On the 28th of April 2013, Apple will celebrate 10 years of iTunes. Since the humble beginnings of this online music concept, iTunes has blossomed into the first successful commercial online music store with its 99cents a song deal. Its success was intrinsically linked to the then new Apple iPod. Today it remains the biggest online music store, a full 10 years later.
The Onion news took a bit of a satirical view on the 10 years of iTunes:
Nokia’s new subscription-based upgrade to its popular free-to-stream mobile music service, Nokia Music+, is now available in South Africa for R25 a month. For the R25 real music fans get a number of enhancements. This further cements Nokia’s great service offering on their Windows Phone based devices.
For even greater music enjoyment, Nokia Music+ provides increased control over the listening experience – at a cost noticeably lower than many third party services – and adds the following additional features to the existing free Nokia Music offering: (more…)
Nokia today announced Nokia Music+, a new subscription-based upgrade to its free-to-stream mobile music service, offering a range of additional features for a low monthly fee. It will be rolling out as an optional update to the existing service in Q1 2013. The existing Nokia Music service will continue to be available free of charge, with no advertisements, registration or subscription to Nokia Lumia owners.
Nokia Music users create their own mixes or stream from playlists curated by an expert team of musicologists and international artists. Mixes can also be saved for offline playback.
For €4 per month, Nokia Music+ adds additional features: (more…)
Finally, the day South African Apple fans have waited for has arrived. After 9 long years of being available in first world countries, South Africans can now buy legal music from iTunes, using their South African credit cards.
Apple has made it clear that they will also focus on local artists, and the initial featured screens seem to support that. We ran a few talented South African artists through the search engine, and the results seem pretty good. Unfortunately we also found a few less talented ones as well.
Songs are available in rand pricing (a switch which occured about a month ago). We will be trying out the new service today, but we are particularly interested to see if iTunes Match will also be available to us. iTunes Match works like this – you have your music library (which you might have gotten very various sources, they do not all have to be purchased through iTunes), and then Apple goes and scans your library. Once Apple has these tracks it matches it to their massive iTunes catalogue, and then makes that catalogue available to your from any of your other authorized machines with iTunes, and all your authorized iOS devices like iPod, iPhone and iPad. Effectively this makes your entire music catalogue (legal or not) – available everywhere.
Apple’s iTunes software has long been a polarizing piece of software – some people love it, others use it just because it is needed for proper use of any iDevice. In its previous versions Apple has never moved away from its “folder view” on the left, with music on the right style. But in the last few years there has been a massive shift to simplified interfaces, partially thanks to iOS and Android interfaces.
If there was ever a piece of software that needed to be simplified, iTunes was it. Every few years the interface gets a subtle refresh, but iTunes 11 is a major refresh (at least from a user interface level). After some delays, iTunes 11 is here, and its a free download. So what is new, and is it worth upgrading? (more…)
On Wednesday, The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences honoured former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who passed away in October, with a Grammy Award, naming him a Trustees Award honouree.
This very special and prestigious award will be presented posthumously at an exclusive ceremony that is scheduled to take place on 11 February 2012. A formal acknowledgement of the award will then be announced as part of the 54th annual Grammy Awards when it is aired live on television on 12 February 2012.
According to a statement from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Jobs will be honoured for his long-standing career of innovation, helping to “create products and technology to transform the way we consume music, TV, movies, and books.”
In addition to being the man behind the creation of the iPod, Jobs also convinced major record companies to sell their music tracks and albums on the iTunes Store which has sold more than 16 billion songs since its launch in 2003.
If you want to be able download Apps, Music, Movies, TV Series etc from the US iTunes store, even if you live in SA, here is how to do it.
A revolution has taken place in the world of music and it has been born out of Cape Town. According to Airborne, that will be launching soon with a line-up of 72 local and international artists, there are two truly important people in the music industry: the artist and the fan and what they set out to accomplish, was to find a way to directly connect them in an easy, inexpensive and efficient way.
During a time when music revenue has plummeted more than 60% in the past decade and the viral spread of file sharing is blocked by restrictive licensing resulting in the loss of millions of potential fans, Airborne provides the antidote and a new solution to the business of the music industry by providing fans with the music they love, and the artists with the payment they deserve. For just $1 a month, any fan, they call a carrier, anywhere in the world has unlimited access to the msuic they want with 70% of that going directly to the artist. Just minutes after an artist’s content is released, the fan can consumer and share that content.
The fan, or rather the carrier, can share music content, stored in the cloud, with anyone in the world on any device or social network. The idea is that with every link shared for an artist’s content, the more quickly its spreads creating a viral tidal wave of support for that artist and the spreading of similar music content between friends. Here, there are no restrictions or borders when it comes to sharing content and generating support for an artist.
Disclaimer: I am the founder of Tweekly.fm, a service that automatically sends an update of your top artists for the week to Twitter and Facebook.
Recently, Spotify (with Sean Parker’s help) got engaged to Facebook. In short, if your Facebook and Spotify accounts are connected, you will see your friends listening to music in the new ‘ticker’ as they are listening to it. A lot of people have wondered, ‘Is this useful?’, ‘Why would I want to see John listening to Backstreet Boys?’.
Before I answer that. A little background. I started Tweekly.fm in Januray of 2009. The goal was simple. I wanted to make a twitter app. I was (and still am) an avid last.fm user, so I thought it would be great to automatically share your music tastes from last.fm to twitter. At that time #musicmonday was still big. People were sharing their music tastes on Twitter every monday. It was great! Where is it now? And what happened?
The biggest culprit is Twitter’s trending algorithm. They changed it to display only novel topics. In other words, because #mm was trending every monday, it wasn’t exactly novel each time. But why didn’t people continue sharing their music tastes despite this? There was no real return. During 2009 there was also quite a rise in websites that offered the ability to tweet your songs to Twitter. I wrote a blog post on this quite a while ago in April of 2010. It was an exciting arena, one in which Tweekly.fm was competing in as well. Of those sites in that blogpost (besides Tweekly.fm), only tweetmysong are above 450 000 in alexa rankings, and blip.fm remaining at the top (because of its built-in network effects). In short, the small ‘sector’ kinda died. Nobody took the effort to tweet a song they are listening to, because not a lot of people took the effort to listen to it. In other words, little return for both people. If someone shares a song with me, it works better if there is context. For me to like the song, there are two big prerequisites: If it is a good friend, who knows my music tastes, I will absorb the effort to listen to the song. However if it is an artist (and genre) I’ve never heard of, I still have to make up my mind about, because my friend shared it with me, and expects some return. In other words, I have to make an effort to form an opinion on the song. “Hey Simon! What did you think of Portugal. The Man?”, “Uh. It is great. I kinda liked the jazzy sections in the song New Orleans”.
If it is from a ‘musical’ stranger, the only context I have is if the person elaborates on the song. “Listen to Nero – Innocence. Epic dubstep in every way”. Now I know it is dubstep and if I am a fan, I would be more willing to accept the opportunity cost of taking the time to listen to it. However, for the person who shared the song, they still need a return. If I liked the song, I must still do more effort to tell the person that I liked it, and once again the interaction rate drops off heavily.
Why is Tweekly.fm still growing? It is automatic and it has context. There is no effort on part of the listener. They just have to consume their music and it will be shared each week to Twitter. The second factor that Tweekly.fm does to a certain degree is context. 3 artists are shared in the update. This means that if people see one artist they like in the tweet, they will be more inclined to click on it. If there are 2 known artists and one unknown artist, they will be even more likely to click on it.
So why is Spotify and Facebook on the right track? Music sharing works best when it is automatic, because it takes no effort on behalf of person sharing the music. They thus expect little, if nothing in return. Any comments on the artists you listened to is as they would say in marketing terms: a satisfying experience. Same goes for the consumer. They have no expectation to comment on the artists you share, but will be delighted if they find they share music tastes in common.
However, where their system fails, is music discovery. The only context being employed is the user listening to the music. If you know him to listen to cool electronic music tracks, you will be inclined to find out more AS they are listening to it. If you follow what they are listening to, you might pick up a pattern and then be inclined to look up the tracks yourself (“ooh, I know that song! oooh, I know that one as well! Oooh, I better check this one out, I don’t know it”)… But this I feel, is perhaps way too much effort. It beats the purpose of automatic sharing.
Automatic sharing allows serendipitous behaviour to arise, because of the non-effort to share it. In Facebook’s case, it doesn’t clog up the stream, because it occurs in the ticker. That is great. However, if they really want to ramp up music discovery, they need to use music recommendations to explain the context of songs that people are sharing. If Robert Scoble is listening to bluegrass band that I’ve haven’t heard, the system should preferably show context while he is listening to it. Like when Last.fm recommends new artists, they recommend it based on your current library of artists. In other words, it should preferably match up the closest artist I have listened, while also providing other information (such as genre and current position in world charts for example). This way, I can immediately discern context when music is automatically shared.
Who should be doing this? Last.fm. They have the resources and data available to do this. I can already see what my ‘friends’ on there are listening to, but there is no context. They know what I’ve listened to, they should just bring it together. I wrote a script the other day to test this. Of my 87 friends on last.fm, it returned to me the following dataset:
Of my friends who listened to music the current week and based on last.fm’s current music recommendations to me, I should listen to:
[Beirut] => 4 [Skrillex] => 2 [Björk] => 2 [Gold Panda] => 1 [The Wombats] => 1 [Band of Skulls] => 1 [Cut Copy] => 1 [Röyksopp] => 1 [St. Vincent] => 1 [Cults] => 1
It is very slow, because I have to make several API calls, so it is not available for testing (I might upload it github later). So in other words, what the above code says: “Of the artists we recommend you listen to, your friends listened to Beirut, Skrillex, Bjork, Gold Panda, Wombats, Band of Skulls, Cut Copy, Royksopp, St Vincent and the Cults this week”.
So: What it boils down to. Facebook and Spotify are on the right track. Music sharing works best when it is done ‘frictionlessly’, but now it just needs more context. I hope Last.fm gets there before them, but maybe it is just because I am a bit biased.