Neil Young’s music store died, his new site lets you stream his music free

Neil Young’s foray into the digital world of music was a failure of epic proportions, but of course it wasn’t his fault…

Back in 2014 legendary musician Neil Young launched a Kickstarter for Pono, an MP3 player and streaming service. The player had a horrible triangular design that made pockets grimace and had less storage space than a smartphone, his hi-res music store was expensive and out of touch and their attempt at a streaming service went nowhere, but Young says it wasn’t Pono’s fault that it died it’s the awful and terrible music industry which put him down (please note sarcasm).

Speaking on the failure of Pono, Young told the Chicago Tribune recently: “The record labels killed it. They killed it by insisting on charging two to three times as much for the high-res files as for MP3s. Why would anybody pay three times as much?”

After failing to create his own music service and player, and rejecting the modern industry (he flip-flops on this) Young is now launching The Neil Young Archive. It features a collection of Young’s albums and live music, available for streaming in hi-res. Young said: “The thing is, I want the sound of music to come back – and it’s gone. CDs have less than 20% of the quality that music could be, and MP3s in most cases have only about 5% of what’s on the master recording.”

With his new site Neil Young seems to have actually created an accessible product with value though. The Neil Young Archives are currently free to enter and stream as much as you like from with a subscription to be announced in the future. The site looks pretty cool too, designed like a vintage Fender amp which hides a file cabinet full of Neil Young’s music.

Lets hope Young remains on this line between the 21st century and out of touch rock musician, and doesn’t stray back to the latter side. Check out his new site and stream all of his music for free here: www.neilyoungarchives.com

Facebook might launch 2 smart speakers by July to rival Apple, Amazon, Google

Just in case there weren’t enough smart speakers in the world following Apple’s HomePod launch Facebook are getting in on the trend.

Earlier this month Apple launched their long-teased Smart home speaker to go up against Amazon’s beloved and well established Echo speakers and Google’s rival Home speakers. Now Facebook are reportedly getting in on the market with 2 smart speakers planned for launch by the end of July.

A report from DigiTimes says that Facebook plan to enter the smart speaker market in the middle of 2018, breaking onto the scene with 2 new models. Both speakers, nicknamed Aloha and Fiona, will feature 15-inch interactive screens, putting them in direct competition with Amazon’s Echo Show speakers (pictured above) launched last year.

DigiTimes reportedly received the information from industry sources who said that Facebook want to enter the global speaker market as it booms in popularity and ever-growing competition. Their devices will likely focus on the social functions of a smart speaker with a screen such as video calling and messaging through Facebook’s Messenger.

According to the sources the Aloha speaker will be “more sophisticated than Fiona”, though both will be designed by Facebook’s Building 8 hardware lab and be fitted with 15-inch interactive touchscreens. Reportedly Aloha will be marketed as ‘Portal’ and will use voice commands like other smart speakers but also feature facial recognition for logging into people’s Facebook.

DigiTimes also say: “Facebook has signed music licensing contracts with Sony and Universal Music to enrich the device’s applications. Facebook is planning to build its own ecosystem for video consumer devices in the next five years, and the smart speaker is just the initial-stage product, with more terminal devices expected to be rolled out in the coming years, industry sources said.”

The speakers are apparently slated for release before the end of July this year, so Facebook will have to make an official announcement soon enough for people to distinguish them from all of the other Smart speakers out there.

Bang & Olufsen are helping you transform old speakers into smart speakers

Dust off those vintage speakers and breathe new life into them with Bang & Olufsen’s new project transforming them into WiFi Smart speakers.

As everything becomes internet-connected we’re quickly diminishing all of our tech from yester-year, but there’s a new reason not to throw away those old speakers. High-end speaker makers Bang & Olufsen have partnered with HiFiBerry to launch Beocreate 4, an open-source circuit board that re-invigorates your speakers with the power of WiFi connectivity.

The Beocreate 4 alone works as a digital amplifier for speakers, but add a Raspberry Pi and it gains Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Fortunately its as simple as plugging the Raspberry Pi into the amplifier, you don’t need to solder them together or do anything technical. The Beocreate 4’s software makes it capable to play music via Airplay, Bluetooth, or Spotify when connected with a Pi.

By itself the Beocreate 4 is capable of driving up to four 4-8 Ohm speakers with its 4-channel amplifier, 2×30 watts and 2×60 watts. It’s not the easiest way to bring your old speakers into the Smart generation (Chromecast Audio works quite well) but with Raspberry Pi power the software is open-source and opens up a world of possibility with your analogue speakers.

Respect to Bang & Olufsen for not just bringing out new speakers that work with Wi-Fi and giving old speakers a chance to be loved again. If you want a Beocreate it will set you back £149/$189 but if you’re technologically minded it could be just what those old speaker systems need.

Buy it and find out more here: www.hifiberry.com/shop/beocreate/beocreate-4-channel-amplifier

France’s music market won’t stop growing as streaming income reaches €243m

Streaming is driving growth in music industries all around the world and France aren’t missing out on the gains.

According to the latest from the SNEP France’s music market saw a 23% growth last year. That brought streaming profits up to €243 million in 2017, an increase of €46 million on 2016. Streaming now counts for 41.6% of the market.

Of the €243 million in streaming revenue, premium subscriptions accounted for €203 million and the remaining came from ad-supported music streams. Whilst Premium is clearly making up the most of the revenue free streaming actually saw the biggest growth in France last year. Subscriptions rose 21% to 4.4 million subscribers whilst ad-funded streaming grew by 33%

Overall the French music market grew by 3.9% to a total of €723 million with physical music still accounting for the majority, 51.2%. The vinyl resurgence has a large role in music revenue accounting for 12.2% of overall profits. Out of the overall music market revenue including sync licensing and performance rights physical music makes up 41% and digital accounts for 39%.

The general director of SNEP, Guillaume Leblanc says: “The efforts of the producers and the whole industry are paying, this recovery is encouraging, but it is fragile. We are starting to rebuild a value, but we are still far from the peak reached in 2002. This growth must be confirmed over time.”

You can buy a songwriting credit on Prince’s first hit single

Ever wanted to be able to say that you have a credit on one of the world’s biggest, baddest and best musicians’ songs? It’ll come at a price.

You can buy almost anything you can think of on Ebay, and that now includes credit for songwriting on Prince’s music. Up for sale currently is a co-songwriting credit on Prince’s “first hit song and a song that has sold over 22 million copies worldwide” – ‘SOFT & WET’.

The one-of-a-kind sale is being made by British producer Chris Moon who discovered and helped to break Prince. Moon wrote the lyrics to ‘SOFT & WET’ and Prince wrote the music for it, and technically you can take that claim now for the low, low price of $490,000. It’s not cheap and you’re unlikely to ever make your money back from it but if you’d like the bragging rights to a Prince song then here’s your chance.

But why is Moon selling his co-credit on Soft & Wet?

I have owned SOFT & WET since I wrote it, I have enjoyed hearing the song countless times over the years, been paid well and am proud of it. I would now like to see someone else enjoy owning it, it has achieved everything and more for me so I feel it is time to pass the torch to a Prince fan who will continue to cherish and enjoy owning it as much as I have,

If you love Prince and his music I cannot imagine anything better than co-owning his first hit song with him.  will sign legal transfer over to you and you will be able to prove to the world SOFT & WET belongs to you. All my rights and ownership of lyrics to the song will be transferred to you, you will get a copy of the original contract between Prince and I legally recognizing my ownership and thus my right to transfer it to you. You will also receive a digital copy of his original version of the song as well as the album version and the MC Hammer version.

This is real, it can be proven to a prospective buyer and we can satisfy your attorneys that this transfer is legal and legitimate which of course we would do BEFORE any money changes hands. Here is your chance to co-own the hit song that started it all, the music behind the man. [sic]

So obviously purchasing won’t mean that the buyer is now credited as the songwriter, but they will receive all Moon’s shares of the royalties on the track. It’s unlikely that the owner will ever make back their money so they will have to hope that someone writes a number one single with a sample from SOFT & WET.

If you’ve got a spare half a million you can buy half the rights to Prince’s first big hit here.

Gibson guitars face bankruptcy; “running out of time – rapidly”

One of the world’s most iconic guitar manufacturers, Gibson may run out of money very soon as debt payments loom.

Gibson’s doors may soon close after over 100 years making top-quality guitars for everyone from the world’s biggest guitarists to bedroom guitarists. They’ve managed to get themselves caught in a big ball of debt with $375 million in repayments due by July 23rd.

Kevin Cassidy, a senior credit officer at Moody’s Investor Services, says: “If this ends in bankruptcy, he will give up the entire company. Some type of restructuring will be necessary. The core business is a very stable business, and a sustainable one. But you have a balance sheet problem and an operational problem.”

Gibson haven’t had the greatest few years recently with their financials brought into question following the sale of it’s Memphis factory and ending development on their Cakewalk music program. Then later last year they announced a new range of candy Les Paul’s with a hefty price tag which makes a bit more sense now.

Next week Gibson Brands are due to report their fiscal, third-quarter figures to shareholders next week. Their post notes: “Bond owners will be watching for an improvement in the company’s electronics business, which has been built up in the past few years via debt-fuelled acquisitions but has been sales slump of late. Still, even a solid turnaround on that front won’t be enough for Juszkiewicz to avoid difficult conversations.”

Pandora Premium gets a web app for streaming at last

After a long time of users requesting it Pandora has finally launched a web app for their Premium music streaming service.

Users have been waiting a long time and finally their Premium Pandora streaming experience gets a web app. Pandora’s Premium service launched last March and transforms their massively popular radio streaming service into a Spotify-like on-demand music streaming service and now it has it’s own dedicated app for computers.

Pandora’s Premium app introduces:

  • Search & Play: Whether you’re looking for the perfect song, album, station or playlist on demand, we’ve got you covered with search results that are fast, accurate, and serve up what you want based on your listening history.
  • My Music: As you discover new songs and albums, collect and organise them in My Music. Easily access every station you add, artists you love, and playlists created.
  • Playlist Features: We’ve made playlist creation easy whether curated on your own or powered by Pandora. Start with one or two songs of your choice from anywhere in the app, tap “Add Similar Songs” and put the power of Pandora to work to quickly create the perfect soundtrack for any activity, mood or party. Or, when you search to add songs on your playlist page, Pandora will serve up recommendations based on the songs you’ve already included. It is now easier and more fun than ever to reorder, rename, add or remove songs.

Pandora’s Premium service isn’t quite the major player that their massive user-base on Pandora radio is. It’s still confidently growing though, revealing over a million paying users back in October of 2017.

Spotify testing new mobile app with unrestricted playlists

Spotify are experimenting with a pretty drastically different interface for their mobile app which will make some big changes for free users.

Certain users have noted changes to their Spotify mobile apps recently with a new design promoting Spotify’s curated playlists over personal libraries.  But another change the update has introduced allows free users to select and stream at will from certain playlists.

Spotify free users have never been able to select track by track what they want to listen to on mobile devices before, having to instead shuffle through albums, artists, playlists or related tracks. But their new app-in-testing does away with that for a bunch of Spotify’s own branded playlists, allowing users to freely browse and play music in them.

Of the select users who have received the update for testing not all of them are happy with the changes though. When the change was noted on Spotify’s Community forum, one user wrote:

I have quite a few gripes about the new UI but I will tell you what I like before I get into the issues. I really like that album artwork fills the screen when playing a song. I also like 30 second preview. Its an excellent feature. I appreciate also that you can sample songs in the playlists to like or dislike. It saves skips but it doesn’t help as much in a 100 song playlist. My preference is to just start the music, let it play and keep my hands off the phone. The less clicking the better. Which brings me to my issue with the new UI.

I find this new version harder to navigate. I have over 2700 songs, 30+ playlists and 75 liked artists. All of these things are now mashed together and I cant sort through them. I can’t search within the library by artist, album or playlist. Its just all jumbled together and I have to scroll through hundreds of playlists.

The home screen prioritizes recently played and playlists that I don’t follow. I preferred when the home screen had Discover weekly and artists/songs you might like. I like it to show a record of things I’m listening too and not just random suggestions of playlists.

What happened to radio? I don’t even see that feature and I used it a lot.

The premium ad is above the content I’m looking at and I have to constantly scroll down to just hit shuffle. Its not user friendly.

I really don’t like that songs are no longer listed vertically but centered in a paragraph format. People are used to list formats. Its cleaner and concise.

The update is just really messy to me. Please fix these things. I really like Spotify but this just really takes the simplicity and fun out of playing music. Thanks

When contacted by Music Ally, Spotify said: “At Spotify, we routinely conduct a number of tests in an effort to improve our user experience. Some of those tests end up paving the path for our broader user experience and others serve only as an important learning. We aren’t going to comment on specific tests.”

So these changes may not end up coming to everyone but Spotify have been pushing Premium more and more in recent years after criticism that their free service undercut artists. This change promotes the seamless experience of Premium with a taster as to what it’s like without completely redesigning the service.

Learn music superpowers with this app for mastering chord progressions

EarProg is the self-titled “ultimate ear training app” that unlocks new powers for music within you.

Some musicians disregard music theory and make it work, but anyone can benefit from enhancing their knowledge of how music works. EarProg is an app that teaches you the science behind chord progressions so that anything is possible at your musical fingertips.

As they say themselves: “Being able to identify chord progressions is the closest thing to having superpowers.” EarProg trains your skills in identifying over 60 different chord progressions by playing you a random progression and testing your ability to identify it.

It’s not like some musical apps which score you on your progress, which can often feel like a competition rather than a learning experience. The devs say: “Ear training is not a competition. That’s why no scoring is used in this app. Simply open the app and practice at your own pace, without pressure, for as long as you want. Mastering ear training is a gradual work. We’re musicians, not Superbowl players!!”

EarProg is available now on iOS devices from the Apple App Store for £0.99/$0.99.