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Today's Digest of news in music tech & apps: 10/01/2013
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The Daily Digest 10/01/2013


Hi everyone,

Spotify dominate the news again today, with the launch of two things of note: a spotlight feature section (going live with Haim and Lorde), and a Follow button that can now be embedded on websites etc. The former makes good sense; as others have pointed out, this only serves to fulfil on the notion of Spotify itself becoming the social network and editorial hub all rolled up into one. They're small steps for now of course, but in time the service might well replace Facebook and other social points as your go-to spot for engagement. Or at least that's how Spotify would like to see it. 

The "follow" button is an interesting one for me as a marketing person. On the one hand, it makes total sense and extends the concept above of pushing Spotify as a social hub. On the other hand though, I can't help but see this as Yet Another Platform where the service in question hopes we'll flood to drive Follows, further building engagement and adoption of their service. Its Facebook all over again, basically. Certainly for me though, the timing on that feels lousy. I'm done with Facebook in many ways; it feels like we all bought into the hype, growing audiences on there which we now see low engagement with, surrounded by a noisy ad network which is littered with false positives. We've seen this play out more than once now: you build an audience on a platform, only to see the platform then controlling access to that audience, thereby rendering you entirely at their mercy. Like I said: I get it - on paper this makes a lot of sense for Spotify. However another part of me cannot help but wonder how many more times people will keep falling for this until they realise that maybe they need to take that power back. It could be rose-tinted thinking on my part, but I'd love to see a world where the bands control their own audiences, plugging those into the services of their choosing without surrendering control and access in the process. Put bluntly: at some point artists need to stop being everyone else's bitch. 

Have a great evening,
 
D.



Contents:

Google Expands Music Services To 7 More Countries

Google continues the global expansion of it's music services Google Play Music and All Access to seven more countries. Recently New Zealand and several Asian markets were added to the list, and this week seven European countries launched. Here are the new countries along with a list of all markets served: New countries: Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland
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Spotify launches artist Spotlight feature with Haim and Lorde

Streaming music service Spotify has been under pressure in recent months to prove its value to artists of all sizes, not just the biggest acts. The company is hoping its new Spotlight feature will contribute to answering some of the criticism. It’s launching today as “a new home and editorial voice within Spotify for new, exclusive and hand-picked content from both new and established acts”, with Haim and Lorde first to get the treatment. Spotlight will bundle music (including live sessions and other exclusives) with interviews, themed playlists and more magazine-style editorial content around artists. There’s also a dedicated Spotlight profile on Spotify, which includes a Spotlight on 2013 playlist of various artists chosen by its team. The new section will sit under Spotify’s Browse feature, and is live already in its web player. “We’ve been looking to have a better way to call out all the great content that we’re getting and the cool new artists we’re into,” says Will Hope, Spotify’s director of label relations, in an interview with Music Ally
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YouTube Snags Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire, Eminem for Its First Music Award Show

YouTube is rolling out the red carpet for its first music awards show. The video platform has recruited Lady Gaga, Eminem and Acarde Fire to perform at the inaugural event, scheduled for Nov. 3. Spike Jonze, who directed "Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation," and "Where the Wild Things Are," along with numerous music videos, has also signed on to be the award show's creative director. Actor Jason Schwartzman, who was a songwriter prior to launching his film career with "Rushmore," "Slackers" and "I Heart Huckabees," will host. The show will present winners for six award categories, to be announced in October, based entirely from viewer votes. The 90-minute live event, backed by Kia Motors as the title sponsor, will take place at Pier 36 in New York, said YouTube's vice president of marketing, Danielle Tiedt.
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Spotify Takes Its Follow Button Outside Its Walled Garden, Lets Fans Follow Musicians And Others From Anywhere

Following the launch of its Play music-playing button last year, today Spotify took one more step outside of its walled garden: it has launched a new Follow button, a widget that can go on any desktop or mobile page, not just pages within Spotify itself (as the Follow button previously used to work), to let users follow other profiles within Spotify. By clicking on it, a user can follow others on Spotify — be they artists, other users, music magazines or blogs or labels — and then get updates from them in their Spotify activity streams. Spotify’s Follow button will work much like those from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks, and is intended to sit alongside them on websites. That is not an accidental similarity: Spotify’s ambition is to be — as Twitter is for real-time conversation, or Facebook is for more lean-back social interactions, or LinkedIn is for networkers — the default platform for all social music interaction. That’s a position it has already been cultivating with its App Center, its Spotify Social feature, the pre-existing, in-Spotify Follow button, close Facebook integration and more.
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Social music startup Soundrop raises $3.4m in new funding

Norwegian social music startup Soundrop has announced a $3.4m funding round, led by Northzone – also one of Spotify’s earliest investors – and Investinor, a VC firm owned by the Norwegian government. It’s the second round of funding for the company, following a $3m investment from Northzone in June 2012. Soundrop’s service helps fans gather in virtual rooms based on specific artists, genres or themes, listening to music while (text) chatting about it. It’s available as a website, iOS and Android apps and an app within Spotify’s desktop client. “In the year since Northzone invested in Soundrop, the company has had a focus on product development and tight integration with Spotify,” says Northzone general partner Torleif Ahlsand, who doubles as Soundrop’s board chairman. “Now that the product has reached a new level of maturity, the company is ready to take its next steps.”
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Defining and Demanding a Musician’s Fair Shake in the Internet Age

His heated tone, and his tendency to see corporate tentacles everywhere, have not endeared Mr. Lowery to everyone on his side of the business. After being rejected from a conference this year whose sponsors included Google, Mr. Lowery accused CASH Music, a two-person nonprofit that makes open-source software, of being “at best quislings and at worst shills” for not publicly defending him. Jesse von Doom, CASH Music’s co-executive director, said in an interview that his organization has indeed received $105,000 in grants from Google in the last two years. But he insisted that no strings were attached to those grants, and that he’s nobody’s shill. “The problem with David,” Mr. von Doom said, “is that he is driving the car in the right direction, and veering off the cliff some of the time.” Mr. Lowery’s modest three-story house here would seem an unlikely headquarters for an assault on technology companies. Sitting at his computer in his home recording studio in a room decorated with portraits of Lewis and Clark, Mr. Lowery recalled one of his blog posts, which offered qualified support of the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill aborted in early 2012 after a thunderbolt of opposition from Google, Wikipedia and other Web titans. One of the first comments on that post, Mr. Lowery said, was, “We’re going to turn you into Lars Ulrich.”
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Music video site VEVO launches in Germany

Music and entertainment-focused video site VEVO has arrived in Germany, ending its two-year long effort to meet local licensing demands in the European country. VEVO has opened an office in Berlin, out of which its operations in Germany — its 13th market worldwide — will be run. Interestingly, the site has launched without the support of YouTube, the long-running partner with which it signed a renewed contract – including an investment deal — with back in July. YouTube has struggled with licensing rights in Germany, and is devoid of content from many local recording labels. The company brings a library of 75,000 videos in Germany, and it has plans for a range of exclusive releases: starting with German hip-hop act Fettes Brot and its track “31 Days”.
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Songza Partners With Foursquare for Playlist, Rewards

Internet radio service Songza has partnered with location-based social network Foursquare to reward its listeners for checking into music venues. Beginning Monday (Sept. 30), Songza users that check into venues on Foursquare will get a Songza badge and be given access to a special playlist that was curated in collaboration with Foursquare. In the coming weeks, Songza will unveil the second level of the Songza badge. The first 500 people to unlock the second level will receive six months of free listening on its advertising-free premium level of service, Songza Club.
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Facebook Starts Rollout Of Graph Search For Posts, Comments, Check-Ins To Reveal The Past And Present

Looking to the past, Graph Search for posts will help Facebook and its users realize the ambitions of Timeline. Suddenly everything we’ve written on Facebook isn’t just clunkily navigable from our profiles. It can be searched by anyone with permission to see it. Your bitter posts from your college library, silly comments on friends’ wedding photos, and dispatches from distant vacation check-ins can all be distilled from the rest of your content. That could make for some fun nostalgia, or some embarrassing fiascos. Before Timeline, your old posts were essentially locked away behind hundreds of clicks of the “more posts” button at the bottom of your profile. This is known as ‘privacy by obscurity’. Technically your old content was still accessible, but it was really tough to find, essentially making the past a secret.
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