Spotify is not ending its free service (Updated)

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Update: We’ve gotten word from a Spotify spokesperson that the Free model isn’t going anywhere. Director of Communications at Spotify Graham James told me “This is totally false.  Our model is working.” 

Digital Music News is claiming that Spotify is coming under pressure from music labels to end its free, ad-supported service, limiting users to a three-month free trial.

The three-month ‘proposal,’ advanced most principally by major labels Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, would allow current, free-access, ad-supported (or ‘freemium’) subscribers to continue their plans for 6 months, while new users would be limited to three months only.

Coincidentally or not, Universal Music Group is one of the labels specifically mentioned in two investigations into whether Apple is attempting to stifle competition in the run up to launching its own streaming music service …  Read more

‘Apple Music’ Beats-based streaming service to have Ping-like social network for artists

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Apple’s upcoming Beats-based streaming music service will likely be named “Apple Music” and will have deep social networking integration for artists, according to industry sources briefed on the plans for the new service.

Taking a page out of the discontinued iTunes Ping feature from earlier this decade, the service will allow artists to have their own pages within the streaming music service that they can use to post track samples, photos, videos, and concert updates.

Artists will also be able to share the content of other artists in an effort of cross-promotion. For example, all-gold Apple Watch wearer Kanye West could promote a new album from Taylor Swift on his “Apple Music” artist page, if he so chooses…

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Opinion: Will Apple’s streaming music service mean I finally stop buying music?

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I was an early adopter of digital music (you hide your surprise well). I bought my first mp3 player in 1998, some three years before the first iPod. It cost a silly amount of money and stored exactly one album at a time in its 64MB (not GB) of flash memory.

Me being me, I went through a few different generations of mp3 player before Apple completely changed the game with the iPod. Ironically, by adopting a less sophisticated technology–a hard drive in place of flash memory–Apple created a far better product. One that allowed us to carry around 80 albums at a time. I bought one the day it went on sale, having by then finished ripping all my CDs to mp3.

When the 160GB iPod came out in 2007, I again bought one immediately. That was large enough to hold my entire music collection at the time. I not only carried it everywhere with me, I also plugged it into my hifi at home and to the AUX socket of my car stereo. At which point, I started wondering why I still had a wall full of CDs …  Read more

European antitrust authorities investigating Apple’s streaming music service even before it launches

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Apple’s planned rebranding and relaunch of the Beats streaming music service has not had the easiest of rides. The launch, initially planned for earlier this year, was delayed by the departure of key execs and difficulties integrating Beats and Apple technologies. A planned $5/month price-point had to be abandoned in favor of an attempt at $7.99/month when music labels wouldn’t play ball, and that too now looks increasingly unlikely even though Google Play offered initial All Access Signups for a $7.99 locked in. And any plans to offer artist exclusives as an inducement now face competition from newly-relaunched Tidal.

Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any tougher, London’s Financial Times reports that the European Commission is considering launching an antitrust investigation into the service, even before it launches. The Commission has contacted several music labels to ask what deals have been done with Apple, says the FT.

The commission, which also has contacted Apple’s music-streaming rivals, is said to be concerned that the company will use its size, relationships and influence to persuade labels to abandon free, ad-supported services such as Spotify, which depend on licenses with music companies for their catalogues.

The newspaper implies that the investigation may have been triggered by a formal complaint by an existing streaming music service …  Read more

Jimmy Iovine tried to lure key Tidal artists away to Apple, but no hard feelings, says Jay Z

Jay Z Performs At O2 Arena In London

Jay Z suggested in an interview with Billboard that Jimmy Iovine had tried to lure away top-selling artists from his newly-relaunched streaming music service, Tidal, but that he wasn’t angry about it. Iovine had reputedly offered more up-front cash to Tidal artists who agreed to do a deal with Apple.

I think that’s just his competitive nature, and I don’t know if he’s looking at the bigger picture: That it’s not about me and it’s not about him; it’s about the future of the music business.

The rap and hip-hop star said that he had initially hoped to work in cooperation with Iovine, having “talked to every single service,” but had apparently been rebuffed …  Read more

Apple/Beats streaming music service has competition for exclusive releases as Jay Z relaunches Tidal

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If Apple plans to offer artist exclusives as a way to encourage sign-ups to its rebranded Beats Music streaming service, it will be facing new competition. TechCrunch reports that Tidal, the high-definition music service being relaunched later today by new owner Jay Z, is set to announce some exclusive deals with big-name artists.

Tidal is […] reportedly making a move to snag new releases by some of the biggest musicians of the moment including Kanye West, Madonna and Daft Punk […]

Tidal’s plan of attack will be to ink first-window deals with the artists, where Tidal would get first releases of tracks from big-name artists ahead of any other digital streaming services.

The artists named in the report have all been using the #tidalforall hashtag in recent tweets and Instagram posts …  Read more

Decline of music downloads continues as on-demand streaming audio up 50 percent

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Apple’s presumed plans for an on-demand music service as part of its Beats acquisition is looking increasingly well-timed as Nielsen data shows that U.S. on-demand music consumption climbed 50.1 percent year-on-year, while music downloads fell by 12 percent in the same timeframe.

“With On-Demand streams surpassing 70 billion songs in the first six months of 2014, streaming continues to be an increasingly significant portion of the music industry,” says David Bakula, SVP Nielsen Entertainment …

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How-to: Unofficial tool allows you to import iTunes and Rdio Playlists to Beats Music

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While Beats Music will soon be owned by Apple, the music service does not easily integrate with iTunes. For instance, there is no official Beats tool to link your iTunes library for streaming from Beats Music. However, an unofficial tool called Beats Importer is a temporary solution that seems to work well for adding iTunes and Rdio Playlists to your Beats Music library. We’ve compiled a tutorial for importing your iTunes Playlists to Beats Music, below:

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Declining iTunes sales underline need for Apple to launch a subscription music service

itunes

Declining iTunes sales highlighted by Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty and reported by Fortune appear to underline the need for Apple to move beyond sales of music downloads and into the subscription music business. iTunes sales are down 24 percent year-on-year.

While the slack is being picked up by app sales – a trend previously noted by Asymco’s Horace Dediu – that falling blue line reflects the wider shift in consumer behaviour from purchasing downloads to subscribing to streaming services noted last year by Billboard magazine …  Read more

Listen to Beats Jimmy Iovine talk about the future of music for 40 minutes

With reports that Apple is in final talks to close a $3.2 billion deal to purchase Beats Electronics, we thought it would be interesting to revisit a recent interview with the company’s co-founder Jimmy Iovine from just before the launch of Beats Music. The interview above was from the D: Dive Into Media conference back in February of 2013 and in it Iovine gives a lot of insight into his view of the music industry leading up to the launch of the company’s new Beats Music subscription streaming service.

You’ll also get a sense of just how important a figure Iovine is in the music industry, which might be why Tim Cook is rumored to be keeping Iovine on as a special adviser on creative matters through the Beats deal. Lots of topics are covered, but the interview as a whole gives great perspective into Beats’ mission with its new streaming music service.

Opinion: What is Apple’s thinking in spending $3.2B on buying Beats?

beats

Apple’s apparent purchase of Beats took everyone by surprise. I must confess that my immediate reaction was to be slightly appalled. As someone whose audio tastes run more to B&O and B+W, I’ve always viewed Beats headphones as over-bassed, over-priced fashion items. But then my tastes in music admittedly differ somewhat from those of the typical Beats customer.

Even so, it’s still a little baffling at first glance. Tim Cook himself said a year ago that Apple asks two questions when considering an acquisition:

Would it help us make a great product, and would the culture fit at Apple?

My immediate answer to both would be “no,” so why would Apple spend $3.2B on a headphone manufacturer with a small sideline streaming music service … ?  Read more