The “highest resolution music streaming service in the world” comes to the U.S.

French music streamer Qobuz are bringing their high-resolution streamer to the U.S., but can they face up against Jay-Z’s Tidal.

Qobuz claim to be “the highest resolution music streaming service in the world” with a vast catalogue of over 40 million tracks. They’re trying their hand at taking on the big dogs in Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and others with their launch in the U.S. later this year.

Qobuz say that they are the only streaming service that offers over 1 million tracks in high-resolution that also works on all the top platforms – Mac, Windows, iOS, Android. They offer audio quality “that is superior to most other platforms, at the very least in FLAC Open-Source format in 16-Bit/44.1kHz quality, similar to CD quality, and far superior to your typical Lossy (such as MP3) streaming music service”.

Whilst they may have an advantage over Spotify and similar streaming services Qobuz faces it’s primary competition from Tidal. Tidal, the streaming service launched by rapper-cum-mogul Jay-Z, offers high quality music streaming and claims to pay the artists fairly compared to the average streaming rate. Although to make the most of either service you require a high-fidelity stereo system or headphones otherwise it’s 99.9% likely it won’t make a difference.

Last month Qobuz’s CEO, Denis Thébaud told French news publication: “We are present in nine European countries … Our other border is the United States, we will be in the spring”. (roughly translated with Google Translate) He continues that they have found “a fairly high demand on its target audience, music lovers” – who would have thought?

What Thébaud means is that Qobuz has built up it’s service with more of a niche audience than a direct, anyone who wants to listen to music, offering. They say they’re targeted at “art and culture enthusiasts” and have built a “solid reputation” with classical and jazz fans.

Qobuz haven’t revealed subscription prices for the U.S. yet however their European prices stand at £9.99 a month for their Premium service or £19.99 for Hi-Fi access.

Spotify introduce layers to your streaming experience with multimedia Spotlight feature

The Spotify experience is getting deeper with Spotlight, a new feature that brings visual accompaniments to your music listening experience.

Spotify have launched Spotlight, a feature that introduces photos, videos, and text to their music streaming platform. Spotlight will introduce a visual experience that takes fans deeper into the minds of their favourite artists, their music, and give depth to their listening experience.

Spotlight launched yesterday adding media to selected playlists from Buzzfeed News, Cheddar, Crooked Media, Lenny Letter, Gimlet Media, Genius, The Minefield Girl, Refinery29 and Uninterrupted. Content will range from news, pop culture, music (obviously) and for some reason also sports and politics, though they may be covering as many bases as possible to start to test the waters.

Spotify’s head of studios and video, Courtney William Holt said: “We are excited to launch Spotlight, a new format that merges great storytelling, news, information and opinion with visual elements all delivered in playlist form across a number of content categories. Playlists play an important role in the daily lives of our users bringing them closer to the creators they love.”

It seems like they’re covering a broad range of entertainment which is a bold move after their failed video/shows section, offering news clips, comedy skits, cartoons, and more from networks. It was ended last year after failing to engage with people. However with Spotlight it seems that their content will at least be focused contextually to the playlists they are placed in, so that it’s reaching the right target audience.

Buzzfeed News’ editor-in-chief, Ben Smith says: “It feels like a generation ago that MTV News delivered the latest to a whole generation of music fans, but it’s not hard to imagine BuzzFeed News and Spotify doing the same in 2018. We’re incredibly excited to bring together our award-winning audo team, world-class journalism, and Spotify’s massive, dynamic platform to get listeners up to speed every morning. I can’t wait to see this project get off the ground next week and grow along with the future of news.”

Co-founder and president of Gimlet Media, Matt Lieber added: “We’re excited to see partners like investing in podcasting to enhance the audience’s experience of our storytelling. Everything at Gimlet begins with audio, and with Spotlight, through new visual expressions of shows, we hope to reach new listeners in fresh and original ways.”

Spotlight is available now on relevant individual playlists on Spotify with more to come in February, and further.

Keep track of every play with SoundCloud statistics now in real-time

Watch your plays rise in real-time on SoundCloud as their statistics now keep track and show you their performance as it happens.

SoundCloud’s statistics now update in real-time so you can watch as every play builds on your music. You will now have access to instant insight on your listeners and how your tracks are performing.

The new ‘Today’ view has been added to the statistics page and shows you a breakdown of plays throughout the day. You can see when people are logging on and listening, for example if your plays are peaking in the early afternoon which you can use to advise when you upload, promote and more. Of course you can also see what’s happening right now and count the plays rising.

In their announcement SoundCloud said: “Whether you just shared your very first upload or have over a million followers, creators know the importance of monitoring a track’s performance, particularly in key moments such as a new release or during a promotional push. Culture moves fast and you need to stay on top of your tracks, catching and capitalising on each surge, spike, and share right when it occurs.”

You can view your real-time stats for ‘Today’ either from the SoundCloud website or from the SoundCloud Pulse app. From the drop down menu select ‘Today’ and you can see the latest totals, graphs, and top lists. It doesn’t update on the page but it’s as simple as a page refresh to get the latest, on-the-minute statistics.

SoundCloud closed of their announcement, saying: “We’re excited about the year ahead and hope you are too! We look forward to bringing you even more tools to empower you to continue on your creative journey.”

Stream music anywhere with SiriusXM’s “next generation of in-car audio entertainment”

Streaming music in your car is about to get a whole lot smoother with SiriusXM’s new satellite streaming service.

Radio streaming service SiriusXM have announced their new satellite streaming car interface called ‘360L’. The service offers SiriusXM’s 200+ channels as well as an easy way to get recommendations and explore new music so that you don’t have to search through music while you’re driving.

The 360L will provide recommendations on the touch screen based on listening preferences and what you’re listening to at the time, making it simple to change your choice with the tap of a finger. It will even expand further on SiriusXM’s music service with on-demand programming that has never been seen before in the dash.

Executive Vice President of Products, Operations & Connected Vehicle Services at SiriusXM, Jim Cady said: “We think SiriusXM with 360L will revolutionise the way you listen to audio in the car, and we are excited to launch it in the all-new Ram 1500 (SiriusXM partnered with FCA US LLC for 360L’s launch), which once again is a leader in bringing the latest technological advancements to drivers. SiriusXM with 360L comes along at a time when embedded connectivity is enhancing the in-vehicle entertainment experience for more and more drivers and their passengers.

“We are using that connectivity to take a giant step forward with our platform, and SiriusXM with 360L improves both our consumer offering and our ability to understand and serve our subscribers. With a better, more adaptable user interface, it allows easy access to content on demand, more personalised programming and an improved display. It will also enable us to understand user behaviour, and so over time be better at recommendations and discovery across our wide bundle of content.”

If you haven’t got time for reading and just want to know what’s in it?!, well here you go:

More variety

  • More channels (now 200+) available to listeners on their in-dash Uconnect 4C NAV with 12-inch display, including many channels previously only available online.
  • Access to thousands of hours of recorded on-demand shows, interviews, and events in the car, giving the listener more of what they want, when they want to hear it.
  • Enhanced sports play-by-play offering that makes it easier to find the listener’s favorite team when it is game time, and gives them access to the official broadcasts for more pro and college teams.

A more personalized experience

  • Smart content recommendations enable listeners to discover more of what they love, based on listening habits, and it is all served up on screen in an easy to use way.
  • Dynamic user interface allows for easy navigation between channels, shows, and both live and recorded content.
  • Individual listener profiles allow multiple drivers and passengers to customize and maintain their own presets and favorites.
  • Profiles can be synced with listener’s mobile phone to seamlessly access their favorites and pick up listening where they left off in the car on select content.

Ease of use

  • Drivers and passengers can use their voice to search SiriusXM’s extensive library of content, or they can sit back and let “For You” recommendations serve up great content choices.
  • Subscribers can manage their account, renew their subscription and contact SiriusXM through the touch screen on the dash when their vehicle is parked.
  • SiriusXM with 360L can receive over the air updates so users can conveniently get new features at any time.

Ram 1500 owners will receive a one-year subscription to SiriusXM All Access with the purchase of equipped 2019 model vehicles.

Watch out Spotify, Amazon Prime Music is hot on your tail for popularity

Who is the big dog in music streaming right now? You’d all say Spotify right? Well look out because Amazon Prime Music is coming up on them quickly.

New research from Midia Research, and noticed by Music Ally, shows that in Germany there may be a new chapter approaching for the streaming wars. The report, which focused on lyrics but found much more, shows that Amazon are incredibly close behind Spotify, and ahead of the rest.

The research shows that Amazon Prime Music had an 18% penetration rate in Germany, just a percentage behind Spotify with 19%. Apple Music, often considered the primary rival to Spotify monopolising on streaming, are much further behind with just 7% penetration.

Elsewhere Spotify are still the big fish by a larger margin and Apple Music are ahead of Amazon. For example in the US Apple Music has 14% penetration to Amazon’s 12% and in the UK Apple have 9% and Amazon have 8%. For an idea of how big Spotify are their influence is 20% in the US and 23% in the UK.

Considering Spotify’s considerable lead everywhere else it’s interesting to note that Amazon Prime is so close in Germany. Unfortunately as this finding was only part of the larger report Midia Research didn’t look into why Prime Music was having such an impact in Germany or any cultural impact. Though the report does go on to say that “Germany is going to be one of Europe’s most important streaming markets in 2018, with a market dominated by CD sales swiftly transitioning to streaming”.

Taking a larger look at the streaming picture for the US, UK, and Germany they found that 15% of listeners pay for subscriptions whilst 43% are listening on ad-supported free streaming.

On the topic of the importance lyrics, Midia Research concluded:

“Streaming has broken music listening out of the constraints of static, linear environments and, in doing so, has massively increased the importance of previously ancillary behaviours such as video, social sharing and lyrics. In the analogue era, lyrics were hidden away inside album covers with liner notes for super fans and anxious teenagers.

Most streaming services have ticked the lyrics box; over the coming years they will need to innovate to ensure their feature sets place the same level of importance on lyrics that their users do.”

Are Smart Speakers popular? Ask 39 million Americans

Since Amazon launched their Echo home speakers Smart Speakers have been taking over the world, and now there’s statistics to prove it.

New research from NPR and Edison Research shows that 1 in 6 adults in the US, which equates to roughly 39 million people, now own a Smart Speaker. Smart Speakers have actually grown so quickly that their growth is “outpacing the adoption rates of smartphones and tablets”.

The so-called ‘Smart Audio Report’ showed that 16% of American’s own a voice-activated speaker and the majority of them own Amazon Echos. The report found 11% of adult Americans own Amazon Alexa powered speakers whilst 4% own Google Homes. Interestingly 65% of those with Smart Speakers said they wouldn’t go back to life before, which perhaps isn’t as high as you’d expect though their reasons weren’t given.

Of course the holiday season was a big time for all products but the 2017 holiday period was especially popular for Smart Speakers. The Smart Audio Report showed that 7% of Americans got a Smart Speaker in the holidays and 4% of Americans got their very first one.

One of the biggest effects happening with Smart Speakers is the sudden adoption of virtual assistants helping us in our everyday life, like some pseudo-sci-fi tale. It’s making people more open to the technology as well, as 64% of those surveyed with Smart Speakers say that they’re interested in having the technology in their car.

As Smart Speakers become more and more popular the demand for other Smart tech increases and the effect is being seen in the incredible number of connected devices coming out all the time now. A lot of people are already now living in homes where they can tell a robot to switch their lights on and off, arrange their schedule, play music, find things out online, and so much more.

Welcome to the future, it’s only just beginning.

Google are trying to turn screens into speakers with their new startup Redux

Google have quietly snapped up a new startup that is turning screens into speakers on devices like smartphones and tablets.

Google have bought a UK startup that is developing some pretty fascinating tech. Though they tried to keep it on the down-low the news has spread, and with how innovative the technology they’re manufacturing is it’s no surprise they wanted this kept under wraps.

The Cambridge-based company, Redux, has been creating surfaces capable of emitting sound. The technology is capable of turning a smartphone screen into speakers, saving space that can be used for batteries, better hardware, reducing device size and a plethora of applications.

Alphabet (Google) were secretive about the purchase and details of it, declining to comment on the acquisition cost or when it took place. On 13th December Redux shares were transferred to Google. Redux has already garnered attention for its innovative developments having previously raised $5 million in March last year – investors included Arie Capital. According to their LinkedIn page the company has had 178 granted patents.

The potential for the technology is massive with Google dominating mobile operating software’s with Android OS as well as their own popular range of smartphones and tablets. It’s surprising that no other tech giants have sought ownership of the innovative company founded in 2013.

Redux’s team lead Nedko Ivanov said: “We can turn the screen into a high quality loudspeaker, eliminating the need for an embedded speaker. When it comes to mobile phones, we are not only saving valuable real estate and creating a waterproof housing, we are eliminating the need for additional speaker holes and most importantly, improving the audio quality.”

Post Malone breaks the Spotify record for longest No. 1 stretch

The White Iverson, Post Malone, has set a new record for Spotify with his latest hit Rockstar sitting at the top of the charts for the longest ever.

Ed Sheeran may still be the king of Spotify but Post Malone is the latest record breaker for the streaming service. Post’s recent single Rockstar with rapper 21 Savage has no sat at No. 1 on Spotify’s Global chart for 108 days, smashing out any rivals for longest reign at the top.

It’s got a long way to go before it reaches Sheeran level streams, 2 of Sheeran’s singles have over 1 billion streams. In comparison whilst it may be massively popular Rockstar has only been streamed 650 million times though it was only released 4 months ago in September.

Outside of Spotify Rockstar made massive waves as well, spending 8 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart last year. This was a first for both Post Malone and 21 Savage who had never peaked at number one the charts before.

Post broke out in 2015 with his hit single White Iverson which he independently created and released. The internet has been good to Post Malone making him a star with White Iverson and then continuing his meteoric rise with his performance on streaming services. Post is a testament to the changing industry and the potential of the internet for artists.

Spotify are trying out videos that replace artwork

What’s the future of artwork in a world of digital music? Spotify reckons it could be looping GIFs.

In the past few days some people have noticed that certain songs on Spotify had a different Now Playing page. Instead of a large version of their artwork Spotify have created looping GIFs that expand upon your listening experience in pseudo-music video styley.

We’ve noticed 2 songs so far that when you open up the Now Playing tab at the bottom brings up a custom video for it. Everybody Wants To Be Famous by Superorganism and Problems by Petit Biscuit both transform the Now Playing page into a colourful moving landscape offering a visual delight.

The loop for Superorganism is actually taken from their music video and features psychedelic cats flying through space, vibrant prawn soda, and more. Spotify have already introduced video loops into certain playlists however this was notable as it works no matter where you listen to the song from.

The silent inclusion of these videos on Spotify’s mobile apps suggests that maybe it isn’t meant to be a feature yet. It could also suggest that Spotify aren’t planning on making it a big feature except for certain promotions. Spotify are yet to give an official comment on the change.

Edit: Thanks to Vanilla Wolf in the comments for letting us know ‘So Far Away’ by Martin Garrix has also adopted the new style.

As music goes digital, vinyl records are keeping physical music alive

As music consumption goes streaming heavy and CD’s dig their graves there is one format keeping music lovers from integrating themselves into their computers.

Not even the most savvy of muso’s could have predicted that one of the oldest formats for music would be the one to survive the digital age. But whilst the majority of listeners head to streaming services vinyl records are booming and still growing further.

Somehow Vinyl survived the move to CD, clung on to as a relic by nostalgic baby boomers and grumps who don’t like change. Thank god that someone kept the vinyl section of thrift stores going because it’s back at the forefront of physical music and bringing in an impressive amount of profit as many thought the digital age would end physical music.

In 2017 vinyl records accounted for 14.3% of physical format sales and 8.5% of all album sales. Their impact on overall album sales in 2017 is a whopping 6.5 percent gain on their percentage in 2016. Nielsen reported that last year 14.32 million vinyl records were sold.

The surge is finally being understood by the larger industry as well and responding to the revived trend. In 2017 Sony Music opened up their first Vinyl production factory in 28 years, one of the first big moves back into vinyl production for a major label. Independent stores have also been aiding the rise of vinyl with records and record stores being sold in more and more places.

Vinyl has now been growing for 12 years in a row and is showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon. In fact it seems possible that in a near future digital music and vinyl survive solely and stand side-by-side for the different kinds of music consumer. I know that personally I love having all the music I could want in my hand, but when it comes to a sit-down listening experience – there’s nothing like flipping a record.