Businesses

Music Streaming Service Tidal Loses Third CEO In Two Years (cnet.com) 12

An anonymous reader shares an article: The music-streaming service Tidal is saying goodbye to yet another CEO. Jefffrey Toig, who became the company's CEO in December 2015, is leaving the company. This would make him the third CEO leaving Tidal after two years, following the departure of Andy Chen and Peter Tonstad. In a statement to CNET, Tidal said that it will announce a new CEO in the coming weeks. The Jay-Z-owned music service has relied heavily on star power and album exclusives, but its bet doesn't seem to be making any splashes. On top of that, the company was accused in January of lying about its 3-million subscriber-base. They were accused of creating fake accounts.
The Courts

PayPal Sues Pandora Over 'Patently Unlawful' Logo (billboard.com) 135

PayPal has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Pandora, arguing that the company's minimalist logo "dilutes the distinctiveness" of its own branding. "Element by element and in overall impression, the similarities between the logos are striking, obvious, and patently unlawful," the lawsuit alleges. Billboard reports: In October 2016, Pandora announced it was redesigning its logo from a thin, serifed "P" into the chunky, sans serifed "P" that it is today. The color scheme was also changed from midnight blue to a softer shade of blue. By comparison, PayPal's logo, active since 2014, also features a minimalist-looking "P" in a sans serif font and sporting a blue color palette. PayPal's mark actually consists of two overlapping and slanted "Ps," whereas Pandora keeps it to one. Both P's lack a hole. It is because of these similarities that PayPal believes customers of both companies are unable to distinguish the two, and that many are complaining about inadvertently opening Pandora instead of PayPal on their smartphones. The lawsuit includes various screen grabs, primarily from Twitter, of people noting the similarities. PayPal's lawsuit also points out Pandora's current struggles as a brand, saying that since it is primarily an ad-supported service, it "has no obvious path to profitability," especially given "overwhelming competition" from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. The suit alleges that Pandora purposely "latched itself on to the increasingly popular" PayPal logo look-and-feel as part of its efforts to reverse its fortunes.
China

A Tip for Apple in China: Your Hunger for Revenue May Cost You (wsj.com) 57

Li Yuan, writing for the WSJ: Apple's latest predicament centers on its App Store. Last month, Apple told several Chinese social-networking apps, including the wildly popular messaging platform WeChat, to disable their "tip" functions to comply with App Store rules (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), according to executives at WeChat and other companies. That function allows users to send authors and other content creators tips, from a few yuan to hundreds, via transfers from mobile-wallet accounts. Those transfers are offered by the social-networking apps free of charge, as a way to inspire user engagement. Now, those tips will be considered in-app purchases, just like buying games, music and videos, entitling Apple to a 30% cut. For Apple, which has been observing slowing growth in mature markets, China is increasingly becoming important. But the company's my way or high-way approach might hurt the company's image in China. And that image as well as fortunes of local companies, is what the Chinese authorities deeply care about. As Yuan adds, "while it's understandable that Apple wants to tap the App Store for more money, its pressure on the app platforms risks alienating powerful Chinese companies, turning off Chinese iPhone users and drawing unnecessary attention from the regulators." Executives of these IM messaging apps tell WSJ that Apple has threatened that it would kick their apps out of the App Store if they don't comply. The problem is, WeChat is way more popular in China than Apple -- or its iPhones or its services or both combined, analysts say. WeChat is insanely popular in China, and people love to use the app to pay for things they purchase and send money to friends. Apple's greed could end up resulting in millions of new Android users, analysts said.
Google

Google Launches Google Assistant On the iPhone (venturebeat.com) 6

At its I/O 2017 developer conference, Google announced the Google Assistant is coming to iOS as a standalone app. Previously, the only way for iOS users to get access to the Assistant was through Allo, the Google messaging app nobody uses. For those interested, you can download the Google Assistant on your iOS device here, but keep in mind that your device needs to be running iOS 9.1 or higher. VentureBeat reports: Google Assistant for iPhone won't ship on Apple's mobile devices by default, and naturally won't be as tightly integrated into the OS. But it is addressable by voice and does work with other Google apps on Apple's platform. Apple has API restrictions on iOS, so Google Assistant can't set alarms like Siri can. It can, however, send iMessages for you or start playing music in third-party apps like Spotify. You also won't be able to use the Home button to trigger Google Assistant, so you'll need to use the app icon or a widget.
Google

Google Home Gets Notifications, Hands-Free Calling, a TV Interface and More (theverge.com) 37

Google has announced several news features for Google Home to help it better compete against the Amazon Echo. The six new features coming to Google Home include: notifications, free calling to phones in the U.S. and Canada, calendar and reminders, more streaming services, a TV interface, and new locations. The Verge details each feature in its report: Notifications: Google calls this feature "proactive assistance." Essentially, Google Home will do its best to alert owners to things they need to know, like reminders, traffic alerts, or flight delays.
Free Calling To Phones In U.S. and Canada: Google is one-upping Amazon by letting the Home dial out to actual landline and mobile phones. Whenever this feature rolls out, you'll be able to ask the Home to call anyone on your contacts list, and it'll dial out to them on a private number.
Calendar and Reminders: You can finally set reminders and calendar entries. Finally.
More Streaming Services: Google Home has already been able to control a handful of music and video services, but it's about to get a bunch of major missing names. For music, that includes Spotify's free tier, Deezer, and SoundCloud. For video, it includes HBO Now and Hulu. On top of that, Home is also getting the ability to stream anything over Bluetooth.
A TV Interface: Sometimes you actually want to see what's going on, so Google's making a TV interface for the Google Home. You'll soon be able to ask the Home to send information to your TV, from basics like the weather and your calendar, to information it's looking up like nearby restaurants or YouTube videos you might want to watch.
New Locations: The Home is going to expand to five new countries this summer: Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan.

Android

Amazon Refreshes Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 Tablets (betanews.com) 28

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Amazon's tablets have needed a refresh for a while now, and today it happened. The company announced two newly updated models -- the Fire 7 ($49) and the Fire HD 8 ($79). They both feature Alexa support, of course, and are designed for a quality experience with all types of media, such as movies, music, and books. The 7-inch has a 1024 x 600 resolution, while the 8-inch variant has 1280 x 800. Best of all, they are extremely affordable. At these insanely low prices, you might expect anemic performance, but both come with a respectable Quad-core 1.3 GHz processor. The Fire 7 has 1GB of RAM, while the HD 8 has 1.5GB. Regardless of which model you select, you will also get both front and rear cameras. The low cost might make you think they will be cheaply made, but Amazon claims they are more durable than Apple's newest iPad.
United States

The Tech Sector Is Leaving the Rest of the US Economy In Its Dust (theverge.com) 155

Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.
Music

MP3 Is Not Dead, It's Finally Free (marco.org) 415

The commentary around IIS Fraunhofer and Technicolor terminating their MP3 licensing program for certain MP3 related patents and software has been amusing. While some are interpreting this development as the demise of the MP3 format, others are cheering about MP3s finally being free. Developer and commentator Marco Arment tries to prevail sense: MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year -- the last known MP3 patents have simply expired. So while there's a debate to be had -- in a moment -- about whether MP3 should still be used today, Fraunhofer's announcement has nothing to do with that, and is simply the ending of its patent-licensing program (because the patents have all expired) and a suggestion that we move to a newer, still-patented format. MP3 is supported by everything, everywhere, and is now patent-free. There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3, it's good enough for almost anything, and now, over twenty years since it took the world by storm, it's finally free.
Music

Why Amanda Palmer Left the Music 'Industry' For Crowdfunding (digitaltrends.com) 105

Amanda Palmer says abandoning the commercial music industry for a subscription model made it possible to take more chances, like a new album with psychedelia artist Edward Ka-Spel. An anonymous reader quotes Digital Trends: I spent my whole life in this music industry trying to figure out how to sell what I'm making. But I don't "sell" anymore -- I just have this magical net of supporters who are supporting me whether I choose to make a record with Edward or make a record with my dad, which I did last year... [S]ometimes, you absolutely want to do ridiculous, noncommercial stuff. The Patreon patrons have been a godsend in that sense. I've had to continually re-educate myself that this isn't about selling music. It's about making music. I got so used to those two being inseparable that it took a lot of psychological work to divorce the processes.
She says her supporters "haven't just promised; they've put down their credit card." And Neil Gaiman, her husband, also strongly endorses the freedom to experiment. "If, as an artist, you ever listen to your fans' demands, and their demands are always insisting you make the last thing they liked again, you would go nowhere."
Music

The Failed Experiment of the Digital Album Booklet (theoutline.com) 82

An anonymous reader writes: Before the ubiquity of MP3s and streaming platforms, one of the many small joys of buying a new album on CD was slipping the booklet out of the jewel case and reading the liner notes, credits, and lyrics while the music played for the first time. These days, the biographical information, album production notes, promotional photos, and printed lyrics that fans once relied on physical literature for have found homes in other areas online. Artist websites, social media accounts, and sites like Genius and WhoSampled offer a patchwork of album information, like credits and clues to what happened behind the scenes. But those details rarely exist in one place, and production and songwriting credits seem less and less important. Meanwhile, the form that was intended to replace the traditional booklet, the digital booklet, remains a rarity when it comes to new releases. The idea of digital album booklets may appeal to only the nerdiest of music fans, for whom having everything in one place is a ritualistic way to listen to music and for whom album credits are crucial. But in an age where branding is often as important as skill, the lack of digital booklets feels like a wasted opportunity for artists wanting to communicate directly to fans without a social network as a middleman.
Businesses

Google Releases Study Defending YouTube's Value To Music Biz; Trade Bodies Hit Back (billboard.com) 80

The ongoing tussle between YouTube and the music industry took a new turn this week when Google assured everyone that its video platform doesn't have any negative impact on the other streaming music services -- despite all the free music it offers. From a report: A Google-commissioned report into how YouTube impacts on the wider music economy has -- somewhat unsurprisingly -- found that the hugely popular, yet much-maligned platform significantly drives sales and stops users from visiting pirate music services. According to a European study carried out by RBB Economics, if music content was removed from YouTube around 85 percent of the time that users spend on the platform would switch to lower value channels, such as TV, radio or internet radio. RBB claimed there would also be a significant increase in time spent listening to pirated content (up 29 percent), while only 15 percent of heavy users, defined as someone who watches more than 20 hours of music videos per month, would switch to higher value offerings like subscription streaming services. In the U.K., that number increases to 19 percent; in France it's 12 percent. [...] In response, music trade bodies poured scorn on the paper's findings. "Google's latest publicity push once again seeks to distract from the fact that YouTube, essentially the world's largest on-demand music service, is failing to license music on a fair basis and compensate artists and producers properly by claiming it is not liable for the music it is making available," reads a statement from IFPI. "Services like YouTube, that are not licensing music on fair terms, hinder the development of a sustainably healthy digital music market," claimed the international trade body, repeating its regular call for tighter regulation around safe harbour licensing.
Windows

Apple is Bringing iTunes To the Windows Store (theverge.com) 87

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge: Apple is planning to bring its iTunes desktop app to the Windows Store. In a surprise announcement at the Build developer event today, Microsoft revealed it has been working with Apple to get iTunes listed in the Windows Store. It might not sound like an important addition, but iTunes is one of the most searched for apps that's currently missing in the Windows Store. USA Today veteran columnist, summing up the announcement, "Microsoft announces that iTunes (incl Apple Music and full support for iPhone) is coming to the Windows Store. Big get for Microsoft." Microsoft's communication head, summing up the situation, "Didn't see that one coming, did you!"
Piracy

Spotify Used 'Pirate' MP3 Files In Its Early Days: Report (torrentfreak.com) 44

According to Rasmus Fleischer, one of the early The Pirate Bay figures, Spotify used unlicensed music in its early days. From a report: "Spotify's beta version was originally a pirate service. It was distributing MP3 files that the employees happened to have on their hard drives," he reveals. Rumors that early versions of Spotify used 'pirate' MP3s have been floating around the Internet for years. People who had access to the service in the beginning later reported downloading tracks that contained 'Scene' labeling, tags, and formats, which are the tell-tale signs that content hadn't been obtained officially. Solid proof has been more difficult to come by but Fleischer says he knows for certain that Spotify was using music obtained not only from pirate sites, but the most famous pirate site of all.
Chrome

Chrome For Android Now Lets You Save Web Pages For Reading Later (techcrunch.com) 46

Today, Google has introduced a series of improvements to Chrome for Android to make it easier to save content for offline access. The improvements will be made to the "Downloads" feature rolled out in December that allows you to save webpages, music and videos for offline access. TechCrunch reports: To download a web page previously, you would open Chrome's menu in the top-right of the browser, then tap the "save" icon that's located next to the star for bookmarking the site. You could then see all the content you had saved for offline access by tapping on "Downloads" from this same menu. Now, Google is adding more ways to save content, including a way to long press on a link the way you do when you want to open up a page in a new tab. The option to "Download Link" will appear on the pop-up screen you see after your press, below the options to open the page in a new tab or incognito tab. Google says this long press action will also work on its article suggestions on its New Tab page. This New Tab page will also include the articles you've already downloaded, which will be flagged with an offline badge.
Businesses

Internet Giants Like Apple and Google 'Abuse Their Privileged Position', Says Spotify CEO (cnbc.com) 54

Giant companies like Apple and Alphabet's Google "can and do abuse their privileged positions," according to a letter sent to the European Commission by music streaming service Spotify, rival firm Deezer and Rocket Internet, among others. From a report: "Our collective experience is that where online platforms have a strong incentive to turn into gatekeepers because of their dual role, instead of maximizing consumer welfare," the CEOs wrote. In one part of the letter, the CEOs said examples of platforms turning into gatekeepers include them "restricting access to data or interaction with consumers, biased ranking and search results to lack of clarity, imbalanced terms and conditions and preference of their own vertically integrated services."
Music

Fedora Will Get Full Mp3 Support, As IIS Fraunhofer Terminates Mp3 Licensing Program (fedoramagazine.org) 133

An anonymous reader quotes Fedora Magazine: Both MP3 encoding and decoding will soon be officially supported in Fedora. Last November the patents covering MP3 decoding expired and Fedora Workstation enabled MP3 decoding via the mpg123 library and GStreamer... The MP3 codec and Open Source have had a troubled relationship over the past decade, especially within the United States. Historically, due to licensing issues Fedora has been unable to include MP3 decoding or encoding within the base distribution... A couple of weeks ago IIS Fraunhofer and Technicolor terminated their licensing program and just a few days ago Red Hat Legal provided the permission to ship MP3 encoding in Fedora.
AI

'This Isn't AI' (shkspr.mobi) 138

The Amazon Echo, a 'smart' speaker developed by Amazon.com, gets many things right. You can ask it to for weather updates, check news, and to play music, and Alexa, the AI powering the device, won't disappoint. But how smart is Alexa? Programmer Terence Eden put it to a simple test to find out. From a blog post: I can now query my solar panels via my Alexa Amazon Dot Echo. I flatter myself as a reasonably competent techie and programmer, but fuck me AWS Lambdas and Alexa skills are a right pile of shite! I wanted something simple. When I say "Solar Panels", call this API, then say this phrase. That's the kind of thing which should take 5 minutes in something like IFTTT . Instead, it took around two hours of following out-of-date official tutorials, and whinging on Twitter, before I got my basic service up and running. [...] It's not so bad, but it does reveal Amazon's contempt for developers. Several of the steps contained errors, it involves multiple logins, random clicks, and a bunch of copy & pasting. Dull and complex. A frustrating and ultimately unsatisfying experience. I ended up using StackOverflow to correct errors in my code because the documentation was so woefully lacking. I kinda thought that Amazon would hear "solar panels" and work out the rest of the query using fancy neural network magic. Nothing could be further from the truth. The developer has to manually code every single possible permutation of the phrase that they expect to hear. This isn't AI. Voice interfaces are the command line. But you don't get tab-to-complete. Amazon allows you to test your code by typing rather than speaking. I spent a frustrating 10 minutes trying to work out why my example code didn't work. Want to know why? I was typing "favourite" rather than the American spelling. Big Data my shiny metal arse.
Businesses

Apple Wants To Turn Its Music App Into a One-Stop Shop For Pop Culture (bloomberg.com) 54

Jimmy Iovine, one of the heads of Apple Music, has long expressed desires to make Apple Music "an entire pop cultural experience." The company, he has previously said, will do so partly by including original video content into its music app. Now, in an interview with Bloomberg, he added that the company plans to include original shows and videos with high-profile partners such as director J.J. Abrams and rapper R. Kelly. Iovine adds, from the interview: A music service needs to be more than a bunch of songs and a few playlists. I'm trying to help Apple Music be an overall movement in popular culture, everything from unsigned bands to video. We have a lot of plans. We have the freedom, because it's Apple, to make one show, three shows, see what works, see what doesn't work until it feels good. The article also sheds light on Iovine's personality: Iovine fidgets when he talks. As his mind wanders, he takes his jacket off, then puts it back on. He frequently clutches his legs, contorting himself into a ball. He's a font of ideas with industry contacts to help execute every one of them. He turned to Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani for help picking the model for Beats headphones. Some ideas get Iovine into trouble. He's taken meetings with artists and made arrangements to release music without telling anyone in advance, frustrating colleagues. He's persuaded artists to release music exclusively with Apple, frustrating record labels.
Piracy

Pirate Site Blockades Violate Free Speech, Mexico's Supreme Court Rules (torrentfreak.com) 35

New submitter happyfeet2000 quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Broad pirate sites blockades are disproportional, Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice has ruled. The government can't order ISPs to block websites that link to copyright-infringing material because that would also restrict access to legitimate content and violate the public's freedom of expression. The ruling is a win for local ISP Alestra, which successfully protested the government's blocking efforts. Alestra was ordered to block access to the website mymusiic.com by the government's Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI). The website targeted a Mexican audience and offered music downloads, some of which were shared without permission. "The ISP was not pleased with the order and appealed it in court," reports TorrentFreak. "Among other things, the defense argued that the order was too broad, as it also restricted access to music that might not be infringing." The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation heard the case and ruled that the government's order is indeed disproportional.
EU

EU Lawmakers Include Spotify and iTunes In Geoblocking Ban (reuters.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: European Union lawmakers voted on Tuesday to ban online retailers from treating consumers differently depending on where they live and expanded their proposed law to include music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple's iTunes. Ending so-called geoblocking is a priority for the European Commission as it tries to create a single market for digital services across the 28-nation bloc, but many industries argue that they tailor their prices to specific domestic markets. The proposal, which will apply to e-commerce websites such as Amazon, Zalando and eBay, as well as for services provided in a specific location like car rental, forbids online retailers from automatically re-routing customers to their domestic website without their consent. In a blow for the book publishing and music industries, European Parliament members voted to include copyright-protected content such as music, games, software and e-books in the law. That would mean music streaming services such as Spotify and iTunes would not be able to prevent, for example, a French customer buying a cheaper subscription in Croatia, if they have the required rights.

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