Digital music roundup: Spotify, US streaming market, Samsung music, Neil Young and Gorillaz


In this digital music roundup – the first in a possible series: Spotify’s paywall, the US streaming market, Samsung and Google Play Music, Neil Young’s new streaming service Xstream and two augmented reality apps from Gorillaz (pictured above)

Spotify will allow labels to put new albums behind a two-week ‘paywall’, during which time they will only be available to the streaming service’s paying users. It concluded separate deals with digital rights agency Merlin, which negotiates on behalf of thousands of indies – including Sub Pop, Epitaph and Domino, and Universal Music Group (UMG). The flexible release policy also provides “unprecedented access to data, creating the foundation for new tools for artists and labels to expand, engage and build deeper connections with their fans”.

New figures showing more than half of the US music industry’s sales come from streaming for the first time as it accelerates past digital sales. Retail revenues from recorded music in the US rose by 11% to $7.7 billion, the biggest gain since 1998, according to the RIAA (though that’s about half of what they were in 1999). With steaming by and large supported by the industry, label ire is increasingly focused on a more nuanced critique of the area, one that targets the disparity between rates paid by the likes of Apple and Spotify and those offered by YouTube.

Google Play Music is getting a leg up from Samsung, which has made it the default music app on its mobile devices. In return Google is offering Samsung users the ability to upload up to 100,000 songs – twice the usual limit – to its cloud locker, meaning they can be steamed from anywhere, along with unnamed “special features”. The last month has also see the firm launch Google Play Music in India, beating Spotify to that market, where it will compete with local operator Saavn.

Fans of Harvest, Ragged Glory or even Trans will soon have a new way to stream those albums when a new service from Neil Young, their creator of course, comes on line. With his Pono Music venture in steep decline, its store offline since July, forthcoming streaming service Xstream will continue its hifi ideals. Partnering with Singapore’s Orastream Young plans to launch in the near future “an adaptive streaming service that changes with available bandwidth”.

Everyone’s favourite primate-inspired animated band Gorillaz have turned to augmented reality in support new album Humanz, launching not one but two AR apps. The first (simply ‘Gorillaz’) overlays elements from the group’s recent music videos into the user’s surroundings and offers access to additional content. That was followed by The Lenz, produced in partnership with Telekom Electronic Beats, which offers new music and content, but only when pointed at the colour magenta.


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