Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

SWEDEN-MUSIC-SPOTIFY-MUSIC-STREAMINGIf you’re not Apple, Google or Amazon, the music streaming business is tough. Last week, iHeart Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Pandora moved to renegotiate its costly deals with record labels last week, and Spotify is reassuring investors that it can turn a profit as it prepares to go public next month. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Paul Sweeney, media analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, about why it’s so hard to make money in streaming. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Paul Sweeney: You know, everybody’s got to get paid in the music business. This has been, over the last hundred years, a very complex web of licensing agreements, and the streaming companies have to pay these fees as well. So they’ve all negotiated fee arrangements with the various licensing entities, and it’s a big, big part of their cost structure. And that is why, you know, they really, in particular in the case of Spotify, but all the players, you know, what they need to do is to really sign up as many subscribers as they can, generate as much revenue as they can to cover these licensing and royalty costs. And it really, really argues for these companies to get to scale as quickly as possible.

Molly Wood: And yet, we should point out here that Spotify is not profitable, right? Is anybody making money in this space?

Sweeney: You’re right. They’re they’re not profitable. And it was interesting the way they positioned their company at their investor day was to say — not not surprisingly, I guess — don’t focus on profits, focus on subscriber growth. And very much like the Netflix story, this is going to be a story about subscriber growth, you know. And I think what they really stress from a financial perspective is, “Once our subscribers stay with us for more than a year, they become very profitable for us.” What I think they’re saying to the marketplace is “This is very early innings of this global streaming music business, and we’re going to go for as much share as possible, and we will monetize it, you know, in the future.”

Wood: Certainly the pages of tech history are littered with companies who made that argument about audience. Not everyone can be Amazon and Netflix. Like, do the economics suggest, you know, if Spotify’s bet doesn’t pay off that only big companies like Apple or Amazon or Google who can afford to sort of absorb losses in licensing fees could end up controlling streaming music?

Sweeney: Yeah, we did some some research on the market opportunity here for the Spotifys of the world and just the streaming music business in general, and we think the music streaming via subscription is about an $8.4 billion business today, and we think by 2025 that industry could be $24 billion. What’s really happening, what’s going to drive that revenue growth, is just the growth in global paid users. There’s about 120 million people globally, excluding China, that subscribe to a paying streaming service right now. We think that can grow to about 400 million people in 2025. So those numbers look very big over the next five years, and the question is, who’s going to get that? It really comes down to investors’ belief in the overall growth of the global streaming market. And then it’s a question of who you think is going to be the winners and losers here. Is it a zero-sum game where maybe it’s just Apple and nobody else? Or is there room for multiple players?

Wood: So I know that Spotify, for example, has been able to renegotiate better rates with the labels. Is that what it’s going to take for the digital streaming industry in general? Like, will the labels just have to give a little more?

Sweeney: I don’t think so. I think it’s going to continue to be a very contentious relationship between the labels and whoever’s distributing the music. I think it’s going be a constant, constant struggle as it’s always been in the music business, because the people who create the content feel like they should be adequately compensated for their work. And it’s a question of what “adequately compensated” means. And that will always be, I believe, a pressure point for Spotify as they think about how to manage their costs.


Figure Skaters Perform to Music With Words

Posted: December 22, 2017 in Music

Julian Yee is the first figure skater from Malaysia to qualify for the Olympics, but for his big debut he does not plan to perform to a familiar classicist like Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff. No Mahler or Bizet for him, either. He chose the work of an American composer, but it’s not the airy music of Gershwin.

Instead, for his long program Yee will jump into the sequined soul of James Brown, whose voice will fill the arena with a medley of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” and “I Got You (I Feel Good).”

“If I show the amount of energy James Brown showed on stage, it will be something good for the audience and the judges to see,” Yee, 20, said upon qualifying for the Games in September at a competition in Germany.

The Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, will be the first in which singles and pairs skaters can compete to music with lyrics. True, the chestnuts of the sport — “Carmen,” “Swan Lake” — are still being performed, or over-performed. But these days one is as likely to hear Moby as Mozart, the Beatles as Beethoven or Bieber as Bach.

In an attempt to attract a younger audience to a sport with flagging appeal – and to satisfy young skaters — the International Skating Union adopted rules allowing sung music after the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. (Ice dancers have used vocals since the late 1990s.) To proponents, lyrics help skaters tell a story and may attract casual fans with songs that are played on the radio, not just in symphony halls.

“Sometimes music with vocals, it brings out more passion,” said Han Cong of China, 25, who with his partner, Sui Wenjing, 22, is favored to win the Olympic pairs competition. They skate to K.D. Lang’s cover of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” in their short program.

“When the lyrics have some meaning, it may touch your heart more easily,” Han said.

With an infinite songbook now available, skaters have explored a diversity of musicians, including Queen, Coldplay, Elvis, Gene Kelly, and folk songs like “Hava Nagila,” as well as selections from “Hamilton” and the movie “La La Land.”

Perhaps the most startling departure from classical music came in January 2017 at the United States championships, when Jimmy Ma, 22, of Great Neck, N.Y., performed his short program to Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady.”

“How far figure skating has come,” Michael Weiss, a two-time Olympian and a commentator for, said on a broadcast of the event. “I never thought I would have seen somebody skating to Eminem, but it actually worked.”

In a recent interview, Weiss noted that while skating has an alluring artistic side, it is fundamentally a sport and can benefit from music that builds an audience’s energy.

At the Washington Capitals hockey games he attends, Weiss said, “they don’t play Beethoven and Mozart when they’re about to drop the puck.”

The ultimate example of self-expression — or self-indulgence, some might say — during this Olympic season may have come when Adam Rippon of Los Angeles recorded and performed to his own vocals of the Rihanna song “Diamonds.”

“It wasn’t too bad; wasn’t too good, either,” Rippon, 28, said. Ultimately, for his short program, he decided instead on what he called “trashy” club music because “it embodies me even more than my own voice.”

Given that the Olympics are an international competition, the context and language of songs could play an important role in influencing the crowd and the judges.

Despite the Games being on their home ice, no South Korean skaters are expected to perform to K-pop. “It’s not a match for an ice rink,” said Chi Hyun-jung, a South Korean coach. “Koreans are the only ones who understand the words.”

The American ice dancers Madison Chock, 25, and Evan Bates, 28, who are expected to challenge for a bronze medal, make sly reference to the turbulence of national and international politics with the idealistic lyrics of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

“Not getting into left or right, it’s more peace and hope and prosperity,” Bates said. “I think anybody, regardless of political party, would welcome that kind of message in these times.”

When the rules changed to permit lyrics, a number of officials, coaches and choreographers — and even some skaters — were wary. The fear was that it would trivialize a sport built on a foundation of classical music.

Even now, some remain ambivalent, which may reflect a generational divide. “I think with lot of lyrics, there’s no real artistic inspiration behind it; it’s just a song that kids like and they say, ‘Let’s skate to it,” said Frank Carroll, 79, a venerable American coach who tutored Evan Lysaceck to a gold medal at the 2010 Olympics.

Yet the response among many in the sport seems to reflected in the words of Alexander Lakernik, 72, a vice president of the International Skating Union: “It’s less a problem than we thought.”

There’s a popular theory that video game soundtracks make great background music when you need to work or study. The idea is that the music is designed to motivate you without being distracting, but that’s not always the case. A lot of video game soundtracks can be over the top, obnoxious, or just plain bad—then there’s Celeste.

Celeste is a new platformer video game (imagine a 2D Mario side-scroller, but starring a red-headed woman who struggles with depression while attempting to climb a mystical mountain in Canada). It’s a beautiful game with amazing art and an incredible soundtrack that perfectly matches the rest of the experience.

The music, created by electronic artist and video game composer Lena Raine, is great enough to stand on its own as an album. But because it’s a video game soundtrack with no lyrics and building climaxes designed to push the player through difficult sections, it’s also perfect background noise for getting work done.

I’ve been listening to the Celeste soundtrack pretty much non-stop for the past few days. When I’m not actually playing the game I put it on in the background to write. I even listened to it last night while riding the subway into Manhattan to meet some friends.

Celeste’s music is a mix of electronic sounds and piano, with some other instruments like guitar and a theremin-style synth slipped in occasionally. Many of the tracks start with a slow simple melody, adding layer after layer until they reach an incredible high designed to push you through some of the game’s toughest moments.

“Resurrections,” the song embedded above, is one of my favorites, and in an interview, Raine describe the nearly 10-minute track as “almost like a full suite of music by itself.” I also love “Reach for the Summit,” one of the soundtrack’s later songs with a frantic, exuberant beat to match the game’s final moments. “Scattered and Lost” is beautiful and fast-paced with a spacey feel to it, while “Check In” slows down the action but maintains a steady beat to keep you focused.

You can pick and choose the songs you want to hear, but you’re better off just letting the entire Celeste soundtrack (available on Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp) play through. You won’t regret it, just don’t blame me if you end up addicted to the game as well.

Remember loyalty? Spotify doesn’t. The company’s previously announced update to its Spotify Connect platform unfortunately terminates the streaming service’s functionality on a variety of speakers ostensibly advertised as Spotify-connected devices. Some of them (from companies like Onkyo and Denon) very expensive Spotify-connected devices. What does that mean for you? Well, if you own a speaker not scheduled to receive any updates fixing the disconnect, according to the Verge, you’ll have to find a new way to get audio out of it. Instead of shopping around for a new streaming service that will ultimately disappoint you, why not cut out the middleman and start using a music library you actually own? Advantages like uninterrupted music, increased portability, and increased longevity of the hardware you actually use make it worth the cost of a few albums.

Your Music Library Doesn’t Care About Licensing

Want to listen to Jay-Z’s latest album, 4:44? Got a hankerin’ for some Lemonade? Well you’re out of luck if you’re subscribed to any streaming service besides Tidal. Fans of Taylor Swift might remember when the wearer of beautiful gowns removed her own discography from Spotify.

Avoiding Closed Services Prevents Headaches

While the majority of those speakers affected by the Spotify update do indeed have auxiliary inputs that you can use to connect your phone or a Google Cast device to, that’s probably not why you bought it. If you spent the suggested $5,000 on the now Spotify-free B&O BeoSound 5, a deciding factor was probably its ability to both stream music and do it without your smartphone.

You Can Take Your Music Offline

One of the more annoying drawbacks of streaming music is the actual streaming portion, which is useless if your commute involves Internet-free stretches of subway tunnel. That has led to more than one song ending mid-refrain, or silence filling my earbuds when I was expecting the dulcet tones of Jaden Smith. Instead, storing music locally means no interruptions, no matter your reception. Spotify and other music services do have offline functionality, and will download songs to your smartphone, but only when explicitly instructed.

Or You Can Put Them Online

If you still want an easy way to stream your music to devices that don’t support the streaming of local files, or you’ve to attach a few Cast-friendly dongles to your hobbled speakers, you can sign up for a music streaming service that caters to those with their own libraries. Google Play Music allows you to upload up to 50,000 songs to your personal music library, letting you listen to your songs using Google Play Music and stream them to Google Cast devices. You’ll have access to an entire streaming library in addition to the songs you pirated purchased. If you’re an Apple fan, you can use Apple’s AirPlay functionality to stream your local music (or Apple Music service) from iTunes or your iOS device to AirPlay-compatible speakers, or an AirPlay receiver.

You Don’t Have to Do It All At Once

By all means, keep your streaming music service for now. After all, there’s a lot of new music available, and you don’t necessarily want to to shell out cash for every single track you decide to listen to from the comfort of your home. But you sure can save a few bucks by opting for a free, ad-supported version and putting that cash toward the purchase of new music. It won’t be cheap, and that $10 per month you’d be paying for a streaming service adds up to basically an album per month, but it’s worth it in the long run, especially when you know you’ll never need to replace your speaker costing thousands of dollars because some developer decided to kill its functionality via software update.

The recent arrival of the Apple HomePod and Google Home Max have demonstrated, if nothing else, what a smart speaker can be when it’s music first. On the other hand, audio’s never been as much of a driver on Amazon’s Echo line, though the company did take a small step in that direction with its recent refresh.

This week, the company’s adding another small but useful musical addition to its smart assistant. Users can now create and modify playlists using Alexa. The assistant is now able to make a new playlist from scratch or a specific song and add tracks to different lists.

The feature was first introduced in beta a few weeks back and started rolling out to Amazon Music Unlimited users in the U.S. today. Amazon says it was one of its most requested features, showing that people are, indeed, using their Echo devices to listen to music.

Of course, while Amazon’s own products aren’t nearly as focused on the audio experience as the competition, the company has begun partnering with third-party hardware manufacturers like Sonos and Harman to offer a more music-focused listening experience. For now, at least, the likelihood of a truly high-end Echo speaker doesn’t seem particularly high as the company focuses on low-cost hardware in an attempt to undercut the competition.

That said, unlike the HomePod, Echo devices also let users offload the sound to other speakers through Bluetooth and an auxiliary output.

4256Was there one song, one moment, when you just knew your life would revolve around the music that soundtracks it? Spread the love by sharing in the comments and your choice could make next week’s playlist.

You have until 11pm on Monday 12 February to post your nomination and make your justification. RR regular Paul Hayes (who posts in the comments as Fuel) will select from your recommendations and produce our list, which will be published on 15 February.

Here is a list of all songs previously picked and therefore ineligible for the series.

If you want to volunteer to compile a playlist from readers’ suggestions – and potentially blog about the process/selection for the Guardian – please email with the subject line “RR guru”, or make yourself known in the comments.

Here’s a reminder of the guidelines for RR:

* Tell us why it’s a worthy contender.
* Quote lyrics if helpful, but for copyright reasons no more than a third of a song’s words. If sharing links, make sure there is appropriate copyright permission.
* Listen to others people’s suggestions and add yours to a collaborative Spotify playlist.
* If you have a good theme, or if you’d like to volunteer to compile a playlist
* There’s a wealth of data on RR, including the songs that are “zedded”, at the Marconium. It also tells you the meaning of “zedded” (picked for a previous playlist so ineligible), “donds” and other strange words used by RR regulars.
* Many RR regulars also congregate at the ’Spill blog.

A team from Charnwood Lodge on Annan Road have been helping residents who are living with the chronic disorder to connect with their past using meaningful music.

Dumfries care home staff have got a sound idea for dementia patients.

A team from Charnwood Lodge on Annan Road have been helping residents who are living with the chronic disorder to connect with their past using meaningful music .

And now they are appealing for people to help with the Playlist for Life initiative by donating unused listening devices including old Apple Ipods .

Support worker Linda Irving said: “Playlist for Life has had such a wonderful effect on the people we support, we have seen such a change in them when we play them songs connected to their past.

“We involve families and friends to make sure the music we use is a personal playlist specific to them and it is just amazing to see their reactions.”

She added: “We’re asking if anyone out there has any unwanted Ipods, phones or old personal CD players, anything we can play music on, to please donate them and help us reach as many people as we can.”

The care home has collaborated with charity Playlist for Life to deliver the pioneering scheme.

Founded in 2013 by Scottish journalist Sally Magnusson, whose late mother suffered from dementia, the voluntary organisation works with person-centred care groups to promote the theory that response to music is not destroyed by the condition.

Studies have found that access to specific and memorable songs and compositions evokes memories and helps to alleviate dementia symptoms such as anxiety and agitation, while improving awareness, ability to think and helping develop a sense of identity and independence.

It is thought a widespread introduction of the simple, low-cost intervention will provide long term benefits for the national economy and wider society.

Linda added: “It’s a great idea, we are encouraging people to donate to any care homes in the region, not just us, so that even more people can benefit.”