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Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music and Deezer are going up against each other. With lots of money to be made, and the market for music streaming getting bigger by the day, can Apple’s service replace the current leader?

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17/02/2017: Spotify is setting up shop in New York, offering up to 1,000 people jobs at the new location.

The US HQ will be based at the World Trade Center from 2018 and it will be used to build up relationships with artists. To make this happen Spotify will be employing staff across software engineering and product teams, label and artist relations, editorial, shows, original content, marketing, legal, sales and finance.

“New York gives us access to the most diverse talent market in the world,” Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s general counsel said.

Another bonus of renting space at the World Trade Center is an $11 million reduction in rent for at least 15 years, set up by Empire State Development to lure companies into the building.

Spotify already employs more than 800 people at its Midtown South office space, which will relocate to the new building at 4 World Trade Center, which will be the first of the World Trade Center buildings to be fully leased.

“Lower Manhattan is more vibrant, diverse, and connected than ever before, and Spotify’s expansion is the latest example of this community’s incredible potential for growth,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement

“New York is rapidly emerging as the nation’s leading hub for tech and innovation, creating more jobs and more opportunities and emerging as the epicenter of the 21st economy. We are proud to welcome Spotify to 4 World Trade Center and to have the future of music be a part of the bright future of our dynamic tech community.”

04/01/2017: The association representing UK labels, the BPI, has announced music consumption has jumped up 1.5% in the last 12 months, thanks to the success of digital music streaming on services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer.

A total 45 million individual audio streams were served last year, which represents an increase of 68% on 2015. Additionally, December 2016 was the first time music streaming services reported 1 billion streams in a single week, compared to an average of just 200 million a week in 2014. Digital streaming now accounts for more than a third of all UK music consumption.

“Growth in UK music consumption in 2016 was fuelled by the explosive rise in audio streaming, which has increased 500% since 2013, and relative resilience from physical formats,” Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI & BRIT Awards, said.

“We believe this performance is indicative of the promise of a new era for music, where recorded music’s investments in a digital future fuel compelling benefits for fans, artists and the entire music ecosystem.”

However, the rise of streaming has been to the detriment of music downloads, with the industry continuing to decline year-on-year, accounting for just a fifth of music consumption over the last 12 months.

Vanessa Higgins, CEO of Regent Street and Gold Bar Records and an independent label member of BPI Council, explained that music fans are starting to become more multi-platform-minded though, refusing to consume their music in just one way.

“Millennials, who’ve grown up digital, are increasingly choosing to experience both current and heritage artists on vinyl also,” she said. “Meanwhile older baby-boomers are embracing streaming alongside their record collections.”

22/12/2016: Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” has become the most streamed Christmas hit of the year on Amazon Music Unlimited.

In fact, it seems Amazon Music’s users are hitting the retro tunes up big time this festive season, with Wham’s “Last Christmas” coming in at number two and Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everyone” becoming the third most streamed song on the music service.

Band Aid hit “Do They Know It’s Christmas” came in at number four, while Mud’s “Lonely This Christmas” was fifth in the charts.

“Alongside some of the classics, Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers are streaming a real mix of artists making our top 20 streamed Christmas songs, including the likes of Coldplay, Lily Allen, Tom Jones and Bruce Springsteen,” said Steve Boom, vice president of Amazon Music. 

“With the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited in the UK last month we now have more than 40 million songs and thousands of hand-curated playlists available – including a number of Christmas playlists – so everyone will have something to listen to, no matter what your favourite music genre.”

09/12/2016: Spotify might no longer be considering to buy its music streaming competitor SoundCloud.

In September, the Financial Times reported that the two companies were talking about an acquisition, but this deal appears to have died during the past week.

A source at Spotify, who is said to be familiar with discussions, told TechCrunch that the company feared an acquisition could negatively impact its IPO preparations.

Spotify is going public in 2017, according to rumours, although the company has never officially confirmed this.

The source said Spotify “doesn’t need an additional licensing headache in a potential IPO year”. SoundCloud is particularly keen on negotiations with music labels and Spotify might not be eager to tackle these at the moment.

The Financial Times also reported the news, citing a source that said the company abandoned the deal to prepare for an IPO in 2017.

According to Digital Music NewsSoundCloud’s annual revenue increased by 43% to nearly $28 million in just one year, possibly due to the introduction of its paid monthly subscriptions. However the company has never become profitable.

Spotify could help the company’s development, and by acquiring it, it would also eliminate one of its competitors from the market. 

However, the acquisition might be too much of a hassle financially and logistically for Spotify to take on, at least for the time being.

07/12/2016: Spotify users will now be able to play music from the app straight to their Sonos devices.

The Spotify Connect integration will enable users to send whatever you’re playing on Spotify to any Sonos speaker, group all rooms together to play the same track throughout the house, as well as increase the volume in every room at once.

Songs will also be able to be transferred from headphones to a Sonos speaker and share a user’s Sonos system with friends who have the Spotify app and are on your Wi-Fi network.

Until now, Sonos users had to sign into Spotify Premium accounts via the Sonos app in order to play them through a Sonos speaker.

Sonos becomes the latest service to enable Spotify’s connection protocol. In 2015, Google Cast support was added allowing Spotify to play over a Chromecast device. Sonos also plans to add compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa voice control system next year.

Also launching in the updated app is Playlist Potluck – a partnership with Spotify that encourages people to invite guests to RSVP to their parties with a track suggestion.

25/11/2016: Black Friday is upon us, and deals abound. In store and online, prices are being slashed on everything from luxury goods like 4K TVs, all the way down to batteries and razor blades.

Spotify’s getting in on the action too, offering a very tempting Black Friday price-cut on its premium offering. First-time Spotify Premium customers can get a whole three months of membership for just £0.99, rising to the regular monthly fee of £9.99 thereafter.

If you’ve tried premium already you won’t be eligible for the offer, but fear not — you can still pick up a tasty discount. Former premium users that did not have a paid subscription as of 21 October can get their first three months for the price of one.

These offers are available for anyone signing up before 1 January next year, so you’ve got plenty of time to take advantage if you want to upgrade your Spotify membership. The company has even put together a special Black Friday playlist to keep you focused while you’re hunting for other deals.

14/11/2016: Amazon Music Unlimited, the company’s new music streaming service, has officially launched in the UK after releasing for the first time in the US last month.

The service is a direct competitor to the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, offering around 40 million songs and over 1,000 playlists on demand to subscribers. Users in Germany and Austria will also get access later today. 

Prime customers will be given a discounted cost at £7.99, while non-Prime members will pay the industry standard of £9.99. Prime customers can already enjoy free music as part of the £79 per year next day delivery service.

Customers who wish to use the service exclusively on an Echo or Echo Dot can opt for a £3.99 per month subscription plan, although if you want to listen to music on another device you will need to upgrade.

“We’ve been thrilled with customer reaction to the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited in the US last month and we’re excited to quickly bring the service to customers in the UK,” said Steve Boom, vice president of Amazon Music. “Starting today, Amazon Music Unlimited offers our UK customers playlists and stations curated by our music experts in the UK, featuring British and international artists.”

Although Amazon Echo users may already be using Spotify over the device, Amazon has developed a purpose-built music service with far more integration. For instance, users are able to use voice commands like “Alexa, play the song that goes, ‘I was doing just fine before I met you’ and Alexa will play, ‘Closer’ by The Chainsmokers,” according to an Amazon press release.

Other commands include the option to play specific genres of music, artists, time periods and a random shuffle of songs. So far Amazon has yet to allow other streaming services to “teach” these functions to Alexa, and will be relying on a more sophisticated user experience to draw customers to the service.

14/11/2016: Spotify has fixed a flaw that allowed its desktop application to load a vast amount of junk data onto a user’s computer, it said.

A report by Ars Technica revealed the application has been found to write up to 10GB of data every hour to some users’ computers and although not harmful, it is wasting valuable space and could reduce the life of hard drives, specifically SSDs, which have a limited read/write life.

Ken Munro, from cybersecurity firm Pen Test Partners told the BBC that although SSDs are becoming better at reading and writing over and over again, it doesn’t excuse Spotify from allowing its desktop application to do so it’s unnecessarily.

“We’ve seen some questions in our community around the amount of written data using the Spotify client on desktop,” Spotify said. “These have been reviewed and any potential concerns have now been addressed in version 1.0.42, currently rolling out to all users.”

The Ars Technica investigation revealed up to 700GB data could be sent to a user’s machine and although the music streaming service hasn’t revealed what the data is or why it was being loaded onto machines, Munro believes it’s either down to ‘lazy coding’ or an error. The flaw affects computers running Windows, Linux and Mac OS.

03/11/2016: The Sonos wireless music system can now be controlled from a user’s Spotify account after the company added Spotify Connect integration to its device’s firmware.

This means Sonos and Spotify customers no longer have to open the Sonos app to start music playing – they can simply use their Spotify application.

The support has been added to the Spotify application on Android, Mac and PC, although iPhone and iPad applications are expected to be updated with the feature soon too.

It means the Spotify app will sync with all Sonos speakers and Bridge devices around the home, allowing all features to be used, including streaming Spotify playlists to any Sonos device instantly.

The move will make it easier for visitors to start playing music through your Sonos system if they don’t have the Sonos app, but have access to your Wi-Fi network. However, it’s also possible to stream music to the Sonos system remotely too (although maybe don’t tell people that because you could soon find other taking control of your music system as a joke).

The feature is only available to people who are part of the Sonos Public Beta programme, but it’s easy enough to get set up on that.

01/11/2016: Rumours suggest Apple could be about to slash the price of its music streaming service by 20%, putting monthly costs below $8.

According to two sources working closely with Apple Music, the price drop is an attempt to reduce the damage caused by Amazon Music, which is seriously undercutting its rivals with prices as low as $3.99.

The sources, who do not work directly for Apple, told Direct Music News that changes were “under serious discussion”, although it is preliminary at this stage.

Apple Music currently charges $9.99 per month for unlimited music streaming, in line with rival Spotify. With the proposed price cut the regular price would drop to $7.99 a month, with student rates at $4.99.

While a cheaper service is certainly welcome, Apple may still struggle to compete with its rival Amazon, which has a range of price options including a free service for Prime customers.

Amazon Music Unlimited is currently only available in the US but will be available in the UK by the end of the year.

28/10/2016: Spotify has dispelled rumours it’s going to scrap its free, ad-supported service in favour of its monthly subscription tiered offering.

The company quashed rumours at the Wall Street Journal‘s WSJD conference, with multiple executives at the company saying the company has no plans to stop people accessing music, just because they’re not prepared to pay £10 a month for the service.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to get to a world where everybody on the planet is going to pay for music,” one of Spotify’s executives, Troy Carter said.

He compared the way people consume music to how concert tickets are sold. Although artists offer front row, premium tickets to those prepared to pay for the best seats in the house, cheaper tickets are also available. The  view they will get from the back of the arena isn’t as good, but just as advertising can be obtrusive to the music listening experience, people will still pay for it, just to get a glimpse of their favourite music act.

Although Carter admitted the free service “may never convert to a paid subscriber,” it could still lead to the artist generating money from extra-value services such as buying a concert ticket or a t-shirt.

Stefan Blom, Spotify’s chief strategy officer and chief content officer said the company wasn’t giving music away, despite it offering a free tier. He said “someone is paying for the consumption,” meaning advertisers are paying for people without subscriptions to access music.

24/10/2016:  Deezer has established a partnership with Feature.fm, a music start-up that promises greater exposure to artists outside of the mainstream music scene.

Feature.fm’s services help less well-known artists upload music, choose a target audience for it (selecting parameters such as music taste, age and gender) and monitor how their songs are doing over time.

“The launch of this service means artists can easily integrate their music into the Free Deezer platform, reaching the right audience at the right time,” Tristan Rachline, vice president of ad sales at Deezer, told Billboard.

This feature is available to all artists and in addition to allowing artists to target their songs to a specific audience, also helps them monitor how many users are listening to them through an analytics dashboard.

Every time users encounter a sponsored song, they can also read information about the artist, see a picture of them and access relevant social media/websites.

“Radio has always been the most powerful place to break an artist, but it’s always been inaccessible to most artists,” founder and CEO of Feature.fm, Lior Aharoni, told Billboard. He added: “The way people listen to the radio has changed and our mission is to be the new radio promotion tool in the music streaming era, allowing talented artists of any size to get airplay where people now consume music.”

Deezer is the first on-demand music streaming service to partner with Feature.fm or similar platforms that allow artists to buy sponsored airplay.

Rachline said: “Deezer’s technology has always been driven by innovation, superior design and functionality, so we are delighted to collaborate with Feature.fm to further enhance both the user and artist experiences.”

12/10/2016: Amazon launches ‘Music Unlimited’, undercutting rivals

Amazon has launched an unlimited music streaming service designed with its Echo device in mind, putting it into direct competition with the likes of Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer.

Offering prices as low as $3.99 for Amazon Echo users and $7.99 for Prime customers, the online retail giant has potentially undercut its rivals, where $9.99 has been the mainstay.

The “Amazon Music Unlimited” service gives users access to a vast catalogue of artists and playlists, similar to Spotify and Apple Music, with the added bonus of varying price plans. The current limited free music service provided by Amazon will still be available to Prime users.

While the existing Prime Amazon Music service offers more than two million songs to users, the new ‘Unlimited’ service reportedly offers “tens of millions of songs”, including major labels such as Sony, Universal and Warner, as well as thousands of indie artists.

The service supports the common feature of offline listening and can be streamed across a range of music compatible devices, including Echo, Fire TV, PC, Mac and Sonos devices.

With a price plan of $3.99, Amazon is clearly hoping this new service will give added incentive for users to buy the Echo. Using voice recognition and the intelligent assistant ‘Alexa’, the company is placing faith in the idea of home streaming.

Speaking to Reuters, vice president of Amazon Music, Steve Boom, said: “The first phase of growth (in music streaming) was driven almost entirely by smartphones. We believe pretty strongly that the next phase of growth in streaming is going to come from the home.”

06/10/2016: 

The free version of Spotify is said to be infecting users with browser-based malware, according to some disgruntled users.

The free desktop version of Spotify is displaying malware-infested ads to listeners, which causes browsers to open websites without permission.

The infectious ad was discovered by Spotify user ‘Tonyonly’, who took to the forums to voice his concern.

“There’s something pretty alarming going on right now with Spotify Free. If you have Spotify Free open, it will launch – and keep on launching – the default internet browser on the computer to different kinds of malware and virus sites,” said Tonyonly.

Users have also described how the widely popular music-streaming app will direct users to some malicious sites that will cause harm without user interaction.

What initially was thought to be a Windows 10 problem, the Spotify community forum has confirmed the same issue on Ubuntu and MacOS.

Premium Spotify users have advertisements hidden and are seemingly safe from this debacle.

This form of ‘malvertising’ has become increasingly popular according to Bromium chief architect Rahul Kashyap.

“Last year our threat sensors found that over a quarter of the Alexa 1000 websites were delivering malware via malicious advertisements,” said Kashyap.

“The trick is to contain the threat. The ideal way to do this is to shrink the attack surface by isolating the endpoint, so doing things like clicking on links or downloading documents is contained.”

This is not the first time Spotify has come under attack for hosting malware-laden advertising. In 2011 the company made a similar mistake however on a much smaller scale.

In a statement, Spotify said: “A small number of users have experienced a problem with questionable website pop-ups in their default browsers as a result of an isolated issue with an ad on our free tier. We have now identified the source of the problem and have shut it down. We will continue to monitor the situation.”

06/09/2016: Will Spotify restrict free music streaming?

Spotify is considering cutbacks to the amount of music free users have access to, according to reports.

The decision is apparently being weighed as part of the company’s licensing negotiations with record labels. The company’s agreements with Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment have all expired, and Spotify is reportedly looking to drastically cut down on the amount of royalties it has to pay them as part of the renegotiation process.

In order to secure this, the Financial Times reports, Spotify is thinking about implementing a ‘windowing’ period, wherein newly-released albums are available only to premium subscribers for a certain time.

The company is rumoured to be looking at shoring up its revenue ahead of a potential IPO. While Spotify was valued at $8.5 billion in a recent round of funding, it continues to lose money – a situation it will need to remedy if it plans to float its stock.

Rumours of potential windowing have surrounded Spotify since last year. Several reports from December 2015 indicated that the company was looking at restricting free access to top releases in an effort to win back artists like Taylor Swift and Adele.

The company could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

Read on for more reports about Spotify’s battle with studios 

 

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