Apple Music has offered lyrics since iOS 10, upgrading to time-synced lyrics on iOS last year and on Mac earlier this year. Spotify is now doing the same – but sadly most of us won’t get access to the feature …

TechCrunch reports that the feature is initially limited to Southeast Asia, India, and Latin America. It follows an earlier limited-scale test.

Last November, Spotify confirmed it was testing real-time lyrics synced to music in select markets. Tomorrow, the company will announce the launch of its new lyrics feature in 26 worldwide markets across Southeast Asia, India and Latin America. This will be the first time lyrics have been offered in 22 of these 26 markets, as only Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Mexico had some form of lyrics support in the past via other providers […]

The feature will offer real-time lyrics in the language in which the songs are sung […] The following markets will gain access to the new feature starting tomorrow: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador, Uruguay, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

It’s due to go live within the hour.

As TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez explains, the reason it’s not available more widely is due to licensing challenges. Genius is the main provider of lyrics and has sometimes exclusive deals with publishers. Other companies have been frustrated by this, and have sometimes resorted to IP theft.

Last year, for example, Genius sued Google and its lyrics partner, LyricFind for $50 million, claiming it caught LyricFind red-handed stealing its lyrics. Genius had used a clever digital watermarking technique where it had set the 2nd, 5th, 13th, 14th, 16th and 20th apostrophes of each watermarked song as curly apostrophes, and all the other apostrophes straight. Interpreted as Morse code, the pattern spelled out the word “redhanded.”

Apple has a lyrics deal with Genius, and acquired more with its purchase of Shazam, which gave it time-synced lyrics. But I argued last year that the company needs to up its game here.

It’s always seemed completely random as to whether or not iTunes or Apple Music will have lyrics for a song. If it were down to the popularity of the artist or song, it would be understandable, but that’s not the case. It will often offer nothing for some pretty well-known artists and tracks, and yet have them for a really obscure album.

Some albums have no lyrics, others have lyrics for all the tracks, yet others have lyrics for some but not all of the songs […]

Lyrics are especially important in the singer-songwriter genre. Artists who fall into this category frequently write the words first, because they have something to say, and then set them to music.

So if Apple doesn’t do anything else, it could do this one thing: prioritize the singer-songwriter genre when getting its lyrics database into order. Start there, and then build outward.

More than half of readers said that lyrics matter a lot to them.

Image: @htshit

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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