Tag Archives: Spotify

Spotify going Social

This came out of the blue… and while it may not be quite the update we anticipated (or necessarily wanted) it is an update that will send shockwaves about the Web.

Spotify has moved from beta version 0.32 to 0.4.3, yes really. Thankfully Spotify doesn’t play by conventional version numbers though, since 0.4.3 is easily the streaming music platform’s biggest update since its launch in October 2008.

The big news is ‘Spotify Social’ – Spotify’s new social networking system. This is primarily done through integration with Facebook and brings a new ‘people column’ to the player which shows a list of all your Facebook friends using Spotify and what are their ‘Top artists’ and ‘Top tracks’. Their playlists are also shared and these can be subscribed to and viewed along with a ‘Feed’ showing you what music your friends are talking about. 

Naturally the public nature of these can be individually edited so you can hide that disturbing Carly Simon obsession from view. On the flip side, you can subscribe to profiles like that of Sean Adams from Drowned In Sound and keep up to date with the site’s monthly top track picks. Extending this social networking further is the addition of an ‘Inbox’. Any tracks or albums you like can be dragged onto any of your friends in the people column and that content will turn up in their inbox. Clever stuff and a nice extension of the ability to use http links to share Spotify files in the past (that remains intact).

Major change number two is the ‘Library’ feature which gives you the option to scan your computer for music files and integrate them into your Spotify library. Your library can then be played directly from Spotify and – in a neat twist – synced with Spotify’s mobile client if you add it to a playlist. If you make this playlist available offline this even works when the artist isn’t on Spotify since it will wirelessly upload the content from your computer. Other bits and pieces? You can now star your favourite tracks, shared playlists show their number of subscribers so you can see how popular your selections are and you can search for individual Spotify users with the command ‘spotify:user:username’.

On the downside, Spotify seems to have taken something of a Google Buzz approach to social networking by sharing all your information automatically and relying on you to remove anything inappropriate. Top Artists and Top Tracks also contain a few glitches (apparently my favourite track comes from a Twin Peaks soundtrack I’ve never hear). It has also failed to give the playlist system a much needed makeover and they remain the same ugly list system as existed previously. Despite that, this is a welcome and potentially game changing move from Spotify and if it could integrate podcasts and device syncing perhaps we could finally be freed from the horrors of iTunes forever…


What Rupert Murdoch Still Doesn’t Get About the Internet

Rupert Murdoch knows who’s winning the war between big media and the Internet. Unsurprisingly, it’s Rupert Murdoch. “Without content, the ever-larger and flatter screens, the tablets, the e-readers and the increasingly sophisticated mobile phones would be lifeless,” he proclaimed when News Corp. posted unexpectedly strong fiscal 2010 second-quarter earnings. “Devices and platforms are proliferating but this clever technology is merely an empty vessel without any great content.”

Murdoch danced a lively jig for investors as he bragged about his company’s ability to thrive in the media tumult caused by the Internet. I’m not buying it. News Corp. may be getting a big lift from “Avatar” right now, but like any big media company, it still has a lot of learning, experimenting and failure to do before it can really start to monetize the web. The arrival of the iPad and other tablet devices may, in time, make that easier. But first they will make it much harder by speeding up the process of adaptation.

The most difficult thing about the disruption facing the media industry hasn’t been the certain sense that business models are changing — it’s that nobody is sure how they’re changing. But one important idea is starting to become clear: Content isn’t a product anymore, it’s a service. Because for consumers, content is less and less a thing they buy and more a thing they experience.

The notion emerged a couple of years ago, with the likes of Kevin Kelly alleging that the Internet is essentially a copy machine and asking what can be sold that isn’t easily copied. Others took it even further, to the notion of content as a service.

Over at his O’Reilly blog, Andrew Savikas wrote:

Whether they realize it or not, media companies are in the service business, not the content business. Look at iTunes: if people paid for content, then it would follow that better content would cost more money. But every song costs the same. Why would people pay the same price for goods of (often vastly) different quality? Because they’re not paying for the goods they’re paying Apple for the service of providing a selection of convenient options easy to pay for and easy to download.

It’s no accident that Apple has been thriving in this chaos. And it’s no surprise that the iPad was designed to enhance the experience of web media in ways that are more immersive and intuitive than either laptops or smartphones. In fact, the iPad seems to be built on the blunt assertion that content is now something to be experienced rather than possessed. Selling content — whether it’s news, music, books or something else — as a product on a tablet is setting yourself up for disappointment. 

This evolution in content is clearer in music, which was the first to feel significant disruption from the Internet. Twenty years ago, buying music meant purchasing a CD after you heard a song on commercial radio (or, for the adventurous, college radio) or read a review in a magazine. Today, music is becoming an experience that begins with discovery sites like Pandora or social network sites like Twitter and end up in a cloud-based service like Spotify or Grooveshark. Significantly, these companies are startups and not traditional media giants.

In short, the old media giants need to think like startups: That is, look at the iPad with the eyes of any other app developer and imagine what it can do that hasn’t been done before. How will a tablet change the experience of books, news, music, and so on? And why will we consumers be willing to pay for that new experience? These are the questions to start with, rather than asking how to shovel the same old content products onto devices that radically transform what content is.

Murdoch is right that those devices are lifeless without content, but he neglects to mention that it’s a symbiotic relationship. “Content is not just king, it is the emperor of all things electronic!” he crowed. Maybe, but this emperor is wearing the service uniform of a burger flipper. When do we get fries with that content?


Oxford University bans students from Spotify

University authorities imposed the ban because the sheer number of undergraduates listening to free tracks in their bedrooms was crippling the network, slowing down those using the web for academic research. Oxford students are entitled to free internet access as part of their accommodation fees, but the university retains the right to block sites with no educational value.

Spotify only launched in October 2008 and until now had managed to escape the university’s ban on so-called peer-to-peer sharing networks. These networks allow connected computers to share data – such as music or films – quickly and easily. But they consume significantly more bandwidth than traditional downloads in which computers receive data from a central source.

Oxford University Computing Services (OCUS) added Spotify to its proscribed list of services last week, to the outrage of students who had come to rely on its vast, free archive of tracks.

The independent student newspaper Cherwell quoted students as saying the ban amounted to “discrimination against music lovers”. One unnamed music student claimed that the ban would hamper his studies. “I use it loads. It’s the most comprehensive collection of classical music in one place,” he said.

The ban covers computers on the university internet connection in halls of residence as well as those in communal buildings like libraries and study centres. It does not affect students in private houses, or those who have paid for their own mobile internet connections. The OCUS website also states that the internet phone service Skype and fantasy role playing game World of Warcraft can breach its ban on peer-to-peer technology, although the BBC iPlayer and 4oD are both allowed.

A university spokeswoman said: “The university provides free internet access for students because it’s an educational resource. If they want to use it recreationally as well that’s no problem unless it uses so much bandwidth that it slows the network down. “I’m sure the students would like it if they could have Spotify back but they are getting a free service so they must accept some restrictions.”

Spotify attracted more than two million users in Britain within a year of launching. Users can either listen to music for free, with advert breaks between every few songs, or pay a monthly subscription to listen without adverts. Experts have warned that bandwidth-hungry services such as the iPlayer, YouTube and Spotify could lead to slower and more unreliable connections in future unless there is necessary investment in new high-speed networks.


Rajar – One third of UK now tuning in to music online (up 55% year-on-year) – Spotify edges ahead of Last.fm

Personalised online music is gaining in popularity, according to the latest research, with sites like Last.fm and Spotify reaping the award. A new study by radio audience measurement body Rajar has found that 4.5 million people in the UK are now using ‘personal radio’ services online in November. Compare this to 2.9 million in October last year and it seems that many more people are cottoning on to the idea of listening to music found in the cloud.

UK goes radio ga-ga

Dig a little deeper and the figures make for great reading, especially if you are the CEO of Spotify. Rajar has found that one third of the UK population is now tuning into music online (or have at some point in their lives), which equates to 17.4 million people – although this was already at 16.9 million people in May. And more people are tuning into podcasts too, with 8.1 million owning up to downloading the digital discussions. When it comes to who wins out in the popularity stakes between Spotify and Last.fm, it seems that Spotify is proving to be more popular


Free movies online – Voddler – the ‘new Spotify for movies’ – signs up 250,000 Swedes in 2 weeks – will cover all Scandinavia next year

A new service for watching movies over the internet for free has attracted more than a quarter of a million Swedes since its launch two weeks ago. In addition to signing up tens of thousands of subscribers in a matter of days, the company responsible for the service, Voddler, recently inked licensing deals with two major Hollywood studios, Walt Disney Company and Paramount, giving its users access to thousands of film titles. Founded in Stockholm in 2005, Voddler offers users streaming on-demand videos free of charge. When it released a beta version of its technology in July, the service attracted 16,000 users on the first day. Voddler executive vice president Zoran Slavic said Voddler now has 70,000 registered users, as well as a queue of more than 200,000 people who have requested an invitation to join the service. Often dubbed the “Spotify for movies”, referring to another Sweden-based service for digital music distribution, Voddler aims to provide a legal alternative to file sharing pirated films that still allows customers the chance to watch whatever they want, whenever they want, for little or no cost. Slavic explained that Voddler believes that file sharing and internet piracy have changed consumer habits to the point that many expect to be able to see movies online without paying for them. While the service is currently only available in Sweden, Voddler plans to expand the service to Norway, Denmark, and Finland in 2010


Spotify – new legitimate music business download model is the best solution to illegal music downloading

As idiotic government officials prepare to legislate against illegal file sharing and music downloads, stunning new research sponsored by moneysupermarket.com, points the way to the correct answers to this problem – a new business model that releases most music for free, but then charges a small pemium for high CD-recording quality music downloads to those who wish to purchase copies for themselves whenever they need to do so. Instead of pandering to the phonographic and copyright industries and their (understandable) desire to make money for their charges – they should be looking at the bigger picture and stimulating innovation and findings new ways through social media applications to stream services ranging from books, music, council and government services, films, clothes, shoes – anything in fact through this new broadband based business model.  What governments should be doing is following the Finnish model of making 100Mg broadband the right of ALL CITIZENS within five years, thereby stimulating the digital economy, creating jobs, creating innovation and entrepreneurship, creating a potential new Silicon Valley style culture of creativity. Instead, European governments are piling all efforts into fines, punishment and pandering to vested interest groups. The phonograpic industries could earn more from adopting a posture that encourage MORE Spotfify’s – they could measure usage more accurately and get an infinite number of smaller chunks of revenue instead of smashing a few thousand clubs, pubs and bars almost out of existence with extortionate licence fees. Their audience would move from the few thousand that their licences are milking and that they are slowly forcing out of existence through their greed – and their audience and revenue could come from the 1.5bn people online all over the world instead. OK – the amounts they could grab would be smaller at first, but if they cooperated with this new business model no one would begrudge them. They’d also be backing the countries in which these copyright dictators currently operate and finding MORE ways to market for the singers, songwriters and entertainers they represent than there are at present. Legislation is all too often dictated by the ‘interest group’ that shouts the loudest and is the best organised in terms of lobbying government officials. The new ‘three-strikes’ policy is a prime example of this.

The orginal article…www.techwatch.co.uk

Apparently music streaming service Spotify is helping to curb the appetites of illegal file downloaders in the UK. Research sponsored by moneysupermarket.com indicates that 62% of those who admit carrying out illegal downloads reckon that Spotify has helped them reduce the amount of files they are illegally grabbing. James Parker, Broadband Manager at moneysupermarket.com, said: “With Spotify joining the ranks of legal music sites, illegal downloading seems set to become much less popular.”

“Streaming music for free or for a reasonable fee whilst on the move could spell the end for illegal downloading and could even send the CD the way of the mini-disc and cassette tape.” The survey of 2,300 people also highlighted the fact that illegal downloading is worse amongst men – 16% of males admitted it, in comparison with 9% of women. Although that could just mean women are better liars. But the most telling statistic emerged in terms of age – 30% of under twenties said they engaged in the practice


Illegal file sharers are really big spenders – is it wise for HM Govt to go after them?

People who download music illegally also spend an average of GBP 77 a year buying it legitimately, a survey has found. Those who claimed not to use peer-to-peer filesharing sites such as The Pirate Bay spent a yearly average of just GBP 44. Almost one in 10 of those questioned aged between 16 and 50 said they downloaded music illegally. However, eight out of 10 of that group also bought CDs, vinyl and as MP3s. A total of 1008 people in the UK took part in the online poll commissioned by researchers Demos. Half the group (50 percent) accessed music officially via YouTube, and 22 percent listened to internet radio. Napster, once a pioneer of music filesharing, was used by just 4 percent, with 21 percent saying they had not heard of it. Music streaming service Spotify was used by 9 percent of the group, most of whom had not signed up for the paid-for premium service. However, it was rated highly for being easy to use, convenient and providing access to a wide variety of music. 75 percent of 16-24 year olds said they were prepared to pay for MP3s. The optimum price for the survey group as a whole was GBP 0.45 for an individual track, with just 2 percent saying they would pay more than GBP 1. “Politicians and music companies need to recognise that the nature of music consumption has changed and consumers are demanding lower prices and easier access to music,” said Demos researcher Peter Bradwell. It also raises questions about the draft Digital Economy bill, which is due to be submitted to parliament later this month and proposes disconnecting file-sharers who repeatedly break the law.


Spotify offers PC music downloads

The music streaming service Spotify has announced that it will allow users to download music to their computers. The new service will only be available to premium subscribers, who will have to pay £10 per month for their music. Spotify already allows users to listen to music offline via an application on their mobile phones. The Swedish music streaming service is looked on as a rival to Apple’s iTunes store because of its wide-ranging, free library of millions of songs. Apple currently dominates digital music with around 70% of the market. Digital locks Spotify recently launched an application for the iPhone that allows users to temporarily download music. A spokesperson for the firm said the new feature is very similar to the mobile application. Users can create a playlist whilst connected to the net, but then choose to sync them with a computer and then listen to the songs offline.

The firm has not said whether the music will be protected by digital rights management (DRM) software that allow rights holders to control how their music is used.

However, a spokesperson said that although tracks would be stored within a folder on a hard drive, they would not be able to be played using other music players.

The firm said that if a customer stops paying a subscription, the playlists will continue to exist in the folder, but the ability to listen to them offline will be disabled.

The application allows users to store up to 3,333 tracks offline, on up to three different devices at a time.

Spotify, which launched last year, now has more than two million users in the UK, and more than six million across Europe.

It has not yet launched in the United States but says it intends to do so by the end of the year


If you cannot beat it, join it

More than 750 merchant locations across Singapore are participating in the three-month pilot, which was launched in May 2009. Up to 300 selected Citi M1 Visa Platinum card members have been invited to join. They are able to purchase items at Visa payWave merchants simply by waving their NFC-enabled phones in front of a contactless reader at the point of sale. Who needs money when you can pay by mobile phone.

Fans of rock brands are now breaking and supporting more new bands than the record companies are in Europe. A loyal fan base through the social media has broken the Arctic Monkeys and many others. They buy the music, they support the merchandising (if there is any) and they suggest and patronise the gigs when they happen, ensuring the band builds up a steady following.

Orange run an annual Boot Camp to which they invite developers or would-be entrepreneurs. These innovators get to meet with Orange developers and discuss ways of working together. If successful over the coming months, these developers are encouraged to develop a prototype and to put these beta products before Orange. If the Orange team go for them – they take the would-be partner to a venture capitalist and say ‘fund this’ and we will be the marketing vehicle to distribute it.  There is already an app out these being road tested in (I think) Guatamala – which allows mobiles to download business cards of the caller automatically your number is dialled.

An American chocolate company caught in the teeth of the recession reached out to chocoholics everywhere and said ‘what would you like us to make for you’ – again, using the social media as a vehicle, Back came the reply ‘something simple and small and low cost, perhaps on a stick, that we can pick up when we buy our Starbucks coffee.’ This company is happily riding out the worst recession in record in a fairly healthy state.

T-Shirt company Threadless promotes itself almost exclusively through the social media arena and it has never printed a T-Shirt that has not been successful. Micro-community members are encouraged to send in favourite designs. Community members vote on the coolest designs. The winners get printed and those who voted for these designs are usually first in the queue to buy them.

The clothes shopping experience that most women seem to live for (sorry if that is a little sexist I apologise) is now starting to die on its feet as online stores like Asos see sales shooting through the roof as women order what they need online, for the sake of price, convenience and comfort.

Times really are a-changing. Everyone’s behaviour with regard to all things digital has now become the new normality. We expect to be able to stop and start our tele programmes when we want to watch them. We do not want to buy newspapers as we can download the bits of the news we want to see, when we want to see them on whatever electronic device we are using at the time – and sort them by RSS feed.

Why buy newspapers in their current format? Why pay for expensive CD’s when you just download what you need when you need it for next to nothing? Spotify offers CD-quality music to your PC when you want it for a minimal monthly price. Phone companies rap up the price of thousands of music tracks into the cost of a monthly line rental.

We are only steps a way now from the possibility of the smart company being able to segment us in a way that we have all been crying out for companies to do – a segement of one…to be treated like an individual. I for one embrace the social media revolution as if you cannot beat it, join it – this seems like a good idea to me in the present circumstances.

Football crazy…or sign of things to come?


What value now the rights to a three-year 46 game Premier League football deal secured at a cost of £130m? Although media consultants Enders Analysis spoke of the rights being worth a lot less now in recent days, Disney’s ESPN still felt flush enough with cash to step in and secure a 4 year deal for a reputed £250m for 46 Premier League matches for the next three seasons and a further 23 games the season after that.

With talk of BBC being asked to ‘share the 3.5% of the license fee’ set aside for the digital switchover with struggling ITV and Chanel 4. With media regulator OFCOM in the UK allowing Channel 4 and ITV to introduce teleshopping (including gambling) between midnight and 6am – something is afoot. 

There is a major behavioural change taking place with TV taking a less and less important place in people’s lives, particularly in the lives of the under 30’s – the so-called ‘Digital Natives’ – who did not grow up with a ubiquitous flow of quality TV programming that was watched by millions each week.

Now TV competes for their attention – and for the attention of those of us who are in the more ‘traditional’ and ‘more mature’ bracket. There are very few TV programmes and very few days of the year when TV can command on support from the viewing public.  

The explosion in take up for BBCi-Player, TV programmes when you want to see them through whatever device you want to see them through. The dowloading of video content from illegal file sharing websites (up 10% of us are doing it in the UK according to latest figures from Future Consulting).  The new kids on the block are now developing new business models to cater for these new tastes.

Take Spotify as an example. It has managed to sign up 1.5m subscribers in four months and is currently signing a new subscriber every two seconds. It is now recognising that it is quality of service that holds the key to keeping these people sweet and are upgrading the music streams available to paid subscribers to 320kbs per second from 160kpbs – thereby providing a CD quality service for only £9.99 a month.

With 1.5bn people online in some form or other (digital TV, PC’s, mobile devices etc) there are two routes to take for a business nowadays: premium prices – sell expensive to a small group of people. Or sell cheap to as many people as you possibly can and aim to hit a break even number as fast as you can (something Setanta failed to do).

It is now a race downward in terms of price, a race upward in terms of speed and move towards ‘convenience’ and ‘accessibility’ for those business models at the cutting edge of media communications. Setanta was a loser. Out of the ashes will rise another contender.

The net effect though, is that the new generation of consumers are more demanding than ever before. They are more critical than ever before. They want the highest possible quality at the lowest possible cost and they want it wherever they are – in whatever form the company can supply it.  This has terrifying implications for all media linked businesses.  Think about it for a second, do you really read more than 10% of that newspaper you bought at the station? Why buy it? Do you really watch more than 20 hours TV a week – why pay the TV licence. Football crowds and those who watch football are a ‘community’ that share a common interest and are prepared to pay for it. The same is true of the businessman, the soap watching housewife and the child and his or her cartoons. Our behaviour is changing and businesses need to change now before their business models become rapidly out of date.