The downward spiral of the music business, a 5K iMac giveaway, and more
Episode 21 of The MacNN Podcast is now available! Join us for a very speedy hour as we talk about a great new contest where you can win a 5K Retina 27-inch iMac, the licensing kerfuffle with Apple Music that features a happy ending, more troubles for MacKeeper, the plaudits and perils of e-publishing, the trauma of having to send in a Mac for repair, and our picks for App(s) of the Week! Show notes after the jump.
Virtual locker included with paid Apple Music, to expand to 100,000 songs
Through confirmations, now-deleted posts, and a series of tweets, Apple has revealed that iOS 8.4 will be released tomorrow, June 30, at 8AM PT (11AM ET), and SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue has clarified how iTunes Match and the paid Apple Music subscription service will work together. In addition, Senior Director of Apple Music (and former Beats CEO) Ian C. Rogers revealed that with the arrival of iOS 9, the cloud music locker both services share will expand to hold 100,000 or more songs.
Makes album exclusive, 'first time it has felt right' for streaming
Pop star Taylor Swift has relented in her mini-dispute with Apple over licensing fees (which will now be paid during the three-month free trial of the subscription Apple Music service) and is offering her hit album 1989 for streaming for the first time, in an exclusive for the forthcoming service, which launches June 30. In a series of tweets, Swift announced that it was simply "the first time it's felt right in my gut" to offer the album for streaming.
New always-on radio station will be free, debuts June 30
As the countdown progresses towards the launch of iOS 8.4 and the arrival of new features and services for Apple's Music app, the company has invested in a billboard to promote one of the principle free new features: the Beats 1 radio station, which will be free of charge to all users of iTunes. A new, gigantic billboard for the service is now live in Time Square in New York City, host Zane Lowe tweeted.
Relax into two hours of music with this medatative puzzle
We've discovered lately that there are more and more meditation puzzle games popping up in the App Store, and we couldn't be happier. These friendly, low- and no-stress games are designed to help you unwind, rather than stress you out or overstimulate you. We checked out a new title, Harmony 3, the third in a line of games that offer zen-style visual puzzles working in tandem with relaxing music.
Apple will pay rates comparable to Beats Music for free trial period
The New York Times reports that while Apple has opted to pay rights holders for music used during the company's extended three-month free trial of its subscription streaming service -- bucking standard industry practice -- the rate is smaller than the revenue-based percentage song owners will get once listeners subscribe to the service, which will cost $10 per month or $15 per month for a "family" membership that allows up to six individual accounts.
Pressure mostly came from labels and community, not artists
Contrary to what media reports would have you believe, Apple's recent reversal on the previous (and industry-standard) policy not to pay rights holders during the 90-day free trial period was a case of the company responding more to concerns from indie labels and its own user community rather than any band-wagoning open letters, sources tell MacNN. New reports say that Apple, having changed both that and other more minor terms in its standard contract, is now signing up independent record labels and artists at a furious pace as the June 30 debut of Apple Music looms.
Google adds free option to music streaming service before Apple Music launch
Google is attempting to increase its user numbers for its Google Play Music service, barely a week before Apple is scheduled to launch its own streaming music service. A free version of the service is now available in the United States, one that matches Spotify by providing periodic advertising during music playback, though unlike the main Google Play Music All Access subscription, it doesn't provide a high level of customizable music playback options.
Rights holders will receive per-stream fees during trial period
Reversing course after an outcry from artists, Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue has announced on Twitter that the company will, in fact, pay rights holders -- which generally includes the artist -- during the forthcoming Apple Music subscription service's three-month free trial period. Apple's original agreement had said that no royalties would be paid while customers enjoyed the trial, prompting protests from indie and small labels as well as artists.
Misunderstandings, free trial, terms threaten to derail diversity of sources
While major publishers and record labels are on board with Apple's planned streaming service Apple Music and article aggregator News, independent music labels and news-oriented publishers -- who last week complained about being left out of such announcements -- now say that the terms Apple is offering contain problematic clauses or conditions. For music labels, the three-month free trial is the issue; for news publishers, it's Apple's requirement to opt out.
Sixth developer beta comes less than a week following previous release
On Tuesday, Apple made available for registered OS X public beta testers the same sixth beta of 10.10.4 released on Monday to developers. The build, 14E36b, came less than a week after the fifth beta, which debuted at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) -- suggesting that the update could be nearing release.
Spotify Taste Rewind suggests songs from previous decades
Spotify is trying to get its users to discover older songs they may like, by launching a promotional site. Taste Rewind allows users to select three artists from a list that they have recently played on Spotify, reports VentureBeat, with the site then providing playlists of songs the user may enjoy from each decade between the '60s and the 2000s. While a neat software toy that may help introduce younger listeners to older tracks they could enjoy, the results do not apparently cover the entirety of Spotify's catalog, and can come up with some odd suggestions. For example, a test using Nicki Minaj, Skrillex, and Ellie Goulding brought up a playlist for the '60s headed up by Leonard Cohen.
Problematic device adds wireless streaming to existing stereos, speakers
Sometimes a simple idea spawns a helpful device for consumers. From making everyday tasks easier to sharing experiences with others, a small thought can blossom into a must have gadget. The Rocki is a device that likely spawned from a small idea like "sharing music" or "music streaming," taking to crowdfunding to build a pocket-sized unit to add wireless functionality to existing stereos and powered speakers. But does this $49 stream-enabling device turn the idea into something great, or does it buckle under the weight of possibilities? Find out in our review.
Simple solution for music, audio, even photos and movies
We've written some Pointers entries previously about iTunes -- frequently, in fact -- and that's mainly because in addition to be a vast program that does a lot of different things -- on top of the syncing and the playlisting and the jukeboxing and the app or media purchasing and the podcast listening and the movie watching and now the Apple Music subscribing -- it also has a fair few features under the hood that tend to get underused when they are even known about. Today, you'll uncover another one.
Apple Music $15 family plan pressures competitors to drop prices, improve services
The launch of Apple Music may be beneficial to subscribers of some other streaming music services by increasing competition, with at least one service examining its pricing strategy. Major competitor Spotify is said to be looking into potentially making changes to what it charges its own subscribers for a family plan, in order to counter the relatively low family account pricing Apple revealed yesterday at WWDC.
Apple to update iOS, iTunes ahead of Apple Music launch, iOS 9 release
Because Apple Music, the company's just-announced subscription music service, will be out on June 30, Apple has noted that it will deliver an update to both iTunes on the Mac and iOS 8.4 (which contains the new Music app) sometime before that date so that early adopters will be able to try the three-month free trial or sign up as desired. The Music app will also function as it currently does without using the subscription options, but with a new UI that's more minimalistic.
Revamps Beats Music, iTunes Radio in new unified effort
Apple on Monday fulfilled expectations by debuting its Apple Music re-branding, which takes in iTunes on iOS, the former Beats Music, and iTunes Radio in a new effort to capture the wave of subscription-based streaming music services. Intended to both steal users from existing streaming services as well as expand the market generally, Apple has invested in a number of prominent musical and industry figures as well as a new emphasis on human curation of music in its efforts.
Pint-sized portable turntable promises not to bleed your bank account dry
If you're a music hipster, chances are you've already got a record player. However, if you're just getting into vinyl music, you might not be ready to drop hundreds of dollars on a record player for a hobby you're only just getting into. That's why we're here to tell you about the Crosley Cruiser portable turntable, a budget-and space-friendly alternative for budding music collectors.
Desktop Tidal apps include Ticketmaster concert ticket sales
Tidal, the artist-owned music streaming service, has brought out desktop apps for its subscribers to listen to music from their computers, to complement its existing mobile app collection. At the same time, the service is trying to push its way to a wider and younger audience, by offering students based in the United States with a hefty discount, cutting the subscription cost in half and bringing the lower tier down in line with competitor Spotify's own student discount.
Era of iPods, streaming music do not eliminate CDs entirely just yet
Today's Pointers column is inspired by a lamentation from a veteran Mac user of our acquaintance who expressed some regret over the upgrade to iTunes 12 (he had jumped several versions in finally doing the upgrade). Among the other changes the recent version had introduced, he was convinced that Apple had removed the ability to burn music CDs, which he still found useful. In case others are laboring under this misconception, this column will show you that yes, CD music burning is still doable in iTunes 12.1 in 2015.
Feature-packed DJ app allows professional mixing of music
DJs have been mixing their magic on turntables and large, expensive basement studio setups for decades at this point, bringing us incredible mashups and original songs. However, there's no reason that DJs should be chained to heavy, expensive equipment when a perfectly viable resource sits within their hands. Today we checked out Edjing Pro, a professional DJ mixing tool for the iPad and iPhone.
Windows Phone music service spreads to other platforms
MixRadio, originally called Nokia Music and owned by Line, has exited its beta testing and is now available to download on iOS and Android. Previously available only on Windows Phone and already available in 31 markets, the cross-platform music streaming service has managed to retain the majority of its features during the porting process, including free personalized playlists.
Videos sourced from major producers, integrated into Spotify playlists
Spotify is expanding its service from purely streaming music into other areas, the company revealed at a press launch. Among other updates, Spotify is going to be bringing its long-rumored video service to its users, and following Deezer's recent addition to its own service, it will give listeners the chance to catch up on podcasts, with Spotify slowly turning itself into a one-stop shop for streaming content.
More than a dozen years with the maligned music player
I can see me doing this now, ripping a track off a CD of mine for the very first time. I was in my living room, it was Orinoco Flow by Enya, and I was ripping it onto my PowerBook G3. Can't quite tell you when it was, can't even be sure that iTunes existed then, but I remember how peculiarly, deliciously weird it felt having that music continue playing after I took the CD out.
App integration will allow Spotify users to earn Starbucks rewards
Starbucks employees will be able to have more control over in-store music provided by Spotify, the two companies have revealed. A multi-year deal struck between the coffee chain and the music streaming service will also do more than provide music, with it opening up the Starbucks loyalty program to allow Spotify subscribers to increase their rewards balance and eventually earn free drinks.
Users can choose to be updated on artist activity, comment on posts
Sources familiar with plans for Apple's new streaming music service, supposedly now to be called "Apple Music," have revealed that the service will have a deep social networking aspect for artists, but will not be the same as Apple's previous attempt at fusing social and music together, dubbed "Ping." Artists will have their own page that can be used for posting samples, concert and tour information, photos, and other messages that fans can comment on and "like."
Intuitive music app lets users create great songs, regardless of prior skill
We're not sure if Apple ever assumed that the iPhone and iPad would ever become legitimate musical instruments, but it's become apparent over the last couple years that there are many artists who are successfully producing music on their favorite iDevices. This is largely due to the complex-yet-intuitive apps that allow users to create viable songs with just a little practice. We checked out one such app, NodeBeat, an ingenious music-creation app.
Amazon adds Prime Stations to Echo wireless speaker
Amazon has updated the Echo portable wireless speaker to work with Prime Stations. An email sent to Prime subscribers owning the device advises that the Alexa digital assistant can be commanded to play a personalized ad-free station from Prime Music. The verbal command "Alexa, play the Bruno Mars Prime Station" will start streaming the relevant station through the speaker, with "Alexa, thumbs up/thumbs down" rating the track for further personalization, and "Alexa, what song is this?" to receive more track details.
Appeals court sides with Pandora over songwriter royalty rate payments
An appeals court has upheld a ruling from last year concerning royalty rates paid by Pandora to songwriters. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed with an earlier ruling, which set the rate the music streaming service pays to the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) to 1.85 percent of Pandora's revenue, with no changes made to the figure.
Company pushing forward despite reports of record company reticence, federal investigations
Speculation and unconfirmed reports have run rampant over Apple's progress in its effort to revamp its iTunes music services, with recent reports suggesting the company may have difficulty hitting its planned June target for formally introducing both a revised Music app for iOS in the forthcoming iOS 8.4, and a significantly revamped iTunes Radio and Beats Music streaming service designed to compete with Spotify. Various reports, however, claim obstacles -- ranging from music label reluctance to federal investigations.
Easy to use tool for musicians includes tone generator, tuner, and metronome
Being a musician today certainly has its perks. Between the accessibility of starter instruments and the wide variety of sounds available to musicians, it's a great time to start playing, regardless of skill or previous experience. Of course, there's also the added bonus of the wide variety of apps available to musicians, which can do everything from teach you how to play, to recording, to keeping everything working just the way it should. Today we checked out Tunable, an easy to use app for both the iPhone and the iPad that lets musicians tune their instruments on the go.
Artist-owned music streaming service rumors refuted by musician
Rapper Shawn Carter, known as Jay-Z, has taken to Twitter to claim artist-owned music streaming service Tidal is doing fine. Defending against suggestions that the service isn't as popular as initially anticipated, Jay-Z claims the service has grown to over 770,000 subscribers in the month since the celebrity change of ownership, and that it won't be as big as other services for quite some time.
Get the good and avoid the irritating features of streaming music
There are other streaming music services, and you can well argue that there are better ones, but Spotify is winning the war to become the Hoover, Xerox, and iPad of its class: the brand name that somehow becomes synonymous with the idea. At least, nobody tells you what their favourite iTunes Radio station is, no one in the world sends you links to Pandora, and it's like few people have heard of Beats Music. Yet. However, Spotify is known even by normal people, and it is a way in to the whole streaming music subscription concept.
'Sneak peek' offers better iTunes Radio experience; Xcode 6.4 beta updated also
On Monday, Apple released the first iOS 8.4 beta to developers, which among other feature includes what the company calls a "sneak peek" at a revamped Music app that now offers a new Miniplayer, global search, a better iTunes Radio experience and improved "Now Playing" screen that allows custom art from users, along with a Recently Added automatic playlist. In addition, Apple updated its Xcode 6.4 beta with new SDKs for iOS 8.4, and compatibility updates for OS X Mavericks (10.9) and Yosemite (10.10).
Latest version of Java required to install additional GarageBand sounds
If you're a musician with lots of experience or a budding musician with little experience, Apple's GarageBand is a marquee music making application. For some, GarageBand is a key factor in choosing a Mac with many graduating to Apple's pro-audio suite Logic. As affordable as Logic is, the best part about GarageBand is that is completely free when buying a Mac. Regardless, when you run into a seemingly intractable sound file installation bug with GarageBand, it can cool the ardor for the free package. We've got a solution.
Premium Rithm accounts priced at $4 undercuts other music streaming services
A new music streaming service is aiming to pull in potential subscribers, by severely undercutting the competition. Rithm is a combined music streaming and messaging app that allows users to not only share songs with friends, but also provides the ability to stream full tracks through Rithm Gold for $4 per month, a significant reduction in price compared to Spotify, Tidal, and other services.
Griffin Twenty brings wireless streaming to passive speakers
A few years ago Griffin launched the original Twenty, a small digital amp that used an AirPort Express to turn any set of passive speakers into a wireless system for streaming music. Unfortunately for Griffin, shortly after the launch of the Twenty, Apple updated the design of the AirPort Express, which instantly antiquated the digital amp. Now, thanks to advancements in Bluetooth technology, Griffin no longer needs to lean on Apple's AirPlay technology for streaming, and is back with a new and improved version of the Twenty Digital Amp. We have spent some time with the updated digital amp -- see what we thought about it in our full review.
Jay-Z, Daft Punk, other musical artists now owners of Tidal
Music streaming service Tidal has relaunched as an artist-owned company. At a star-studded launch event streamed live, the musical artists owning part of the service gathered together for the announcement, with the overall message offered being Tidal's push to benefit musical artists more than its competitors, such as Spotify and its allegedly low royalty payments.
Replacement for Sony Music Unlimited heads to PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
The replacement for Sony Music Unlimited is going live on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 today, powered by Spotify. Launching in 41 countries, PlayStation Music provides gamers with access to streaming music, allowing users to play their choice of soundtrack as a background to whatever game they are playing on the Sony game consoles.
Beats integration, iTunes overhaul likely to be on agenda for WWDC in June
A new article in The New York Times describes in some detail the alleged transition plans Apple is undertaking to transform both iTunes and Beats Music, it's acquired subscription streaming service. Among other details, the report assigns roles to iTunes Radio chief Zane Lowe, who until recently was a top BBC Radio 1 DJ, and describes musician Trent Reznor as a "point man" on an iOS Music app overhaul.
Universal said to be in contract negotiations, wants Spotify to weaken free service
Universal Music Group (UMG) wants Spotify to add more limits to its free streaming service, according to reports. The record label is apparently having issues with the freemium music offering and its apparent lack of revenue, and hopes that restricting the number of listens for songs will push Spotify users to the more lucrative paid subscription service.
Downloads still king of market, but falling alongside overall music revenue
A new report from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) finds that revenue from music streaming services such as Beats Music, Pandora, and Spotify have now in total beaten out revenue from CD sales in the US, capitalizing on the latter's continued fall from grace (largely thanks to excessively high CD pricing). Both formats are still well behind download sales as the top revenue stream, but even that format is gently declining.
A little fine-tuning will result in delightful listening
Apple's iTunes Radio is one of those things that is criminally underused by most Mac and iOS users, and its a shame: the service is really very good -- and with a tiny amount of effort, can be as, or more, enjoyable than even Pandora One or the other subscription streaming music services, not to mention cheaper. In this post, we're going to show you how to create, and then fine-tune, a custom station that features music you love and compatible new discoveries.
Send audio from one device to another wirelessly
Audreio lets multiple iOS devices connect through Wi-Fi, sending audio input from one to be played back and recorded on the other. Our first impulse was to leave an iPad sitting discreetly on a shelf in one room, and use an iPhone in another to freak out our friends ... but there are many more uses than that. Just make sure you have a good router, and don't forget your headphones.
Storage on Watch limited to 2GB for music, 75MB for photos
Some further details on Apple's new Watch device have come out that were not mentioned during the public presentation on Monday, one of which is a detail that further points out how unlike most technology devices the Apple Watch really is: the device actually has very little room for standalone storage. As we reported prior to the event, the Apple Watch (all versions) has just 8GB of independent storage, with only 2GB available for music and just 75MB allocated for photos. The rest, presumably, is for the operating system and apps.
New components good for either add-on, or new construction
Streaming multi-room music solutions provider CasaTunes announced on Tuesday four new products for multi-room music with the CT-4+ System, CT-8+ System, CT-4S Streamer and CT-8S Streamer. The two CasaTunes Systems are complete multi-room audio systems, including the server, audio streams and audio distribution switch, with everything inside the one music system. The CasaTunes Streamers include the server and music streams, and are ideal for homes that want to add streaming music options to existing audio distribution systems.
Pandora still exploring price options before launching day passes
Pandora is going to be giving its customers an alternative to its Pandora One subscription plan, by allowing users to buy shorter passes. The streaming music service is planning a day pass system, which will offer a full 24-hour period of advertising-free music to buyers for $1, though there is also the chance Pandora may choose to provide longer passes, at different price points.
Clever music app makes musicianship possible - even for newbies!
It's been said that creating music is one of the finer joys in life. However, not everyone has the chance to invest in an instrument, or lessons, or spend the time practicing. Because of this, a large portion of the population is left to only wonder what it would be like if they were to create their own music. That's why we took a look at Musyc Pro, a strangely simple app aimed at the casual musician.
Timing for overhaul set for around WWDC; Android version might continue?
Apple is now aiming for a revamp of its Beats Music streaming service, which will see the offering tied in more closely to both iTunes and other Apple products and services, to happen in June -- right around the time of the expected Worldwide Developers Conference, which is likely to happen on June 8–12, according to sources familiar with current plans. In addition to retaining the personalization and hand-curated recommendation features, Apple may be planning to lower the monthly cost.
Simple, useful radio streaming app for Macs
It used to be so much fun, tuning in to radio stations from around the world. Shortwave radios -- who has those any more? Sitting in central Paris, just about able to pick up BBC Radio 4 from the UK -- it's just no thrill now that you can listen to any station, anywhere in the world, on a whim. Snowflake, a new app born from the ashes of radio recorder Snowtape, makes it even less of a thrill: it is an extremely easy-to-use radio app that streams music from around the world right to your Mac.