Sprint Acquires 33 Percent of TIDAL and Creates Game-Changing Partnership | Sprint Newsroom

Global music and entertainment platform TIDAL and Sprint (NYSE: S) announced today an unprecedented partnership that will soon give Sprint’s 45 million retail customers unlimited access to exclusive artist content not available anywhere else.

Uh, okay. Sure, they have some exclusives, but nobody cares that much.

This said, I’ve been predicting for a while that we’d see more telecom companies either buying streaming services, or working with them to bundle those services with phone contracts. One hurdle to successful streaming music is the cost of data, and presumably Sprint will either make Tidal data free, or charge much less for it.

However, Sprint, being almost entirely US-only (they have some presence in Latin America), won’t be able to offer Tidal streaming to users around the world. Perhaps they’ll make deals with other carriers, but this puts Tidal in a silo. Granted, if Sprint gets enough of its 45 million customers to opt in, that’ll be good for Sprint. Their goal is, obviously, to use Tidal – either free or at a discount – as a carrot toward locking customers into a phone contract. Because if you’re committed to a music streaming service, you’re less likely to switch to another carrier. (Or so they hope.)

Source: Sprint Acquires 33 Percent of TIDAL and Creates Game-Changing Partnership | Sprint Newsroom

The Next Track, Episode #13 – Which Streaming Service Is Right for You?

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxDoug and Kirk welcome back Chris Connaker to discuss music streaming services. Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, or another; which is right for you? What are the pros and cons of the various streaming services?

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #13 — Which Streaming Service Is Right for You?.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Here’s What’s Wrong with Classical Music on Streaming Services (Part Whatever)

Classical music is hard to get right on streaming services. From dodgy metadata to inconsistent work names, it’s a real slog to stream classical music (if you want more than just the Bolero or Satie’s Gymnopedies).

unCLASSIFIED, a subsidiary of the Naxos Music Group, a large independent classical record label and distributor, creates playlists. They’ve been doing this for Spotify for a while, and they are now on Apple Music. Here’s the kind of playlists they offer:

Unclassified

As the description says, whether you “need a soundtrack for studying…” As if there aren’t any other reasons to listen to classical music. Oh, wait, there are: there is “Serenity Now,” because classical music is “serene.” Or classical music for running, because, I don’t know, you run better with Mozart? And Supper Club, so you can seduce your date with some subtle Bach playing in the bachground.

There’s also brain fuel, a “TranceClassical” playlist by some single-named, unknown person, and “Sounds Without Boundaries,” which is a mash-up of contemporary music with traditional instruments (lots of Icelandic composers, movie soundtracks, and even a track from Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, which no one in the world wants to listen to voluntarily. I know; I listened to the entire album once.)

This is the dumbing down of classical music. Taken this way, classical music is just muzak. It’s designed for a mood or task, like that won’t-ever-go-away Classical Music for Elevators playlist I keep seeing in Apple Music’s For You recommendations.

Let’s just accept that classical music will never work on streaming services unless it is treated the way a good classical radio station would. I don’t think playlists need to contain, say, entire operas or full Mahler symphonies, but dumbing it down like this in an attempt to make classical music “cool” just alienates those people who do like classical music.

Music Streaming Starts Climbing Out of the YouTube Hole

For a long time, music streaming services have had to struggle under the shadow of YouTube, that semi-legal amalgam of “music.” Fed by user uploads, with “videos” that are often just CD rips with a still photo, YouTube was, for several years, the destination of choice for streamers.

That’s finally changed. According to a mid-year report from BuzzAngle, a music analytics firm, streams from music streaming services exceeded those from YouTube and other video sites. There were 114 billion music streams, compared to 95 billion video streams. This shows that Apple Music and Spotify are finally winning over users, and the number of music streams for the first half of the year has more than doubled, while video streams increased more than 23%.

The main reason people go to YouTube to stream music is because it’s free and includes music unavailable elsewhere. Its interface is not designed for streaming music, though, and users are starting to understand that there are better ways, just as they grew out of Napster and Limewire.

This trend will certainly continue, at least if streaming services can persuade new users to pay a monthly tithe to the music industry. A price drop would greatly increase the power of Spotify and Apple Music, to the detriment of YouTube, whose interface simply doesn’t work for pure music streaming.

One Year of Apple Music

Apple Music has just finished its first year. After a shambolic launch at the 2015 WWDC, Apple now boasts 15 million users. That’s no mean feat, given the inertia that generally prevents people from switching subscription services. But it’s entirely possible that Apple hasn’t poached many paying users from Spotify. That company claims 30 million paying users, out of 80 million total (the rest use the free, ad-supported version of the service), up from 20 million last year. So the overall streaming market is growing.

To be fair, Apple’s clout suggested they would get more users. With a three-month free trial, and a discounted family plan (that Spotify has had to meet), and presence in many more countries, Apple Music is attractive to many people. But perhaps not attractive enough.

Apple is also celebrating one year of Beats 1 Radio. They’ve made a video – I won’t post it here, but you can see it on The Loop – that highlights one of the problems I see with Apple Music: its focus on a limited number of genres. Beats 1 is essentially pop, rock, and hip-hop, as if there were no other types of music in the world. That Beats 1 video does not talk to me, to my musical tastes.

There have been suggestions that Apple would launch other radio stations (Beats 2, Beats 3, etc.), and I hope they do, covering genres which, while not generating a lot of money either in sales or streaming revenue, are part of the varied types of music that animate our world. They need a jazz station (and not a smooth jazz station, please), a classical station, a world music station, and, perhaps, something eclectic, that embraces all types of music without focusing too much on one genre. Why not bring in an experimental station; Apple Music’s Experimental genre, which ranges from new EDM to older avant-garde classical music, is edgy and interesting.

Apple Music has other problems, though. The interface of both iTunes and the iOS Music app really weren’t up to snuff for this type of service. This is changing, but not, perhaps, before the fall when the new versions of Apple’s operating systems are released.

There are two problems for Apple now that Apple Music has settled down. First, they need to make it grow. For this, they need to convince a lot more people to pay a monthly tithe to the music industry. Because $10 (or €10 or £10) is a lot of money, and most people won’t pay that for music; they don’t care enough about music .

Second, they need to ensure that the service doesn’t end up like many of Apple’s marquee features that get a lot of attention at launch, then just fade away. They need to be innovative, but it’s very hard to innovate by simply offering à la carte streaming and radio stations. Exclusive releases have been a draw for now, but people will get tired of these. Apple needs to reinvent music streaming, or be just another streaming service among many.

Why Would Apple Music Buy Tidal?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is in talks to buy Tidal, the streaming music service purchased just over a year ago by Jay Z. Tidal claims to have 4.2 million subscribers, compared to Apple Music’s 15 million. (For comparison, Spotify claims 30 million paid subscribers.)

It has been common knowledge that Tidal has been up for sale since shortly after it was purchased. After some key executives bailed, and Mr. Z filed a lawsuit against Aspire, the company he purchased the service from, for inflating subscriber numbers, it seemed obvious that this purchase was a mistake.

But why would Apple buy Tidal? Certainly not, as some articles claim, for “its technology.” Tidal offers a lossless streaming option, and some journalists see this is some sort of magical technology that Apple wouldn’t be able to match on its own. Actually, Apple stores all its iTunes Store and Apple Music music in a lossless format (and much of it in high-resolution), so adding lossless streaming would be as simple as writing a few lines of code.

No, Apple would buy Tidal for two reasons. The first is the musicians who own the company. Apple, with its massive cash reserve, could make them an offer they would not be able to refuse, and therefore “acquire” a number of artists who could release music exclusively (at first) on Apple Music. The second is to get a competitor out of the game. While Tidal claims 4.2 million subscribers, this number is unlikely. Tidal is available in only 52 countries, much less than Apple Music, or even Spotify, and it would be surprising that they have grown so quickly.

Nevertheless, if Apple were to buy Tidal, they would certainly shut down the service (or slowly roll it into Apple Music). I would be surprised if they kept it going with its lossless option, though Apple will most likely offer a lossless streaming option of its own in the near future. Not that most listeners need it; it’s just that some may think it sounds better.

Spotify vs. Apple Music: Round 3

Spotify has announced that the streaming music service now has 100 million “monthly active users,” which means people who use the service at least once in a month. (Report from The Telegraph.) 30 million of these are paying users; the remainder use Spotify’s free, ad-supported version. However, the company also claimed 30 million paying users in March. So total users are increasing, but paying users are not. In addition, while revenue is increasing, so are net losses.

Apple Music is halfway there. At the WWDC, Apple announced that they have 15 million users, but it’s not clear how users are counted. Does this mean 15 million accounts – in which case, family accounts have multiple users – or are the multiple users counted in the total, meaning the number of accounts is lower?

Nevertheless, Apple is catching up, albeit slowly. And that’s fine for Apple. While a lot of chatter suggested Apple was aiming at getting to 100 million users for Apple Music, the company is certainly playing a long game.

Apple’s new student pricing has probably buoyed the Apple Music numbers, but Spotify dropped the price of its family plan to match Apple last month.

So Spotify still has a lead, but Apple is catching up. Does it matter? Not that much. There’s room for multiple streaming services, and, frankly, the world will be a better place if there are two or three top-tier services vieing for our ears. Competition forces companies to innovate, and if there’s just one big player in the streaming music sector, there would be no reason to strive to improve the service.

Albums are getting unbearably long and shitty streaming rules are to blame – Fact

Perhaps the strangest recent rule change by the RIAA is the one where songs released ages ago still count towards album sales if they’re included on the LP, which may go some way to explaining why Drake tacked ‘Hotline Bling’ — released last July — onto the end of Views. “1,500 on-demand song streams in the United States [hold] the same value as 10 individual track sales or one full album sale,” according to Forbes. ‘Hotline Bling’ has so far been streamed over 400 million times on Spotify and 700 million times on YouTube. In the US, those 400 million streams equate to 267,000 album sales under the RIAA’s new rules. There was never any doubt that Drake’s weakest album to date would go platinum — and that was long before the other 19 tracks had even left the studio.

Interesting look at a new trend: longer albums with more tracks. Presumably, a lot of people plays these albums all the way through a few times when they are first released, so adding a few extra tracks can get a gold or platinum certification. Sneaky.

But does it really matter if an album is gold or platinum? To record labels, perhaps; to artists, certainly. But to listeners? I don’t think many people pay attention to that any more.

Source: Albums are getting unbearably long and shitty streaming rules are to blame

The Most Timeless Songs of All-Time – Polygraph

Until recently, it was impossible to measure the popularity of older music. Billboard charts and album sales only tell us about a song’s popularity at the time of its release.

But now we have Spotify, a buffet of all of music, new and old. Tracks with fewer plays are fading into obscurity. And those with more plays are remaining in the cultural ether.

That’s not exactly true. Record companies have data on which music sold over time, and what got radio play, but now, with Spotify and Apple Music, we have real data on which music people want to hear.

This is a fascinating page. It also highlights the age of music listeners, showing how more recent music – from the 1990s to the present – is more popular. I think this is because people who stream music are more likely to be younger.

Source: The Most Timeless Songs of All-Time – Polygraph

The study claims that 16% of millennials — defined as 14-34 year-olds in this case — have music-streaming subscriptions, compared to 6% of Generation X consumers (35-55 year-olds) and 3% of Baby Boomers (over-55s).

This isn’t surprising, but you’d think the people running the survey might have reflected a bit as to why. The article says:

Electric Jukebox’s survey also claimed that 42% of respondents still see CDs and radio as “easier” than music-streaming, while only 18% think streaming is easier.

Millennials buck that trend (44% of 18-24 year-olds think streaming is easier) while older people are even more likely to still find CDs and radio a friendlier experience.

Uh, okay. How about, the older you are, the more likely you are to have a music collection on CD and not see the need to spend a monthly tithe to play music? That seems pretty obvious to me. Most of the people I know who care about music, and who are “older,” have music collections, and are also less interested in today’s popular music.

Source: Research claims streaming ‘black hole’ beyond millennials