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The latest news in music, tech and apps: 08/20/2014
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The Daily Digest 08/20/2014

Hi everyone, 

In yesterday's Digest I commented on A2IM's article regarding SoundCloud's terms and conditions, which appear to grant royalty-free usage of the music to partners using their API (among other things). My view was that this may be a case of poor wording on their part; an oversight perhaps in need of correction. 

Since the Digest went out however, I've since been contacted by sources telling me that in fact there's evidence that radio stations in the US are tapping SoundCloud's API having been explicitly told that the music was all cleared for free use and didn't need reporting to anyone. Which, being honest, makes for a rather depressing development, and wholly justifies A2IM's raising of this matter to begin with. Thanks to those who got in touch to clarify on the matter, and I guess we can watch this space to see if that story will gather momentum in coming days/weeks...

Elsewhere, there's an interesting discussion on Drowned In Sound about the death of the album - take a read if you've a mo. Also noteworthy is Twitter's admission that they're now adding tweets into your timeline from people you don't follow but whose tweet they feel may interest you. Another step toward a more Facebook-like structure? Watch this space... 

Have a great evening everyone, 

D.
Contents:

Shazam Hits 100 Million Monthly Active Users

Shazam can be a valuable tool when you’re sitting in a bar and desperate to identify the music playing in the background. If you’ve been wondering how many other people do the same, this figure should put it in perspective: the platform has 100 million monthly active users. The company says this is a 34 percent increase from last year, fuelled by more than 500 million mobile downloads. On average, this equates to 13 million new users each month, identifying songs over 20 million times per day.
 
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Vine allows users to upload videos made with other apps

Vine, Twitter’s video-sharing service, will start allowing users to upload video clips created elsewhere, alongside a series of changes to the app designed to make it easier to shoot the six-second videos the service shares. While a number of unsupported tricks have let users upload videos created elsewhere to Vine, Wednesday’s change is the first time the app has officially supported the feature. “Every day, millions of people open Vine to share memories in the moment,” the company says in a blogpost. “Today, Vine has unlocked a new camera that gives you the freedom to create a Vine in any way you want.”
 
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DiScussion: The Death of the Album

Some have taken issue with the rather sneering tone deployed by those lecturing the younger generation that “they’re doing it all wrong”, while others have pointed out that for the type of music Radio 1 plays – lets not forget that the station seems obsessed with appealing purely to the under 15’s – playlists and one-off “chart hits” probably are the best way for those artists to engage with their audience. Ultimately, it’s a far more nuanced debate than most seem aware of and takes in the relationship between commerce, art and technology as well underlying generational changes in society. We asked Jude Clarke and Derek Robertson to tease out the finer points of this controversy and consider whether we should be deep in mourning or dancing on the grave.
 
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Andrew Dubber: Technology IS the music industry

You’ll read a lot in the news about YouTube, Spotify, Apple, Soundcloud, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Nokia and other tech giants “negotiating with the music industry” over one thing or another. But that’s not actually what’s happening. Those guys ARE the music industry. They’re negotiating with record companies. Where “the music industry” is located has shifted again. How do we know? Consider the value – economically, culturally and socially. Digital technologies have become the main way in which people get value, generate meaning and make money from music. Technology is The Music Industry. And, like the sheet music that preceded the record business, it’s no longer a matter of sitting down passively consuming. The technologies that are already available to us, and that are being invented daily, provide more and more ways for music to be something participatory, not simply mass produced. But whether in the Print, Electric or Digital Age, the music industries have always been complex and diverse ecosystems. The same is true today. More so, in fact.
 
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Spotify Top-50 track streams up 108% year-on-year in the US

Earlier this week, Billboard published some research showing that the top 200 tracks in the US so far this year have sold 25.5m units less than the top 200 for the same period in 2013 – a 13% year-on-year decline. “Consumers’ embrace of streaming service has started to impact their digital purchasing habits,” wrote journalist Glenn Peoples in his analysis. It made us wonder what the corresponding rise in streams of popular tracks might have been over the last year. Spotify’s weekly Top 50 chart gives us a few pointers. We’ve been crunching data from the chart, which is a weekly ranking of the 50 most popular tracks on Spotify, with individual playcounts. It’s not an exact comparison to the sales stats – top 50 versus top 200 – but it’s interesting nonetheless. The key finding: in the week ending 21 July 2013, the top 50 tracks on Spotify US were streamed 29.8m times in total. In the week ending 20 July 2014, the top 50 tracks were streamed 62.1m times – a year-on-year rise of 108%. And the fastest growth has come since the start of 2014, thanks to a combination of Spotify’s mobile free tier, PR pushes, and recently its partnership with Sprint and a three-for-the-price-of-one marketing offer in June.
 
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What Does Free Streaming Mean for the Music Industry?

No longer will customers have to sit through radio commercials or listen to songs that do not interest them. On long car rides, customers will no longer have to scan the stations in remote areas or be forced to listen to genres they don't like. Instead, they can listen to that song they have been obsessed with for weeks or listen to albums spanning over multiple decades and hundreds of genres. Plus, the data collected from what people are listening to on the streaming services will allow marketers to understand what people really like instead of telling them what to listen to. Artists could then begin creating music tailored to the tastes of their listeners. In a sense, it's creating an automation of music creativity.
 
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Zvooq closes $20m funding round to fight piracy in Russia

We talked to Zvooq co-founder Victor Frumkin to find out more about the company’s plans, and how it sees the Russian market. “We’ve been in beta for a couple of years, but we had a launch of our fully-featured app in June this year, and we have over half a million installs already,” he said. Zvooq is based in Russia, but is also targeting countries from the former Soviet Union – including the Ukraine, which is obviously a sensitive area for Russian companies to do business at the moment. “It’s a target market of 300m people,” said Frumkin. “What we’ve been doing recently to start to commercialise the service is negotiating and launching with channel partners, including mobile operators, leading mobile device manufacturers and e-commerce platforms.” One of the latter is Ulmart, obviously. “It’s kind of an obvious fit: any large e-commerce platform needs to have a digital goods offering, and that’s what we’re responsible for,” said Frumkin.
 
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YouTube boss explains how to go viral

Alocca points out that the success of Rebecca Black's song Friday wasn't due to the fact that it was simply popular -- it was a pop culture phenomenon that people had opinions and discussions about. Similarly, Kony 2012, which was directly posted to some of the most influential people on the web when it first appeared, was about much more than the video. The video's trajectory showed that its success was relatively short-lived, but it became a point of reference for a larger conversation about the cause. Sometimes, Allocca adds, virality is not just about a single piece of content -- it is about collaboration. "Groups of people can create their own pop culture." The Harlem Shake resulted in 1.7 million videos being made, that collectively had more than 3 billion views. Even right now, the Ice Bucket Challenge has proved a similar success story, with public figures and celebrities including Martha Stewart and Bill Gates posting videos of themselves being doused in freezing water to raise awareness for charity.
 
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Twitter now officially says your timeline is more than just tweets from people you follow

In addition to the basic, essential definition of a Twitter timeline—“all Tweets from those you have chosen to follow on Twitter”—plus retweets and ads, there’s a new section: "Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting." In most cases, these seem to be tweets favorited, but not retweeted, by people you follow. That change has concerned some users: Will everything they favorite—even semi-private tweets—be shown to their followers? It seems the answer is no; Twitter is only looking to highlight popular or relevant content.
 
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Guest Post: Why Honda's $50 Million Play for Music Content Isn't Working

There will be any number of theories about what went wrong, but mine is that Honda violated the lesson we learn in every teen movie: Be yourself. They went for big and popular, spending on a huge party -- and no one came. And in the course of things, they lost sight of who they are. And being true to who you are is the most important part of connecting with music fans the right way. There's a discovery process involved in success, and the key to making music work for you is understanding what role you can genuinely play in the world of music. In the case of Honda, they lacked purpose or identity. A million bells and whistles can't define, "Why Honda?" The question up front should have been: "What are we going to do in music that will be received as truly, uniquely Honda?"
 
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Other recent articles:

Before Agreeing To Soundcloud's Terms And Conditions, Read The Fine Print
Things we're loving at the moment (an ongoing rota)
  • David Stubbs' article about the Motorik rhythm on The Quietus. Had me running for my Neu! records, no two ways about it. Also check out the Quietus's playlist of Motorik tracks, its ace. 
  • These awesome noise-cancelling headphones. Bottom line: they worked a treat for me on a transatlantic flight, sounded incredible and cost me about £30. If you fly and can't afford £300 Bose headphones, get these and thank me later. 
  • David Emery's article about the album supposedly going extinct. Good read.
  • Kindness - World Restart. True fact: I was carnapped and made to listen to this whilst being driven around London on a sunny day. I think this needs to happen more often (caveat: when the music is this good)
  • This oral history of classic hip hop flick Beat Street. I could read things like this allll day... 
  • The 14 for '14 playlists being created for the AIM Awards 2014. Various curators, DJs, journalists and more are compiling playlists of their favourite 14 tracks from the last year or so. Luke from The Quietus, Sean from Drowned In Sound, Pete Paphides, Mike Walsh, John Kennedy - LOADS to dig into. Get stuck in! *
  • This history of the secret album track
  • The Volumio system that lets you create one killer wifi-controlled sound system using a Raspberry Pi and a good USB DAC. Geeky, yes - but also a shedload cheaper than Sonos. If you want an office stereo that everyone can control (and stream Spotify from etc), then this is worth a look - and free!
  • Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaur's Spotify profile, specifically the cover art for his two playlists, Bedroom and Kitchen. Magnificent. 
Disclosure: items marked * are Motive Unknown clients!
Motive Unknown - Who?!
We are a strategic digital marketing agency working primarily in the music business. Our clients include Mercury Prize winners Alt-J, Moby, Fabric's new label Houndstooth, Sony RED, the AIM Independent Music Awards, the BBC and more. We also go beyond music, working with new startups and brands. If that's not enough we also provide white label solutions for creative marketing agencies, where our work to date covers anything from craft breweries to global brands in drinks and sportswear. We love working at the cutting-edge of music, tech, apps and social. Got something to discuss? Just hit reply to this email and let's talk!
Photo by Tracey Moberley, taken from The Quietus article on Bill Drummond
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