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July 18, 2018
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playlists

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

iHeartRadio opens up its playlists to all users with launch of Playlist Radio

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iHeartRadio is best known for its free service offering thousands of live, streaming AM and FM radio stations and its ability to create your own custom station, similar to Pandora. Today, the company is adding a new feature for all users – both free and paid – that blurs the lines between streaming radio and the typically premium-only option of using playlists: Playlist Radio.

Like most playlists, Playlist Radio isn’t a random assortment of songs.

Instead, the songs it plays are curated and programmed by radio DJs and other iHeartRadio staff. That means there isn’t an algorithm deciding what to play next – you’re listening to a selection of songs an actual person has put together.

However, because it’s still “radio” you can’t do some of the things you could with the premium product’s playlists – like reorganizing tracks, adding or removing songs, or playing a particular song in the playlist on-demand. Instead, the songs will play in their given order, though you can skip up to six songs per hour within a playlist – the same as free users have when they’re listening to iHeartRadio’s artist stations.

The addition of Playlist Radio opens up iHeartRadio’s over 1,000 existing playlists to a wider audience.

This includes all nearly the artist-created, genre-based, activity-focused, musical era-focused, and theme-based playlists, with the exception of a handful of playlists that have too few songs to turn into a radio experience.

Before now, those playlists were only available behind a paywall for iHeartRadio Plus, the $4.99/month on-demand music service, and iHeartRadio All Access, which offers unlimited access to millions of songs and offline listening.

In addition, the playlists will be updated every week, save for those where it doesn’t make sense – like those focused on a particular era, like ’60’s music, for example.

“One of the things we’re most excited about and the area where i feel like we really excel is in music curation,” explains iHeart’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Williams, of how Playlist Radio came to be. “We have some of the greatest music curators on the planet within iHeartRadio. We have the best radio programmers, music directors, and program directors who are out there curating every single day for their radio stations. So we tapped into the resources that we had there, as well as finding some external expertise.”

The idea is that these programmers have already built these great, curated listening experiences, but because free products can only offer radio play as opposed to on-demand streams, the subset of iHeartRadio’s 110+ million registered users who aren’t on a subscription tier were missing out.

However, Playlist Radio could also drive those free users to upgrade, in order to better take advantage of the on-demand options.

“I think it’s exposing a great listening experience to our existing free users, and offering them up a listening opportunity that doesn’t exist on the free tier right now,” says Williams. “I think what radio does a brilliant job at is programming formatically. And I think what Playlist Radio does a great job of is offering listening occasions that are thematic,” he notes. The new products aims to marry the two. 

While on-demand music services are growing, there’s an increased interest in lean-back modes of listening, even for on-demand users who can play whatever they choose. For example, Pandora just challenged Spotify with the launch of dozens of personalized playlists based on its Music Genome; and Spotify, of course, is still well-loved for its popular “Discover Weekly” personalized playlist and its curated trendsetters, like RapCaviar.

Of course, the launch also comes at a time when iHeartRadio is facing steep competition from those competitors and others, including Apple and Amazon, in music.

In fact, the streaming service’s parent company, iHeartMedia – which also owns hundreds of radio stations, a concert business, and a 90% stake in Clear Channel Outdoor’s billboard company – recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Consumers won’t know the difference when it comes to using iHeartRadio’s streaming service in the near-term. However, Pandora investor Liberty Media (SiriusXM’s owner) was interested in a deal with iHeartMedia which could impact iHeartRadio’s business in the future.

Playlist Radio is rolling out today to all iHeartRadio users on iOS, Android and desktop, before making its way to other platforms.

News Source = techcrunch.com

SoundShare’s new app lets you create playlists with friends, stream them to Apple TV

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SoundShare, an app that lets you text your friends entire songs, was already one of the more clever iOS applications available. Recently, the app rolled out an update that introduces a redesign and whole new experience called “Party Mode” that lets friends play songs through your device — like at get-togethers, where everyone wants to hear their favorite music. These collaboratively chosen songs can also stream through YouTube to your Apple TV, by way of AirPlay.

While there are other apps that support sharing music with friends — Apple Music has an iMessage app, as does Spotify — the benefit to using SoundShare is that you and your friends don’t have to be on the same service.

The app supports sharing music — including individual tracks and playlists — that can be streamed via Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer, as well as YouTube.

By default, the app uses iTunes as the music search engine and YouTube as the audio source.

But if you connect your preferred music service account to the app, SoundShare replaces the search engine and audio source with your music service. The songs will also play in your music service’s player, instead of in SoundShare’s in-app player, after you’re linked up.

In practice, what this means is that you can search on your connected Spotify account for a song, then send it over to a friend, who can listen to it using their Apple Music account.

However, if you prefer to watch the music videos when receiving songs, you can now opt to make YouTube your default player.

There’s a social element, too, allowing friends to see each others’ listens and shares (unless they’re using the new “stealth mode”).

While the original version of the app was meant for sharing music while you’re apart from friends, the version 3.0 adds a feature for sharing music when you’re together.

Now users can start a “Party” inside SoundShare, then invite friends to control the music. The feature works over the app itself, not Bluetooth, which means it could also be used to have a remote co-listening party with friends, if you choose.

As friends add, remove and change songs inside the “Party,” your device will continue to update and play their selections. Friends’ songs can be added to play next or at the end of the queue, as they prefer.

The music can be streamed to any Bluetooth speaker connected to your iPhone, but for a bit of extra fun, you can opt to stream the music to Apple TV with AirPlay. This allows your group to watch the YouTube music videos, instead of just hearing the songs.

This collaborative playlist can be saved afterwards for later listening, too.

SoundShare is also one of the first apps to feature deep integration with Apple’s MusicKit, introduced in iOS 11. This allows it to load your Apple Music “For You” page inside SoundShare, and access your recommended mixes, like your Favorites Mix, Chill Mix and New Music Mix, as well as display daily playlists, daily albums, Spotlight playlists, new releases and more.

SoundShare is a free download on the App Store.

The company declined to share its user numbers. But developer Matt Abras, who’s based in Brazil, says it has attracted attention from a handful of music industry and tech execs, and the company is now in talks with some about doing deals.

The company is not yet generating revenue.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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