Posted inNews

Apple prepares for deeper integration of Shazam in iOS

Apple has only just released the latest major update for its iPhone software, iOS 14, but it’s already hard at work on forthcoming minor updates.

iOS 14.2 has been released to developers, and it includes a significant music feature. Apple’s music recognition app Shazam can now be added to the iPhone’s ‘Control Center’, and when switched on will identify music playing around the device, but also in apps running on the iPhone – even when the owner is using headphones.

It’s the deepest integration of Shazam into Apple’s software since it completed its acquisition of the app in September 2018. There’s no confirmed release date for iOS 14.2 yet, so for now the new feature can only be tested by iOS developers.

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Apple’s HomePod will soon support non-Apple music services

Last night was the keynote for Apple’s annual WWDC event, which is an online-only affair this year. You can watch the full presentation on YouTube, and read about the new features coming to iPhone’s iOS software. But what about music?

One slide of new features shown during the keynote included an image of Apple’s HomePod smart speaker with the words ‘third-party music services’, which suggests the device will finally open up properly to Apple Music’s rivals – including Spotify, whose anti-competition complaint to the European Commission last year included HomePod in its list of grievances.

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Report: US iPhone app spending grew by 23% in 2017

Sensor Tower is the latest research firm putting out numbers on the apps market for 2017, this time focusing on iPhone app spending in the US.

It claims that the average amount spent per active iPhone in the US was $58 last year, up 23% from 2016’s figure of $46. This covers spending on premium (pay up-front) apps as well as in-app purchases, although not spending through associated credit cards – for example in apps like Amazon and Uber.

Or, in a music context, it counts spending on streaming subscriptions when handled through in-app purchases, but not when the payment is through other off-Apple means.

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Analyst suggests Apple should bundle Apple Music with iPhone 8

Apple has confirmed that its next press launch will be on 12 September, which is when we can expect the iPhone 8 to be unveiled. Could there be some Apple Music news then too?

It will be surprising if Apple doesn’t offer an updated figure for the service’s paying subscribers: based on its growth from 20 million in December 2016 to 27 million by early June 2017, Apple Music should be past the 30 million mark by the September event.

What else? Analysts at Barclays have an idea: in a note for investors, they have suggested that Apple could bundle a year’s worth of Apple Music, as well as 200GB of iCloud storage, into the iPhone 8.

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Mobile apps spending expected to reach $81bn in 2021

Analytics firm App Annie has published its latest set of predictions for the smartphone apps market in 2017.

Obligatory big numbers: it anticipates 195bn global downloads across Android and iOS this year, with smartphone owners spending $81bn on those apps.

App Annie also breaks down the latter number by store, predicting $40bn of spending within Apple’s App Store, $21bn from Android’s official Google Play store, and a further $20bn from third-party Android app stores.

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Apple’s iMessage Store has nearly 5k apps already

Six months after its launch, Apple’s iMessage Store – the in-app catalogue of stickers and add-ons for iOS’ native messaging app – now has nearly 5k apps available.

That’s according to research firm Sensor Tower, which notes that this figure equals the number of iOS apps during the first year of the App Store after its launch in 2008.

That isn’t a hugely-illuminating comparison though: the apps landscape now is very different to then, in terms of iPhone ownership and the appetite for apps.

Posted inAnalysis, Data, News

iPhone helps Apple return to growth as services loom large

Crisis? What crisis? Apple announced its financial results for the final quarter of 2016 – its fiscal first quarter of 2017 – yesterday, reporting record revenues and iPhone sales.

But it’s the continued surge in Apple’s revenues from ‘services’ that’s just as interesting from a music industry perspective, with Apple Music playing a role.

The key stats? Apple reported revenues of $78.4bn last quarter, up 3.3% year-on-year. That helped to generate a $17.9bn net profit, slightly down from the $18.4bn a year ago. Apple sold 78.3m iPhones during the quarter, up 5% after much talk in 2016 about declining year-on-year sales of the company’s flagship devices.

Posted inMarketing

Campaigns: Video Deluxe – Sandbox 155

Perhaps more than normal, there have been a number of properly eye-catching music videos recently – so we have decided to take a closer look at the best of them.

First up, J-pop band Lyrical School, who have created a video best watched on your iPhone. The idea behind the video is that it takes over your screen and switches between apps such as FaceTime and Twitter. It’s a great experience and a creative video, making the most of recognisable moments, especially for younger users

Posted inAnalysis

The history of the album-app: creativity galore but commercially tough

As long as there have been app stores for smartphone and tablets, there have been musicians and developers exploring the potential for albums to be delivered as apps.

Many of these projects have been creative and technologically inventive, but few have been demonstrable commercial successes. That’s why many labels see the ‘album-as-app’ concept as something of a white elephant.

Artists and developers are still experimenting though: Music Ally recently interviewed jazz musician Christian Scott about his album-app The Stretch, and that sparked an idea to look back at some past examples, for a chronological story of a trend that peaked in 2011, but hasn’t entirely disappeared.

(Note, we’re being quite flexible with the term ‘album’ – some of these apps are more like EPs with a few tracks, while others expand to an artist’s wider catalogue of music. But what we’ve left out are what we’d describe as ‘artist apps’ that are purely promotional. Everything here delivers the actual music or, in cases where the music had to be bought from iTunes, is designed as a digital player for it.)

Some things we’ve learned:

– Sadly, a lot of these apps are no longer available, usually because they were originally funded by the marketing budget for a specific album, which made no provisions for future updates beyond the album cycle. These apps were software that could (and, indeed, would) be broken by operating system updates from Apple and Google – leading to their removal. That’s a shame: as a part of this industry’s history, album-apps are disappearing in a way that, say, videos from MTV’s 80s heyday are not.

– The album-apps that stick in our brain for their creativity tend to be the ones that were artistic works in their own right, by the artists, rather than marketing campaigns. Björk’s Biophilia; Bluebrain’s location-based albums; Gruff Rhys’ American Interior and now FLUX by Adrian Belew – these were creative works in their own right that made sense as apps.

– There is precious little evidence of anyone making their fortune from an album-app, despite plenty of experimentation with pricing models. Would music fans pay between £5 and £15 for an album delivered as an app? Would they download the app for free and buy the tracks as in-app purchases? In most cases, no. At one point in time, Apple’s rules were a challenge too: buying an app with the music didn’t mean you got the tracks as separate audio downloads, and developers were barred from giving you a code to get those downloads directly. Even Björk’s keenest fans may have balked at buying ‘Biophilia’ twice – once in app form and once in album form.

– There are some ideas in these apps that might be worth exploring again. Bluebrain’s location-based music could find another wave of interest post-Pokemon Go (see our recent Landmrk interview for more on that); Sting surely won’t be the last artist to try the sponsorship model (and likewise Kim Gun Mo for karaoke); and Kristin Hersh and Gruff Rhys have hinted at interesting crossovers for music and books in the apps world – although frankly, the publishing industry is just as cool on apps hype as music.

– A number of these apps were designed as almost ‘digital box sets’ providing the content around an album – from archive videos, liner notes and interviews to games and other interactivity – which a fan already had in their collection. Could this idea be revived for the streaming era, pulling in tracks from Spotify or Apple Music while providing the content around them that those services lack? The question is whether labels have the budgets and appetites to try.

Still, from U2 on BlackBerry and Gwilym Gold’s regenerative music to Calvin Harris dancing and John Frusciante orbiting the Earth on a satellite, here’s the story of album-apps so far. Let us know which examples we’ve missed by posting your own comments and thoughts.