Spotify may be planning to effectively eliminate its free, ad-supported streaming option, according to a new report by Digital Music News. The change would see the popular streaming music service limit free ad-supported access to a three month “trial” period, rather than the current open-ended and unlimited plan that many users currently enjoy. Spotify is said to be resisting this change, and has been trying to make the case that its “freemium-to-premium” migration path is working to effectively create new paying subscribers, however the service is under pressure from Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, who remain generally unconvinced and have reportedly disliked unpaid streaming options from the very beginning. While no mention is made of Apple’s attempts to sway the music industry to kill off licenses for free streaming for Spotify and YouTube, it seems likely that Apple’s new paid-only Apple Music service could factor into the labels’ decision-making process.
The three-month “proposal” would allow some artists and labels to extend availability of their content past three months through “emerging” or “up-and-coming” playlists, as well as continuing to allow for a non-interactive radio-style streaming feature. Both of these are similar to ideas likely to be included in Apple Music as well, further suggesting that the labels’ negotiations with Apple are having a backlash effect on existing services. It is not clear, however, whether specific artists would be able to limit free access entirely — an issue that has previously caused major artists such as Adele and Taylor Swift to leave services such as Spotify entirely. Further, not all labels are entirely on board with the new proposal, with some, such as Warner Music Group, suggesting that free streaming services are valuable at providing an alternative to outright piracy while still providing a small trickle of revenue.
Following last week’s iTunes exclusive release of U2’s new Songs of Innocence album, the company has now posted a new support article for users looking to remove the album from their iTunes libraries. During Apple’s iPhone event, Apple CEO Tim Cook and U2 frontman Bono jointly announced that the album would be distributed free to all iTunes customers, and took the unprecedented move of not only making the album available for free on the iTunes Store, but actually in fact automatically adding it directly to the music libraries of 500 million iTunes users. Songs of Innocence was soon pushed out as a download to users, resulting in a mix of praise and complaints.
For those who may not have fully appreciated this unexpected gift, the Apple support article, Remove iTunes gift album “Songs of Innocence” from your iTunes music library and purchases explains how users can go about deleting the album; a special SOI Removal page has been created on iTunes.com allowing users to remove the album from their iTunes music library and purchase history. Users can permanently remove the album and will need to purchase it again after October 13, 2014 if they want to get it back—alternatively, users can choose to simply hide purchased items if they want to keep the album but not have it displayed in their music library.
Apple today confirmed that it has purchased Beats Electronics, maker of the Beats by Dr. Dre line of headphones and speakers, as well as the Beats Music subscription music streaming application. Combined, the purchase will cost Apple $3 billion, which according to the company’s statement consists “of a purchase price of approximately $2.6 billion and approximately $400 million that will vest over time.” Notably, this is less than the $3.2 billion price originally reported in early May, but the price matches a recent New York Post report. Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will join Apple as part of the acquisition. The transaction is expected to close in the fiscal fourth quarter, subject to regulatory approvals.
“Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple,” Apple CEO Tim Cook announced in the statement. “That’s why we have kept investing in music and are bringing together these extraordinary teams so we can continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world.”
“I’ve always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple,” Iovine said in the statement. “The idea when we started the company was inspired by Apple’s unmatched ability to marry culture and technology. Apple’s deep commitment to music fans, artists, songwriters and the music industry is something special.”
Initially reported by The Financial Times as a deal in progress, the acquisition was seemingly a certainty after Dr. Dre appeared alongside actor Tyrese Gibson in a Facebook video, describing himself as the “first billionaire in hip hop.” Some analysts and commentators have questioned the wisdom of the deal for Apple, while others have cited Beats’ strong following in the African-American community as a potential customer base for Apple, and suggested that Beats Music will increase Apple’s footprint in the subscription streaming music category.
Update: “We could build about anything that you could dream of. But that’s not the question,” Cook told Re/code. “The thing that Beats provides us is a head start, and it provides us with incredible people, kindred spirits.” It’s also noted that Apple will keep both the Beats hardware and Beats Music streaming service brands intact.
In a separate story from the AP, Cook said of Iovine and Dre: “We’ve dated, we’ve gone steady and now we are getting married. This relationship started a decade ago, so we know there is an incredible cultural fit. These two guys have a very rare set of skills. It’s like finding a particular grain of sand on the beach. It’s that rare.”
Apogee Electronics has introduced the JAM 96k ($129) guitar interface and MiC 96k ($229) microphone. Both iOS-compatible products are new, upgraded versions of previous accessories — the Jam and MiC. As the names of the new products note, both accessories offer up to 96kHZ recording — an upgrade from their previous iterations.
Apogee’s JAM 96k guitar interface comes with a nickel-plated finish and includes a Lightning cable. MiC 96k, a studio quality microphone, includes a Lightning cable and a microphone stand adapter. Both accessories also come with an iOS Dock Connector cable and USB cable. JAM 96k and MiC 96k are available now.
Pioneer Electronics has announced its DDJ-WeGO2 compact DJ controller ($429). The iOS-compatible DDJ-WeGO2 includes a Lightning cable to connect to the controller to a compatible iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Featuring two jog wheels, the USB-powered DDJ-WeGo2 is compatible with Algoriddim’s recently updated djay 2 app.
DDJ-WeGO2’s effects include Jog FX, which lets users combine multiple effects together with simultaneous control, and Pulse Control, which offers visual prompts through colored lights. The controller comes in black, white, and red. It will be released in October.
Complete with quotes and previously confidential images provided by Monster, a new article at Gizmodo paints a surprisingly negative picture of Monster’s relationship with Beats Electronics, discussing how Monster lost virtually everything it had built when Beats left for HTC. Interviews with Monster CEO Noel Lee and his son Kevin Lee detail how Monster and Beats formed a shaky business arrangement, wherein the Beats side retained ownership of everything Monster developed. According to the report, Monster also footed the bills for manufacturing and distributing the products. While Beats contradicted Monster’s claims of handling industrial and audio designs for the headphones, Monster offered audio engineering and industrial mockups, and Noel Lee claimed Beats had nothing to do with engineering: “Absolutely not, they don’t have any engineers.”
The article also acknowledges that Beats’ success came from astute marketing — not from the sound — and that the products were both overpriced and hugely profitable. Kevin Lee suggested that Beats were marketed as “the hottest product to have, and sound will be a Trojan horse. And that’s what we did. Beats was in every single music video.” Notably, iLounge’s reviews never gave Beats products higher than a flat B rating, with most falling below that, often citing unimpressive performance to price ratios as a key issue.
When Beats Electronics left Monster for a partnership with HTC, Monster was paid only a small amount—“more severance payment than cash-out”—while Beats retained the audio, patents, designs, and the name. The article notes that Beats made $519 million in sales during its first year with HTC — up from $219 million in the previous year — taking control of 64 percent of the $100 and higher “premium” headphone market.
IK Multimedia has released AmpliTube Slash, a special edition of its popular guitar effects app for iOS devices. AmpliTube is a mobile guitar and bass effects processor that allows users to turn their iOS device into a complete guitar rig and mobile recording studio. AmpliTube Slash is a signature version developed in cooperation with the famous Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist to model his entire rig of iconic pedals and amplifiers, including two classic rock amps—the Marshall JCM Slash Edition Silver Jubilee and the Marshall AFD100, both equipped with the Slash preferred 1960 Marshall speaker cabinet. Users can chain up to six pedal effects including Slash signature Delay, Gate, Octave/Fuzz, Chorus, Booster and Wah/Distortion in a fully configurable rig allowing the users to combine pedals in a 3 to 12 effects chain with one or two simultaneous amps and cabinets plus microphones. The app also includes 30 Slash tone presets, links to Slash songs and the ability to import and play backing tracks from the iOS music library or computer. Single track recording is included in the app with the ability o export recordings via e-mail, SoundCloud, FTP or iTunes File Sharing and users can upgrade to a four-track recorder via in-app purchase.
The main AmpliTube app has also been updated with the ability to add Slash gear a la carte via in-app purchase, and new features introduced in AmpliTube Slash including a new mixer and recorder section with loop points, visual metronome and tap tempo, digital audio and MIDI support, audio copy and paste and SoundCloud and fTP export for recordings. The AmpliTube series of apps are available from the App Store in several versions: the special edition AmpliTube Slash ($10) for the iPhone and iPod touch,
AmpliTube Slash for iPad ($10) are sold separately from the original AmpliTube, which is available in either full AmpliTube for iPad ($20) and AmpliTube ($20) for iPhone and iPod touch versions or a la carte editions that allow users to start with a free app and purchase the specific cabinets, amps and effects they want individually.
Amazon has released an iOS app for Cloud Player, its cloud-based music service. The new Amazon Cloud Player for iPhone and iPod touch allows users to stream or download music stored in Cloud Player to their device; users can also listen to music already stored on the device and manage and create their own custom playlists. The app provides users with full access to their Cloud Player music library as well as seamless integration with existing playlists that are currently on their device. The app also provides support for listening to music in the background and is compatible with iOS lock screen controls and Bluetooth streaming. The Amazon Cloud Player service provides users with 5GB of free storage to upload their digital music library with unlimited MP3/AAC music file storage available for those who purchase an additional storage plan. Amazon Cloud Player requires iOS 4.3 or later and is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download.
Algoriddim, developer of the popular djay DJ mixing app for iOS devices has released vjay, a new mixing and mashup app for video content on the iPad. Providing direct integration with the iPad media libraries, vjay allows users to mix and scratch both video and audio content from iTunes along with personal video footage to create their own interactive audio visual experience. Users can also record their very own clips into the mix using the iPad camera and add real-time video transitions and audio visual effects, loops and real-time VideoScratch. Users can also take advantage of a three-band equalizer, on-the-fly BPM and tempo detection with AutoSync and a split output mode for pre-cueing using headphones and an appropriate DJ mixing cable.
Resulting mashups can be saved to the iPad video library for sharing with friends or displayed on a TV using a direct connection or wirelessly via AirPlay. iTunes Store integration allows users to easily search for and purchase music videos on the fly directly from within the app. A free bundle of content is also included in the app to help users get started including a music video from Parov Stelar, a dance video from Lil’Buck and Yak Films, a soccer video by football duo F2, a skateboarding video from Stereo Vinyl Cruisers, a snowboarding video by Isenseven, a video of parkour artist group, Parkour Paris and a collection of visual art videos by VJLoops. vjay requires an iPad 2 or third-generation iPad running iOS 5.1 or later and is available from the App Store for an introductory price of $10.
Sony Entertainment Network has released an official iOS app for its Music Unlimited streaming music service. Music Unlimited is a subscription-based cloud music service with a global catalog of over 15 million licensed songs available on such devices as the sony PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, BRAVIA TVs and Android smartphones and tablets. Use of the service requires payment of a monthly subscription fee. A Basic subscription ($4/month) allows users to sync and match their own personal music libraries with the Music Unlimited service and access and stream that music from any supported device along with a basic set of streaming radio channels; a Premium subscription ($10/month) provides users with access to the entire Music Unlimited collection for on-demand streaming with the ability to create playlists, add items to their personal listening libraries and listen to premium content channels.
The new iPhone and iPod touch app provides subscribers with access to their Music Unlimited subscriptions from their iOS devices streamed over either a Wi-Fi or cellular network connection. Premium subscribers can also add songs to their personal libraries for faster access, add to and edit playlists and browse Premium Channels and top songs in favourite genres. The Music Unlimited app requires iOS 4.3 or later and a subscription to the Music Unlimited service and is available from the App Store as a free download.
Rogue Amoeba has released a major update to Airfoil Speakers Touch adding native iPad support and a new optional feature for receiving audio directly from iTunes and other AirPlay audio sources. Originally designed as a companion app for the company’s Airfoil for Mac and Windows, Airfoil Speakers Touch allows users to listen to audio streamed wirelessly from their computer to their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Version 3.0 adds a new “Enhanced Receiving” feature, available as a $3 in-app purchase, that presents Airfoil Speakers Touch as a remote AirPlay audio device, allowing users to stream directly from iTunes and other iOS devices without requiring Airfoil to be running on the computer. The new version also adds support for remotely controlling and displaying track info and artwork from a number of additional sources streamed via Airfoil for Mac. Airfoil Speakers Touch is now a universal app and is available from the App Store as a free download. Streaming audio from a computer requires Airfoil for Mac or Airfoil for Windows or an AirPlay compatible application such as iTunes with the purchase of the $3 in-app upgrade for Enhanced Receiving.
Waves Audio and Musicsoft Arts have teamed up to release Mashup, a new DJ mixing app designed to provide pro DJ’s with a sophisticated mobile DJ booth on their iPad. Replacing complex and expensive DJ gear, Mashup provides two rotating stereo decks and a mixer capable of playing all standard unprotected audio formats, an advanced scratch engine, resonant filters with a large touch-ribbon UI and hi-end equalizers with larger interface controls. Users can create unlimited playlists on the fly, setup auto-sync and beat matching between decks and record mixes in stereo for further editing, mixing and sharing in other apps. Tracks can be selected from the iOS music library or purchased from an in-app DJ Shop with a collection of tracks from top DJs such as Junior Sanchez and Kris Menace. Users can also pair Mashup running on an iPhone or iPod touch with the iPad version over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for DJing with headphones.
Mashup is designed to provide superior audio processing on the iPad with technology developed by Waves Audio, a leading developer of professional audio signal processing technologies and recipient of the 2011 Technical Grammy award. In addition to the standard audio engine with features such as resonant filters and noise-free scratching, users can also optionally upgrade to Waves’ unique MAXX sound enhancing engine which provides boosted base frequencies and improved volume designed for any listening environment from headphones to large cabinet speakers. Mashup is a universal app requiring an iPhone 4/4S, fourth-generation iPod touch, iPad 2 or third-generation iPad and iOS 4.3 or later and is available from the App Store for $40; the optional MAXX add-on is available via in-app purchase for an additional $5.
Bandwdith Publishing, in conjunction with the George Harrison Estate has released The Guitar Collection: George Harrison, a new iPad app celebrating the famous guitarist and his historical guitar collection. The new app provides a virtual guided tour of George Harrison’s private guitar collection through photographs, detailed descriptions and audio and video footage; 360-degree imaging by photographer Steven Sebring allows provides an immersive experience allowing fans a never before seen view of the classic guitars right down to every scratch, ding and worn thread. The app includes a selection of Harrison’s best known guitars such as the Gretsch G6128 Duo Jet, the Gibson J-160E, the Rickenbacker 360/12, the Fender Stratocaster named ‘Rocky’, the Ramirez Classical, the Fender Rosewood Telecaster, and the Zemaitis Lotus 12-String, with plans to add additional guitars to the app in future updates.
The application also includes personal audio recordings from Harrison himself introducing many of the guitars and playing selections of songs, along with a list of songs from his catalogue organized by the guitars used on each track. A detailed history of each guitar is also provided, including its origin, how it came to be part of Harrison’s collection and modifications Harrison made to create his distinctive sound. The app also includes video footage of Ben Harper, Josh Homme, Mike Campbell, and Dhani Harrison playing and showcasing the guitars as well as a discussion by Conan O’Brien and Dhani on what makes these guitars so exceptional and an interview with guitar great Gary Moore sharing his views on what made George Harrison such a distinctive and influential guitar player. The Guitar Collection: George Harrison is available from the App Store for $10.
Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was honored with a Special Grammy Award over the weekend, and Apple senior vice president of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue was on hand to accept the award in his stead. Mac Rumors reports that upon accepting the Trustees Award, Cue said, “On behalf of Steve’s wife, Laurene, his children, and everyone at Apple, I’d like to thank you for honoring Steve with the Trustees Grammy Award. Steve was a visionary, a mentor, and a very close friend. I had the incredible honor of working with him for the last fifteen years”.
“Accepting this award means so much to me because music meant so much to him. He told us that music shaped his life…it made him who he was. Everyone that knows Steve knows the profound impact that artists like Bob Dylan and The Beatles had on him”, he continued. “Steve was focused on bringing music to everyone in innovative ways. We talked about it every single day. When he introduced the iPod in 2001, people asked ‘Why is Apple making a music player?’ His answer was simple: ‘We love music, and it’s always good to do something you love.’ His family and I know that this Grammy would have been very special to him, so I thank you for honoring him today.” As noted in the report, the Grammy marks the second time Jobs and Apple have been honored by The Recording Academy, as Apple itself won a Technical Grammy in 2002.
SpaceSampler is a new smart audio convolution app from Periscope Audio Lab that allows users to apply filters to recorded audio and share the resulting files online, essentially doing for audio what apps such as CameraBad and Instagram do for photos. Users can apply filters from an included comprehensive collection of high quality Impulse Response filters captured from real gear and acoustic spaces to add a wide variety of effects to any type of audio source. The app provides a fast convolution algorithm with a simple, intuitive interface allowing users to record their own audio and then quickly and easily apply filters. Users can choose between WAV and MP4 formats for encoding and the resulting files can be shared via e-mail MAPI Audio Copy, Dropbox or SoundCloud. A built-in recording browser is included for easy file management and recordings can also be reloaded to create multi-layered effects. SpaceSampler requires an iPhone 3GS/4/4S or third- or fourth-generation iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later and is available from the App Store for $1.
Yamaha Music Interactive has released NoteStar, a new advanced digital sheet music application for the iPad. NoteStar provides a hands-free, smooth-flowing transcription of keyboard sheet music synchronized with professionally recorded audio backing tracks that allow users to play along as if they were in the band. Sheet music display is handled automatically and the app provides playback control features including A-B looping, track muting and metronome support. A variety of note size and layout options are available with automatic sheet music resizing to provide customizable views of the sheet music and the app supports both portrait and landscape orientations. Users can also choose to play songs in different key signatures or a half or three-quarter speeds without changing the pitch. The app provides an extensive library of popular songs available for in-app purchase for $4 each; one free song download is included with online registration. NoteStar is available from the App Store as a free download.
Manchester-based electronica label Clear Notice Recordings has released its most recent album in the form of an iPad application. The album, Enter Calico, is a compilation of music and videos from various electronic artists, filmmakers and animators around the world. The application includes full tracks along with streaming videos and artist biographies. Buyers also receive a code that allows them to download a copy of the audio album in a format of their choice and download the videos which are streamed from within the app. Enter Calico represents one of the first albums to be released exclusively as an iPad app; it is available from the App Store for $7. [via Mobile Entertainment]
U.S. sales of music CDs plunged 20 percent in the first three months of the year, according to figures released by Nielsen SoundScan. “89 million CDs were sold from the start of the year through March 18 as compared with 112 million CDs sold during the same period in 2006,” reports AFP. “Purchases of digitized albums online failed to make up the difference—instead they dropped from 119 million during that time period in 2006 to 99 million during the first three months of this year, SoundScan reported. Meanwhile, sales of individual songs in digital format on the Internet rose from 242 million tracks during those months last year to 288 million this year.”
In an unusual example of a major-label band seeking specifically to cultivate the interest of new iPod owners, Capitol Records recording artists SOUND team have debuted “The Fastest Man Alive,” a free downloadable music video from the EP “Work.” Edited by an alumnus from the 2003 remake of the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre, footage from the video was filmed over a two-year period using the classic Super 8 format, and has a distinctly throwback look and sound. According to a representative, the band is among the first major-label artists to have released a free video of this sort for fifth-generation iPod users.
Fox television said it is being more cautious than rival networks like NBC and ABC in making its popular TV shows available from new distribution outlets like the iTunes Music Store.
“It’s been our strategy not to try to go out first with announcements but to go out with our best strategy. We’re taking a more measured approach to what works and would not work,” Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori said. “In terms of new technologies, it’s so early and in the nascent stages of what we can do with this. We think of this as a quintessential marathon and not a sprint… There are so many different cable outlets, a really fertile Internet, the ability to get information on wireless,” Liguori said. “‘24’ is a great show for all those various options, but again, my job is to protect ‘24,’ not to worry about what at this point is really a pretty meager audience” for video on demand or video iPods.