the music. The feature works over the app itself, not Bluetooth, which means it could also be used to have a remote co-listening party with friends, if you chose.

As friends add, remove and change songs inside the “Party,” your device will continue to update and play their selections. Friends’ songs can be added to play next or at the end of the queue, as they prefer.

The music can be streamed to any Bluetooth speaker connected to your iPhone, but for a bit of extra fun, you can opt to stream the music to Apple TV with AirPlay. This allows your group to watch the YouTube music videos, instead of just hearing the songs.

This collaborative playlist can be saved afterwards for later listening, too.

SoundShare is also one of the first apps to feature deep integration with Apple’s MusicKit, introduced in iOS 11. This allows it to load your Apple Music “For You” page inside SoundShare, and access your recommended mixes, like your Favorites Mix, Chill Mix, and New Music Mix, as well as display daily playlists, daily albums, Spotlight playlists, new releases and more.

SoundShare is a free download on the App Store.

The company declined to share its user numbers. But developer Matt Abras, who’s based in Brazil, says it has attracted attention from a handful music industry and tech execs, and the company is now in talks with some about doing deals.

The company is not yet generating revenue.

Google just mysteriously bought a podcast app

Google looks to be making its first foray into the world of audio storytelling. 

Business Insider reports that Google has acquired 60dB, a short-form audio platform. 

The app featured over 700 podcast-style stories. It debuted in January 2016 and will shut down, in its current incarnation, on Nov. 10. The app’s original content will continue to be available on its Medium profile.

Similar to Apple Music, 60dB is heavily focused on personalization. Users can create Spotify-esque playlists of episodes from podcasts and news shows of their choice. Options range from NPR’s Hourly News Summary to in-depth interviews and fiction. 

Google has not yet revealed its intentions for the app and its staff, who will be joining Google’s team, though it’s reasonable to expect some sort of Google competitor to Apple’s podcast app in the next few months beyond the podcast section in Google Play Music.

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Download this: Apple Music’s Facebook bot suggests songs based on emoji

Image: brittany hrbert/mashable

Facebook and Apple have teamed up to bring a new, emoji-filled music recommendation feature to Facebook Messenger.

The Facebook messaging app was updated this week with an Apple Music bot that can recommend songs and playlists based on emoji.

The new bot surfaces music recommendations based on your preferences — or whatever emoji you happen to be feeling that day. Send the bot an emoji and get back a selection of albums or playlists that match up.

Some emoji tend to work better than others — I had more luck with 🎉 than 💩 — but the feature seems to do a decent job overall at guessing relevant music. 

You can also get music suggestions the old-fashioned way by typing in genres or specific artists or albums. Or, you can opt to see broader categories like new releases or editors picks.

For each recommendation, the bot serves up an Apple Music link that allows you to listen to the songs within Messenger.

Additionally, Facebook Messenger was also updated with a chat extension for Apple Music that allows you to share clips of songs directly in your chats. You can enable the extension from the (+) menu in Messenger. Then, all you have to do is search for a song or artist.

Of course, for Apple the goal is to drive more people over to its paid music streaming service, so with both new features you won’t be able to listen to full songs unless you’re a paying subscriber. Even if you don’t subscribe, you can still preview and share 30-second clips of songs. And just having the recommendations on hand should be useful, whether or not you want to pay for Apple Music.

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Apple just helped this British indie singer reach global fame in a matter of minutes

Emma Blackery in concert at the O2 Arena, London, Britain.
Emma Blackery in concert at the O2 Arena, London, Britain.

Image: Richard Isaac/REX/Shutterstock

The Internet is still a place for fairytales, as the amazing story of Emma Blackery shows. 

Blackery is an unsigned British singer-songwriter and YouTuber who has been releasing music independently for years. Her YouTube channel has over 1.4 million subscribers and over 159 million video views. 

Little did she know that the cover art for her DIY EP was going to be featured during a presentation at the Apple Event in Cupertino. 

Her most recent track, Magnetised”, had a prominent position during a demonstration about Apple Music, among “No Data” by Dave Jack and “Green Light” by Lorde. 

Blackery’s cover suddenly reached millions of people across the globe, catapulting her from unsigned artist to household name. 

As you can imagine, her reaction to the news was nothing less than glorious. Her excitement is just earnest and contagious. 

Try not to be moved to tears by these tweets: 

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