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February 24 2014

February 07 2014

Meet Beep, The Chromecast For Your Old Speakers

It feels like a new music app launches every week, but there are surprisingly few innovative hardware options that put them to work. Happily, soon a new player will be in the mix—literally.

Meet Beep, a project by two former members of Google's Android team. Beep wants to give your home stereo system the Chromecast treatment, turning old speakers into smart, streaming music-savvy speakers. And while it's not dirt cheap, at $150 it's one of the most affordable options around for anyone who wants to blend hi-fi and Wi-Fi. 

Like A Chromecast, But For Speakers

Beep—the name of both the company and its product—looks like a retro volume controller of some kind, but it's a whole lot smarter than that. Much the way a Chromecast plugs into (almost) any TV, the Beep plugs right into any speakers with RCA jacks or aux or optical inputs.

That means it'll work just as well on a cheapo set of bookshelf speakers as on your old-school home hi-fi system. And that's awesome. You control Beep through an app that both indexes your local music collection and lets you "cast" anything playing on Pandora. For now, Pandora is the only streaming partner in its roster, but it's hard to imagine that Spotify, Rdio, Beats and the like won't be next in line come launch time. 

Unlike most of the competition, Beep isn't about selling proprietary hardware systems. Sonos, for example, offers an amazing modular smart home speaker system and support for nearly every streaming music app known to man, but its speakers price quite a few folks out of taking the plunge.

Similarly, Apple's AirPlay only plays nice with AirPlay-friendly speakers, which usually aren't cheap. The beauty of Beep is the beauty of the $35 Chromecast—just plug in a gizmo and breathe new life into your existing hardware. The Beep acts as a wireless receiver as well as a volume dial and controller, and you can tap it to instantly resume whatever you were listening to last.

Take My Money

The device takes a lot of cues from Google's Chromecast, and multiple users can even take turns playing living room DJ. Like the Sonos system, Beeps work well in teams. If you have one Beep in the living room and one in the bedroom, you can sync them up to play the same tunes or queue up different sonic experiences in different rooms, all via the Beep app. 

The Beep will go on sale for $150 later this fall in two colors: gunmetal and copper. If you're already stoked about the prospect of making your old speakers smart, you can pre-order in advance and save $50.

Sponsored post

January 21 2014

Streams by Dre: Beats Music Launches, But Don't Expect Many Free Tunes

Beats by Dre kickstarted the high-end headphone market. Now, Beats Music is hoping to do the same to the online streaming industry.

Beats Music launched for iOS and web users on Tuesday morning, entering an already crowded and competitive market. The service combines features from a variety of existing services: Spotify's download capability and deep catalogue, Songza's mood-influenced playlist generator and Pandora's algorithm-based music exploration

However, Beats Music differs in one dramatic way: It's not a freemium model. As opposed to other streaming music sites that are either free or have a no-cost option with limited features, Beats offers only a seven-day free preview (no credit card required) before listeners must pay $9.99 per month. Read more...

More about Online Music, Streaming Music, Beats By Dre, Business, and Media

January 16 2014

Spotify and Pandora Brace for Beats Music to Drop

This post was updated on Jan. 16 at 10 a.m. ET.

The launch of Beats Music is causing a bit of stir among its online music streaming competitors.

Pandora Music announced today the introduction of personalized music streams that will incorporate listener tendencies to generate a list of artists.

"Personalized station recommendations on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets will provide listeners with up to 6 suggested artist stations to add and listen to at a time, based on current listening preferences, taking into account your station list and what you have told us you like or dislike through thumb interactions," Pandora said in a blog post. Read more...

More about Streaming Music, Spotify, Business, Media, and Music

January 02 2014

Where to Stream Bruce Springsteen's New Album Before Its Release

CBS.com will debut Bruce Springsteen's High Hopes album on Jan. 5, more than a week before its release on Jan. 14, as part of promotion for CBS show The Good Wife

Networks often incorporate songs into their shows, a move that routinely helps those songs move up in music sales charts, digital download charts and streaming charts. For example, streams for Badfinger's song "Baby Blue" increased 9,000% on Spotify after AMC featured it in the Breaking Bad finale. But this is the first time CBS will debut an entire album on its site, in addition to using some of its songs in an episode

More about Music, Tv, Cbs, Streaming Music, and Bruce Springsteen

December 12 2013

Spotify May Kill Pandora and iTunes, but Not Just Yet

Spotify may eventually make your iTunes and Pandora accounts obsolete, but don’t delete them just yet

Spotify's introduction of free streaming on-demand music to mobile devices, announced Wednesday, will not cause an overnight collapse of the major online music players, and may provide a short-term boost for services that still sell music. The more serious questions surround the long-term implications for a music industry already grappling with change.

Music lovers still buy musicSales of music on iTunes have not only weathered the storm of online music streaming, but benefitted from it. Even with the growth of streaming music, per-buyer spending on downloads rose 6% in 2012, according to NPD Group,market advisory service that tracks sales. Read more...

More about Itunes, Pandora, Streaming Music, Spotify, and Iheartradio
Spotify's Free Mobile Offering: Everything You Need to Know

Spotify on Wednesday expanded the free tier of its service to all devices, including smartphones and tablets

In the past, free Spotify users could only access Spotify Radio on mobile devices and tablets, but like other radio services, this prevented them from listening to a specific artist or music in their own playlists. The new offering expands on-demand listening to free users on tablets, and allows smartphone users to listen to their own playlists or music from a specific artist in shuffle mode.

Spotify created the following chart, which shows the access options that users have: Read more...

More about How To, Streaming Music, Spotify, Music, and Tech

December 11 2013

Led Zeppelin Joins Spotify After Long Holdout

Spotify has acquired the rights to the catalogue of Led Zeppelin as the streaming music service continues to add classic acts to its roster and lock out competitors from featuring popular artists.

The news, initially reported by The New York Times, was announced at Spotify's event on Wednesday. It is the most high-profile rights acquisition since Spotify brought Pink Floyd to its service earlier this summer and added Metallica's category later last year.

Led Zeppelin has been one of the major holdouts from the streaming music industry; he has sold more than 111 million records, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. The agreement marks another victory for Spotify as it seeks to maintain its market lead on smaller competitors such as Rdio and Rhapsody, which will now have no chance of featuring Robert Plant's soaring vocals or Jimmy Page's violin-inspired guitar theatrics. Read more...

More about Streaming Music, Spotify, Led Zeppelin, Entertainment, and Music
Spotify Expands Free Streaming to All Devices

Spotify announced on Wednesday that it is expanding its free streaming option to all devices. This means non-paying users can listen to individual tracks and albums of their choice using the Spotify app for iOS and Android tablets

The announcement, which was previously rumored, took place during an event at the company's U.S. headquarters in New York City

"We've found that users are increasingly listening to music in the home not on their computers but on their tablets," said Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek. It made sense, Ek added, to start treating a tablet just like a regular computer. Read more...

More about Music, Streaming Music, Spotify, Streaming Music Services, and Media

December 06 2013

Get Ready For The Streaming-Music Die-Off

Streaming music gets one thing right. Services like Pandora, Rdio and Spotify are amazing for the consumer, and in that singular way, the music industry hasn’t been better in … probably ever.

At long last, we have the celestial jukebox we dreamed of a decade and a half ago. Nearly any song is at our fingertips in seconds and that privilege costs far less than what an album used to, if it costs anything at all.

This bubble of end-user bliss comes at the expense of almost everyone else, from artists right down to the people who pioneered the idea of renting music over the Web to begin with. How long can it last?

License To Ail

Streaming services are ailing. Pandora, the giant of its class and the survivor at 13 years old, is waging an ugly war to pay artists and labels less in order to stay afloat. Spotify, in spite of 6 million paid users and 18 million subscribers who humor some ads in their stream, has yet to turn a profit. Rhapsody axed 15% of its workforce right as Apple’s iTunes Radio hit the scene. On-demand competitor Rdio just opted for layoffs too, in order to move into a “scalable business model.” Hmm… no one wondered about that business-model bit in the beginning?

Meanwhile, Turntable.fm, a comparatively tiny competitor with what should have been viral DNA, just pulled the plug on its virtual jam sessions this week—and it just might be the canary in the coal mine.

Not-So Disruptive Disruptors

Streaming services rely on a weird conceit, but it's not a new one. Like record labels, these companies can’t exist—they literally have no product—without musicians. Yet hardly any musicians are pleased with the advent of digital streaming, and understandably so—they were already screwed by greedy record labels back when people went into actual brick-and-mortar stores and walked out with albums; so screwed in fact, that it's entirely possible to sell four million albums and not make a cent. Meanwhile, record labels are happy to throw their weight behind anything that isn't the old iTunes model, even if it's Apple's own Pandora copycat.

In our already thoroughly broken pre-digital music system, many, many people got paid before the artist themselves. Digital music services elbowed their way into a crowded room, cut what seemed like a good deal with the major labels and started handing music out. And now there’s not enough money to go around. Who’s surprised? Everyone except the record labels. Huh.

(via The Root) (via The Root)

A Broken Model

These companies just aren’t bringing enough cash in compared to what they pour out in royalties. Ironically, approximately no one thinks that streaming services pay enough to license the music that they rent out to listeners, except the companies themselves, of course.

Poor them, shouldn’t they pay less? But for every Rihanna-level talent that gets paid out $3 million annually (that's to her label, not the artist herself as Spotify might like you to think), there are a thousand artists furious at music’s brave new business model. And even Rihanna is pissed, though that anger is arguably misdirected.

Beyond their broken business model, these companies share a lot of dubious promises to investors, shareholders and artists. Rdio hopes to get in the black by luring in more ad-supported subscribers. Spotify promises that when it scales up to 40 million paid users—it’s currently at 6 million—that artists will get paid five times what they make from the service today (the math works out, but that 40 million figure is a big “if"). Pandora, unprofitable and crippled by royalty fees as its user base grows, promises that mobile ad revenue can offset the revenue it’s hemorrhaging.

The Cockroach Lives On

For digital music to really be disruptive, it needs to change something—not just add another cook to the kitchen.

Considering how artists have suffered under the thumb of the major labels (now down to Sony, Warner and Universal), they're rightfully suspicious of anyone willing to hop into bed with their trifecta of sonic overlords. As an avid music listener, I have to believe that music-distribution platforms like Pandora, Spotify and their ilk are less evil than the stalwarts of the recording industry. But as they continue to spiral, it seems that these would-be digital disruptors might have underestimated the business savvy of the guys who've been running the show for decades.

The label lords have seen the likes of Napster come and go. As soon as streaming services start becoming more trouble to deal with than they're worth—or a bigger player comes along and cuts a better deal—they're happy to starve you out.

Ultimately, the record labels are still calling the shots. And upstarts like Spotify, Rdio and the rest are learning that lesson the hard way, calling for sympathy while the shot-callers wring them out. In this old game, the dealer always wins. That is, unless you're a company with an excellent poker face and deep pockets to boot—and only Apple, Google and Amazon spring to mind as that kind of player.

After the rest of the hands are dealt? Winner takes all. Game over.

November 26 2013

Britney Spears' Album 'Britney Jean' Now Free to Stream on iTunes

Britney Spears is letting fans stream her upcoming Britney Jean album free on iTunes a week before its Dec. 3 releaseApple often streams major albums in advance of their releases to encourage preorders, placing the play button directly beside the buy button

Britney Jean (click here to launch the album in iTunes) is the 31-year-old pop star's eighth studio album, which features the energetic hit lead single, "Work B*tch." Spears appears topless on the cover of Britney Jean.

After releasing the album, she will begin a two-year Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood, which is described as a "performance hybrid where club meets theater." Read more...

More about Music, Entertainment, Itunes, Celebrities, and Streaming Music

October 02 2013

Listen to Miley Cyrus' 'Bangerz' Album Free on iTunes

October is a big month for Miley Cyrus, who already has had a standout year for her commercially successful new songs as well as her provocative antics. To thank her fans, the 20-year-old twerker is letting them stream her upcoming Bangerz album free on iTunes a week before its Oct. 8 release

The album stream hit iTunes just days before her Oct. 5 hosting-and-performing gig on Saturday Night Live and the Oct. 2 debut of Miley: The Movement, an MTV documentary that will expose her backstage life (and events leading to her viral VMAs performance).

More about Music, Entertainment, Itunes, Miley Cyrus, and Streaming Music

August 03 2013

YouTube Brings Lollapalooza Live From Chicago to Your Couch

Lollapalooza's sold-out, three-day show in Chicago's Grant Park is currently underway, and if you didn't manage to score tickets or you aren't in Chicagoland, you can still get in on the action, thanks to YouTube.

For its ninth year in Chicago (the festival used to be a traveling roadshow), Lollapalooza is hosting over 130 musical acts from Aug. 2 to 4, and YouTube is live-streaming sets from more than 20 of them, as part of what it's calling #Lazypalooza.

Beginning at 2:15 p.m. CT, the Saturday live stream (embedded above) kicks off with English musician Ben Howard, followed by others acts including indie favorites Local Natives, singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, as well as The National and Mumford & Sons. Read more...

More about Streaming Music, Live Streaming, Chicago, Lollapalooza, and Entertainment

June 03 2013

Why Apple Is Getting Into the Music Streaming Business

Steve Jobs was perhaps the loudest critic of streaming music in the late 2000s. While companies like Pandora and Rhapsody gradually gained traction, the late Apple co-founder and CEO repeatedly denounced these services and resisted invitations to create a similar subscription option for music.

"Never say never, but customers don't seem interested in it. The subscription model has failed so far," Jobs said in an interview with Reuters in 2007. The following year at Macworld, he reiterated the point: "We've never offered a rental model in music because we don't think people don't want to rent music." Read more...

More about Apple, Pandora, Streaming Music, Spotify, and Business

May 16 2013

Google Uses Dracula to Hype New 'All Access' Music Service

Google's first video promo for Google Play Music All Access, which launched Wednesday during Google I/O, walks us through the new subscription service's features with help from the world's most famous vampire, Dracula

Craving for the perfect music to best suit his taste, Dracula picks a song, turns the song into a radio station of related tracks and uses the unlimited skip feature until he finds something he likes. He then creates a playlist titled "Night Beatz," moves his discovery into its queue and continues to add more songs. Happy with his creation, he decides to share the playlist with his magical friends on Google+ Read more...

More about Music, Entertainment, Streaming Music, Google Music, and Advertising

May 15 2013

Google Unveils Streaming Music Subscription Service

Google flaunted a new subscription music service, Google Play Music All Access, at Google I/O. The service will launch Wednesday in the United States for $9.99 per month. People who sign up by June 30 will pay only $7.99. It will eventually roll out to more countries

Google Play Music All Access will join the fray of existing music services and battle to have the most songs to stream and most users. Spotify, which boasts 24 million monthly active users and 6 million paying subscribers in 28 countries (costs $9.99 per month), has the largest music library with 20 million licensed songs when compared to Pandora, Slacker and iHeartRadio. Pandora still has the most users with roughly 70 million monthly active users and 200 million registered Read more...

More about Google, Music, Entertainment, Google Io, and Streaming Music
Is Google Launching a Subscription Music Service to Battle Spotify?

Rumor has it Google will debut a subscription music service this week at its annual developer conference, Google I/O. The rumor mill intensified Tuesday after The Verge reported that its music industry sources said Google secured licensing deals with Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group for YouTube and Google Play

Google already has Google Music, a cloud music service, that lets users upload as much as 20,000 purchased songs (for example, their iTunes purchases) in the cloud and listen to them across their Android devices or on the web

However, a Google subscription service with major record labels on board would put it in direct competition with existing music services, particularly streaming hotshot Spotify, which boasts 24 million monthly active users, 6 million paying subscribers and more than 20 million licensed songs in 28 countries Read more...

More about Google, Google Io, Streaming Music, Spotify, and Google Music

February 27 2012

March 29 2011

Amazon Cloud Player: First Impressions

Amazon has made its triumphant entry into the music streaming world with Amazon Cloud Player. Rather than stream a library of predetermined music (e.g. Pandora, Spotify), Cloud Player lets you upload your existing music library and stream it from any computer or Android device.

For the last 30 minutes, I’ve been testing out Cloud Player. While it’s impossible to get the full experience in half an hour (mostly because Amazon estimates it will be another 12 hours before my first 1,262 songs are uploaded), I’ve had enough time to play with it to write a preliminary evaluation of Amazon’s new streaming music service.

Here are some of my initial thoughts about Amazon Cloud Player and its companion Android app:

  • Uploading: When you first install Cloud Drive on your computer, it searches your entire hard drive for your music and your playlists. While this takes a while (10 minutes), once the process is complete, it makes uploading songs a snap. It pulled my iTunes playlists and let me choose which ones I wanted to upload, a very welcomed feature.
  • Usability: The web-based cloud player is really intuitive. The layout makes it easy to select songs, search your music archives and organize your music. The player itself is quick to load, responsive, and even lets you skip around to different points in your music, something not possible with most of the streaming music players on the market today.

  • Music Quality: While I’m no audiophile, I really can’t tell any difference between Cloud Player and a streaming service like Pandora. Playing music from your hard drive is going to give you a better acoustic experience, but the vast majority of consumers won’t be able to tell the difference.
  • Features: Cloud Player doesn’t have a lot of frills, but you will be able to do almost everything you want within it. It doesn’t have iTunes’ ability to automatically download podcasts or Genius recommendation feature, but they’re not necessary features for a great music experience.
  • Android: I also took Amazon’s Cloud Player app for spin on a Motorola Atrix 4G phone. After signing in with my Amazon account, it quickly found my uploaded music and played it flawlessly. Again, I was able to skip around to different points in my music, create playlists and search my Cloud Drive for uploaded music. The player even lets you access your on-device music, essentially rendering Google’s official Music player useless.
  • Price: You start with 5 GB of free storage, but for the vast majority of people, that won’t be enough. Without a second thought, I upgraded to 20 GB for $20/year, though in retrospect I should’ve bought a cheap album instead. The pricing plan is very simple: 1 GB per dollar. I paid more for Pandora One ($36)than I did for 20 GB of Cloud Player storage, so overall I’d say Amazon’s giving everybody a good deal.

Even from my short test, it became apparent that Amazon wasn’t launching some half-baked product; Cloud Player is a fully-functional, very usable streaming music player that could even make iTunes obsolete for many people, and its ability to play on-device and cloud-based music could quickly make it Android’s killer app.

Amazon has thrown down the gauntlet and set a high bar for cloud-based music streaming. Apple and Google, which are expected to launch their own cloud players sometime this year, will have to match Amazon on usability and price if they’re going to compete.

Amazon can’t rest on its laurels though; Apple will surely harness its control of iPhone, iTunes and iOS to boost its own offering and give the shopping giant a run for its money.

More About: amazon, Amazon Cloud Player, Cloud Player, CloudS, streaming music

For more Tech & Gadgets coverage:

February 24 2011

Rdio Now Streams 7 Million Songs on Roku

Roku owners just got another music source, this time from subscription streaming music service Rdio.

Rdio subscribers can enter their credentials into the Roku set-top box and they’re good to go. For those who are uninitiated to the service, Rdio is offering its usual seven-day free trial, with an all-you-can-stream $9.99 charge per month after that.

It’s another win for Rdio, which just received an influx of cash a few weeks ago, bolstered by the addition of more indie bands and greater selection on its service that now boasts more than 7 million songs. It already was no slouch, streaming music from four of the major record labels and aggregators IODA, INgrooves, The Orchard, IRIS and Finetunes.

Add to that Rdio’s presence on a variety of platforms, including its own website as well as iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Sonos clients, and the result is a hot competitor in the music subscription space. The service might even be putting the heat on aspiring newcomers to the U.S. market such as Spotify. Making it extra competitive is its ultra-social nature, offering music discovery where users can follow each other and learn about new music from friends’ recommendations.

It’s another win for Roku as well, which is consistently adding services to its burgeoning stable of entertainment choices. It most recently added Amazon’s rebranded Prime Instant Video service to its dossier.

We’ve tried most of the Roku boxes, and find them to be an outstanding value, priced at less than $100 for a plethora of channels. Now with the addition of Rdio, it’s almost enough to persuade you to cut the cable TV cord.

More About: rdio, roku, streaming music, Subscription service

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