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July 18, 2018
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Music

Spotify is testing a data-friendly ‘Lite’ app for Android

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Spotify is the latest tech company to join the ‘Lite’ app party after a data-friendly version of its music streaming app surfaced for Android devices.

‘Spotify Lite’ — which was first spotted by the eagle eyes at Android Police — is designed to take up less space on smartphones and to consume less data, too. That’s particularly important for cheaper smartphones, which tend to have less memory, and people who use metered mobile data . In that respect, the app is just 15MB in size, as opposed to 100MB for the main Spotify app, while it also tracks the amount of data that the app uses each month.

However, like most things in life, there’s a compromise here… although we can’t quite be sure exactly what. That’s because the app is being trialed in Brazil only — tough luck if you live elsewhere and want to get it — although Android Police got hold of an SDK which it said shows the app is devoid of some key features. That apparently includes — or, rather, doesn’t include — offline playback and Spotify Connect for streaming to other devices. It looks like Lite app users can’t select specific songs and must instead rely on the shuffle button, even if they are a Spotify Premium subscriber.

Of course, the app is in beta right now so that list of missing features may change as/when it gets a full worldwide release. For now, app tracking firm Sensor Tower suggests Spotify Lite has racked up just 4,000 downloads so this is very much a test deployment.

Here’s Spotify’s non-committal statement on the Lite app.

“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 at this time,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The company has tested other apps on Android in the past, like Spotify Hopper back in 2016, and more recently, a pared-down radio app called Spotify Stations.

Spotify Lite isn’t the first time Spotify has helped its users save on data consumption. The company added a low-data mode to its service in April as part of a wider product launch focused on bringing more value to its free-tier users. The Lite app could add another element to attract more users, giving Spotify an additional competitive advantage over rivals like Apple Music and Pandora.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Advocacy groups knock ‘unjust’ copyright-extending CLASSICS Act

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Copyright is a mess, but more of a mess in some ways than others, and one of the biggest messes right now is licensing music for digital broadcast. The Music Modernization Act aims to smooth over some of the biggest bumps, but a companion piece has aroused the ire of a collection of internet advocacy groups, who have voiced their concerns via a letter penned by copyright scholar Lawrence Lessig.

The CLASSICS Act is the one in question, though no one is disputing the cleverness of its acronym: it stands for Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society. And indeed the goal of the act is to harmonize copyright for musical works created before 1972, a sort of turning point after which copyright law changed considerably.

The issue at hand, although due to the complexity of copyright any summary will necessarily be somewhat inadequate, is that pre-1972 works are essentially ineligible for federal copyright status, and are instead registered by a hodgepodge of state and common law. This was a pain to start with, to be sure, but as digital transmission of music has increased and federal copyright become more important, it has really started to chafe and the question of royalties has become an increasingly complicated one. (Plagiarism Today has a good summary if you want more details.)

What CLASSICS is intended to do is endow those pre-1972 works with a semblance of federal copyright, helping eliminate this arbitrary line on how music is licensed. Sounds good, right? And it mostly is. But there’s a catch — or perhaps two catches.

“The objective of the whole package is to make much more efficient the process of licensing music in the digital age, and I think that’s great,” Lessig told me in an interview. “But I think, and this is an important line to draw, what we’re criticizing is that the public doesn’t benefit.”

He says the issues came up in discussions with other IP experts and in particular with Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, who Lessig said had faced serious legal obstacles relating to music archival in particular.

“America’s copyright system needs to be modernized, but not like this,” the letter at Equal Citizens reads, “and certainly not in a fashion that results in excessively long periods of protection, creates massive inconsistencies in the copyrighting of sound recordings, and gives inequitable access to those sound recordings.”

Cosignatories include Demand Progress, the EFF, Public Knowledge, and the Internet Archive.

A century and a half of protection

First there is the issue that under CLASSICS, the pre-1972 works are given what amounts to (though is legally not quite the same as) a copyright extension covering them until 2067. Why 2067? That’s 1972 plus 95 years, the duration a work would be copyrighted if registered today.

But it’s not just works from 1972 that will be covered up to 2067. Works going back another 50 years will also be protected until 2067. In other words, a 1927 recording would be getting what amounts to 140 years of copyright protection.

In case you don’t see the harm here, consider that such a recording would normally have entered the public domain a handful of years for now, but under CLASSICS would be granted another 42 years during which royalties would have to be paid and rights managed.

Now, the recurring extension of copyrights over years tends to benefit rights holders more than consumers. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine something like Mickey the Mouse being public domain, but really, there has to be some limit. And for a work to be kept out of the public domain for nearly a century and a half seems fundamentally excessive.

Brewster Kahle told me in an email that CLASSICS “would not release even Edison wax cylinders into the public domain until 2067 — nuts, if you ask me.”

Dozens of scholars argued this point in a letter issued in May:

The Act is deeply flawed…Because it grants new federal protections only to works that were created long ago (ranging in age from 46 to 95 years), it does nothing to incentivize the creation of new works. Rather, it simply provides new rewards to existing copyright owners.

Critics point out that the works aren’t actually being given copyright extensions — they’d be governed under a different law. But that has the air of semantics: CLASSICS itself assigns the same “remedies” as copyright infringement as punishment for the same crime. It’s not copyright, but it sure looks, walks, and would be prosecuted like copyright. It’s a sort of white-label copyright, since extending and reducing actual copyright terms is a bit of difficult issue.

Retroactive without registration

But the 2067 thing is just more of the same copyright extension stuff we’ve seen, Lessig says.

“A lot of people are concerned about the length, and I am too,” he told me. “But the 2067 thing doesn’t matter as much as the idea that you have to do something to earn this right. If you’re going to give the extension or benefits, at least do it in a way that clarifies the rights to the public.”

The main issue is that CLASSICS would apply universally to every work created before 1972, regardless of age, current status, whether the creators are alive and still benefiting, and so on. A hit song played daily on oldies stations is given the same rights as an obscure jazz recording no one has ever attempted to monetize or reissue.

The latter works are the type of thing that should be entering the public domain, Lessig and his colleagues argue. Under CLASSICS they are copyright protected by default, and their public domain status delayed by decades when they should be available for free like other old and abandoned media.

“I’d like to see a clear line between works people use and works people have no use for,” Lessig said.

Let the likes of The Temptations benefit from their hit songs for another century, if that’s what the government and industry decide is a reasonable term — all they should have to do is register those works.

By having artists and rights owners register, it solves the problem for everyone. Anyone who wants to have their pre-1972 works brought into the new scheme can easily achieve that, but orphan works will enter the public domain as they ought to.

This has the side effect of centralizing and formalizing the copyright status of pre-1972 works; if you’re a documentary producer or DJ looking for some music to use in your own project, you’ll be able to easily check if some ’60s record is rights-managed, in which case you can license it, or if it’s an orphan, in which case you can safely use it like any other public domain work.

Registration has been a sticky issue in IP law, since it isn’t necessary for the creation of a copyright — but as this isn’t creation of copyright, in fact not technically copyright at all in some ways, it’s an ideal time to introduce the concept to the benefit of the public and with very little if any inconvenience to rights holders.

“We’ve never had a point to leverage this point into the system,” Lessig said. There’s still time to add it and it would cost little to do so, he added.

Collective, automatic rights managed at a high level are the domain of large companies that can navigate the agreements and pay the huge fines associated with operating outside their terms while the law catches up with the rest of the world. CLASSICS, Lessig suggested, would benefit these companies.

“It concentrates their power as a sort of clearing house for intellectual property rights,” he said. “Right now we have no way to tell what is protected, which has what rights and why. The people that can do it are companies like Spotify and Google, that can afford the liability. But that doesn’t make the culture that nobody cares about available to the public.”

(NB: Lessig, among others, has been accused of being a paid academic puppet for Google; he laughed at the suggestion, saying “I’d love to see one of those checks.” Many of said scholars have similarly rejected the notion, though certainly private funding in science must be closely monitored.)

Kahle and others have recommended as an alternative to CLASSICS or even a modified version thereof, a rival bill called ACCESS, which takes a simpler approach to federalizing the copyrights of pre-1972 works. Perhaps too simple, critics argue: it would put a lot of work in directly the lap of the Copyright Office, which like most federal organs is overworked and inefficient enough as is.

The Music Modernization Act has received remarkable bipartisan support; it passed the House 415-0, which is nothing short of incredible in this day and age. So it seems to be on track to becoming a law. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and just as we have ended up kicking ourselves for sloppy wording and a lack of foresight in parts of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it might be better to take a moment to get it right the first time.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Pandora’s personalized playlists go live for all Premium users

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Earlier this year, Pandora announced its plans to challenge Spotify by taking aim at one of its rival’s top features: personalized playlists. Pandora in March began rolling out dozens of variations of personalized playlists, including those spanning moods, activities, and genres – all powered by its music database, the Music Genome. Today, Pandora says the rollout has completed and all its Premium users will now have access to these new playlists.

The feature is meant to offer Pandora’s free users a reason to upgrade to its top-tier paid offering, Pandora Premium. This $9.99 per month service offers on-demand listening, playlist creation, downloads for offline listening, unlimited skips and replays, higher-quality audio and no advertisements.

Premium users can share their personalized playlists with friends, even if they’re on the free tier, by sending a link.

The free user can temporarily access Premium by watching a video ad as a way to test drive the Premium experience, and listen to their friend’s playlist. This option, called “Access,” launched in December and has been used by millions.

The company declined to comment on how well this “test drive” strategy has been working to convert free users to paid, saying that it’s not sharing metrics and engagement numbers around personalized playlists as the feature hadn’t yet been broadly rolled out. (Only a “select” number had access to the playlists ahead of today).

The playlists themselves are created by a combination of data from Pandora’s Music Genome and machine learning models that understand what sort of music you like. But Pandora also employs human curators to perfect the lists and update them, as needed.

At launch, the service was capable of offering over 60 personalized playlists, like those for “focus,” “energy,” “rainy days” or genre-based ones, like “pop” or “hip hop.” But users won’t necessarily get all 60 – they’ll only get those that Pandora thinks makes sense for the individual based on the user’s listening habits.

Pandora says that, during this staged rollout phase, it was creating up to four new playlists for each user per week, and this process would continue until it “maxed out” each user’s playlist categories. This “max” is not a flat number, but varies by user. For example, someone who listens to a lot of different types of music may continue getting new playlists for weeks.

Now that the feature is live, Pandora plans to release more categories, including new soundtrack themes, in the months ahead.

“This is the beginning of a whole suite of themed playlists that we will automatically build and tailor to each Premium user. In the coming months, we’ll be rolling out more even more themes for you to unlock,” writes Chris Phillips, Pandora CPO, in a blog post announcing the news.

To find the new playlists, visit the “Featured Playlists” section of “Browse” in the Pandora mobile app.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

Philo and Pandora are offering a discounted, but temporary, 3-month bundle of TV and music

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It seems like Hulu and Spotify had the right idea, when they launched a discounted package last month that combined both of their services. Now, the low-cost streaming service Philo is doing the same – but not with Spotify. Instead, Philo and Pandora are teaming up on a combo deal of their own: $16 per month for 37 Philo channels and Pandora Premium. Or, for $20 per month, you’ll get 42 channels and Pandora Premium.

Oh, but there’s a catch: Pandora Premium is only free for three months, not for the length of your subscription. Bummer.

That’s a different deal than what Hulu and Spotify are offering, and is definitely more of a promo than a partnership.

Still, it’s interesting to see others in the industry using the video/music combo bundle to sell subscriptions.

Philo is a relative newcomer to the streaming TV market.

Though the company had been around for some time, offering an on-campus internet TV service for universities, its $16 per month streaming TV service only launched this past November. (Philo can get away with the lower pricing because it ditches what makes streaming so expensive: sports.)

Instead, its core lineup includes cable networks like A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, AXS TV, BBC America, BET, Cheddar, CMT, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, DIY, Food Network, FYI, GSN, HGTV, HISTORY, Investigation Discovery (ID), IFC, Lifetime, MTV, MTV2, Nickelodeon (+Nick Jr., Teennick), OWN, Paramount Network, Science Channel, TLC, Travel Channel, VH1, VICELAND, We, and others.

The 46-channel package adds American Heroes Network, BET Her, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, Logo, MTV Live, and NickToons.

Philo’s service include a 30-day DVR, the ability to watch shows that aired in the past three days, and the ability to pause live TV.

Meanwhile, Pandora Premium (basically, Pandora’s Spotify competitor) is typically $9.99 per month. It usually offers a free trial, but currently that’s 60 days, not three months.

In other words, the Philo combo deal means you get a longer free trial of Pandora Premium along with your Philo subscription. Of course, Pandora’s goal is to then convert those free trial users to paid subscribers.

The move to offer a bundled three-month free trial of Pandora Premium with Philo comes shortly after rival Apple Music began extending its own three-month free trial by another month to those who hadn’t yet signed up, according to reports. And it comes just ahead of Spotify’s earnings, which investors seem optimistic about.

News Source = techcrunch.com

43% of music revenues came from streaming last year

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Streaming services and their subscription revenue has saved the music business, according to a new music industry report, which notes that 2017 was the third consecutive year of revenue growth – again, thanks to digital music consumption. Global recorded music revenues reached $17.4 billion in 2017, up from $16 billion in 2016 – an annual growth rate of 8. percent. Streaming revenues in particular have contributed to this growth, and were up 39 percent year-over-year to reach $7.4 billion, or 43 percent of all revenues.

That offset some of the declines from legacy formats, like downloads and physical albums, which fell by $783 million.

In the U.S., digital revenue last year grew 15 percent to $6.5 billion, up from $5.65 billion the year before. A good-sized portion of those revenues came from streaming music subscriptions, which grew 63 percent from $2.5 billion in 2016 to $4 billion in 2017.

The U.S. has also become the most important streaming market worldwide, accounting for 40 percent of total global  recorded music revenues. Thanks to the innovation and diversity of music services available in the U.S., the report predicts than the number of paid music subscribers will reach 90.1 million by 2025 – nearly double today’s number of $49.1 million.

The report comes from MIDiA Research, a media and technology analysis company, in partnership with digital media association, DiMA.

In addition to digital’s ability to grow revenues, the changes in how people are consuming music have had other impacts as well.

For starters, the ease of using streaming services has led to an over 50 percent decline in music piracy since 2013, and has driven discovery of more diverse genres and artists, the report claims. It offered a couple of key examples of this, including how Chance the Rapper became the first “streaming-only” artist to win a Grammy, and how six out of the top ten music videos on YouTube were Spanish-language – with hits like “Despacito” reaching a billion views in 97 days.

Another big change in the new streaming landscape, is how powerful playlists have become. 54 percent of consumers now say that playlists are replacing albums in their listening habits.

The $1.4 billion of revenue growth the industry has seen year-over-year puts the global total just below 2008 levels ($17.7 billion), the report also said. That means the decline seen over some of the last decade has been reversed – the industry is back in growth mode.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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