TIME apps

This Is the Coolest Feature Spotify Added Today

This is a far cry from the days of hoping your Discman didn't skip

Runners of the world, Spotify has got the update for you. The popular music streaming app is adding a special mode for running that plays music that syncs up to the pace of your run, along with a slew of other new features.

The feature works like this: you start the running mode, and then you start running. Using the technology already in your phone, Spotify figures out how fast you’re going and picks music where the beats-per-minute matches up. You can choose to either have music selected based on what you’ve listened to before, use a multi-genre playlist or hear new tracks made by DJs specifically for running.

So if you’re just going for a pleasant jog, we’d imagine you might get something mid-tempo, like Mumford and Sons. Run a little faster and maybe some Jay-Z will hit you. If you’re really going all out, it would make sense that Spotify would play some gnarly fast, double-bass driven thrash metal, like Slayer.

TIME streaming media

Everything You Need to Know About the New Spotify

The new Spotify goes way beyond music

In a press event on Wednesday, streaming service Spotify made one thing clear: it’s no longer just for music.

CEO Daniel Ek said the firm’s mission is to find the perfect content—whether audio or video—for every moment of its users’ days. Ek and Spotify executives unveiled a new version of the service that tailors playlists for individual users. The new version also incorporates podcasts into its app. A so-called “video capsule” will make videos from partners such as Comedy Central, Vice News, and The Nerdist available as well.

Highlights from the announcement included:

— Media partners include: ABC, BBC, ESPN, NBC, TED, MTV, Maker, Slate, Fusion and E!

— A new running menu changes the way people use the app. The company says it can detect a runner’s tempo and immediately start playing songs that match.

— The new Spotify is rolling out US, UK, Germany, and Sweden beginning May 20.

— Ek said the focus on custom playlists will allow it to better target ads.

— Spotify is also partnering with fitness brands like Nike and RunKeeper to better integrate apps.

— D’Angelo and Questlove performed to play Ek out.

Spotify is retooling as it faces more competition in the streaming market. Though Spotify says it accounts for more than 50% of the streaming market, new services have recently launched or are preparing to launch to take on its dominance. Jay Z’s Tidal is trying to attract customers with exclusive music videos and live concerts. Later this summer, Apple is widely expected to unveil a new streaming service based on Beats Music which it acquired as part of $3 billion buy of the headphone-maker.

TIME Starbucks

There’s a New Way to Get Starbucks Rewards Points (and Music!)

Starbucks Starbucks Cold Brew

Starbucks and Spotify are working together after the coffee chain stopped selling CDs.

Starbucks and online streaming service Spotify are teaming up, allowing Starbucks to stay in the music sphere even after the coffee chain stopped selling compact disks in March.

Customers will be able to see lists of songs played baristas in their coffee shop under a new section in their app. Starbucks will also offer Spotify users rewards points to its loyalty program.

The partnership with Spotify comes after Starbucks stopped selling physical CDs in March after more than 20 years. Artists who’ve seen their work featured on the counter next to the pastries include Bonnie Raitt and Aretha Franklin.

“For many, many years, music has been a very significant part of the Starbucks experience,” CEO Howard Schultz said, per Bloomberg. “The music in our stores gave us license over the years to be in the physical CD business and as many of you know that turned into a very, big and important business for Starbucks.”

MONEY Streaming Music

Rdio Is Taking On Spotify and Apple with Discount Streaming Service

Man wearing headphones on city street

Rdio Select will cost just $3.99 per month.

Spotify competitor Rdio has launched one of the cheapest music streaming options yet.

The new pricing tier, called Rdio Select, will cost $3.99 per month and offers listeners unlimited ad-free “stations”—streaming radio based on a song, genre, or a variety of other criteria—with unlimited skips, as well as the ability to download up to 25 songs for offline use.

Twenty-five songs “is more than most users download in a day, so we feel it’s enough,” said Rdio CEO Anthony Bay in an interview with BuzzFeed News. Bay also clarified that the small number of downloads is what allows Rdio to keep the price so low.

Rdio Select adds an interesting middle ground to industry that generally offers either free ad-supported music or a more expensive subscription option. Spotify, the streaming music market leader, lets its 60 million users choose between a free plan that includes ads between songs or a $9.99 plan that allows for unlimited downloads. Rdio two other plans, Rdio Free and Rdio Unlimited, offer similar features at the same price points.

The news comes as Apple gets ready to relaunch Beats, the streaming service it acquired last August for $3 billion. Re/Code reports Apple has been pushing labels to lower their prices, which would allow the iPhone-maker to offers its new service at a lower price, potentially as little as $5 per month. According to the Verge, Apple has also lobbied record companies to force Spotify and other services to eliminate their free services, giving Apple’s upcoming service an advantage.

MONEY online spending

Apple Wants Us to Pay for Music All Over Again

man listening to Beats headphones
Eduardo Munoz—Reuters

As digital music sales sink, Apple is taking aim at Spotify with its rumored streaming music service

We’re just a couple months away from a possible launch of Apple’s rumored music streaming service, which is expected to turn Apple’s purchase of Beats Music into a new, Apple-branded, subscription streaming app, devoid of any free tiered streaming plans.

If in fact Apple launches this service, the company will be taking a similar approach it took in the early 2000s, when it launched iTunes and transitioned users away from pirating music to paying for it.

Apple’s latest moves
After buying Beats, Apple’s made a few recent moves that show the company may be set to change how users stream music. One of the latest moves, reported by The Verge, is that Apple is trying to convince music labels to not to renew their free music streaming licenses with Spotify. Apple’s reportedly trying to convince labels that offering up their music for free is a bad idea, and that it’s about to have a much better option.

And that’s a pretty easy sell these days. Ad-based streaming services don’t provide much revenue for artists, and music labels prefer that music listeners access music through a paywall.
The biggest example of this so far has come from Taylor Swift, who pulled her music off of Spotify earlier this year. According to Quartz, Swift’s move away from Spotify has encouraged Universal and Sony — which control more than half of the music market — to doubt the benefits of the freemium (ad-based) music streaming model.

The same article said that Sony Music CEO, Doug Morris, told Hits Daily Double that, “In general, free is death,” meaning that the music industry can’t survive if free music steaming persists.

If Apple can convince labels that its new service will bring the labels more revenue, then it could launch its new service with the backing of the industry (something which it appears Spotify might be losing right now).

After that, the next step is convincing users that Apple’s music subscription is better than the competition.

Using an old formula in a new way
Let’s not forget that Apple’s taken on a similar challenge when it launched iTunes back in 2001. Except at that time the competition wasn’t Spotify, it was peer-to-peer sites that allowed users to exchange music for free.

At that time Apple convinced the music industry that iTunes was the best option for making money, and then persuaded users that a sleek, easy-to-use program made it worth paying money to get music, as opposed to getting it for free.

Sound familiar?

Apple won’t be using a newly launched iPod and iTunes to shake up the music industry this time, but a rebranded Beats (or some revamped iTunes app) that has better features and the backing of the music industry may be just the thing to do it. If Apple convinces labels to drop their free streaming on Spotify, launches a great streaming app, and then undercuts Spotify’s $10 subscription price (which it’s rumored to be doing), then music listeners may have more of an incentive to use Apple’s new service.

What’s in it for Apple
Apple’s iTunes media sales (which include music, books and video) are on the decline as people have adopted streaming preferences over buying content. In the calendar first quarter of this year Apple’s media sales decreased by 4% (for the third consecutive quarter) and 5% in the first six months of fiscal year 2015. And in all of 2014, iTunes digital music sales were down 14% worldwide.

If Apple wants to keep its music business alive it needs to adapt to the paid streaming model, and move away from digital downloads. Research from P. Schoenfeld Asset Management estimates that by 2020 there will be about 250 million worldwide music streaming subscribers creating just over $16 billion in streaming revenue. You can bet Apple doesn’t want to miss out on any of that revenue, especially as its iTunes music sales continue to drop. All Apple has to do is convince music users, for the second time, that paying for songs is better than getting them for free.

More from The Motley Fool:

TIME Music

Here’s Everything That Premiered on Tidal Over the Weekend

New content from Beyoncé, Rihanna and Madonna may be enough to make some holdouts reconsider

Tidal, Jay-Z’s new music streaming service, recently premiered to a lukewarm reception, with critics calling it a scheme for wealthy artists to get richer, tone-deaf in its appeal to would-be customers accustomed to streaming their music for free. Some even warned that it will lead to increased levels of music piracy — the opposite of the service’s intended outcome.

But the wave of new content Tidal pushed over the weekend may be enough to make some skeptics reconsider. With some of the biggest names in music premiering songs and videos exclusively on the service, fans may well decide that 10 or 20 bucks a month is a reasonable price to pay to hear the world’s biggest artists first and fastest.

Here’s what premiered on Tidal over the weekend:

Beyoncé, “Die With You”:

This new track from Beyoncé is stripped down and soulful, a sweet piano ballad that echoes previous singles like “1+1.” With heart-melting lyrics like, “Darling I wake up just to sleep with you,” the song dropped on Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s wedding anniversary, offering a viable alternative to the traditional gift of wool or copper associated with seven years of marriage, and finally answering the age-old question: “What do you get the rap mogul who already has a net worth of more than $500 million?

Rihanna, “American Oxygen”:

Rihanna’s new track isn’t only a dark rumination on the American dream — it’s also a thematic fit for the launch of the very service on which it premiered. Taken in the context of Tidal’s debut, the lyrics “We sweat for a nickel and a dime, turn it into an empire” reinforce the notion that even — and perhaps especially — the most successful artists got where they are through toil and sacrifice. “This is the new America,” after all — where quality music doesn’t come free.

Madonna, teaser for “Ghosttown” video:

The 16-second black and white teaser for Madonna’s “Ghosttown” video features capes, top hats, over-the-knee boots, trespassing and glimpses of something resembling Satanic ritual. The song offers a creepier take on the “I’ll Stand By You”/”Never Tear Us Apart” anthem of unflappable devotion, and the video looks as though it will follow suit. Because nothing screams fidelity like burning crosses and decomposing animal carcasses.



Spotify Introduces Discount Family Plan

The Internet music company is launching a service that puts several customized, ad-free accounts on the same bill for less than the cost of multiple subscriptions.

TIME deals

Spotify Finally Introduces a Family Plan

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND—AFP/Getty Images TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SOREN BILLING: A woman uses streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Up to four family members can subscribe at a 50% discount

Spotify announced plans Monday for a steeply discounted subscription option that enables up to five family members to subscribe to the digital streaming music service under one billing account.

The new offer, Spotify Family, enables up to four family members to join an existing subscriber’s ad-free Premium account, which costs $9.99 per month, at half the price. That discount would slash a family of five’s monthly bill from roughly $50 a month to $30 a month.

“This is one of the most asked for features from our audience,” Chief Content Officer Ken Parks said in an online statement.

Spotify Family will roll out worldwide over the next few weeks, the company said. The move follows a similar half-off discount that Spotify launched for college students in March as the company aggressively works to broaden its subscriber base.

TIME FindTheBest

By the Numbers: The Streaming Music War (and Who’s Winning)

Brand awareness and listener penetration for 102 music services reveals the top 10 options.

A dozen years ago, there were several different ways to get new music, each about as popular as the next. You could keep buying individual CDs, sign up for a CD delivery service, buy tracks one at a time through iTunes, or download huge chunks of music through user-friendly services like Napster — sites that were so easy to use it barely felt like you were doing anything wrong. They all seemed like perfectly acceptable methods; it was simply a matter of which style you preferred.

Fast-forward to 2014, however, and most people are listening the same way: through streaming music services. Yes, illegal music-downloading is still rampant, but as far as legal music-listening goes, streaming services are the new fad. Even Apple—whose pay-per-song iTunes once seemed like the future—has doubled-down on iTunes Radio, its music-streaming Pandora competitor. So just how widespread is the trend?

At FindTheBest, we counted a total of 102 separate services (counting basic and premium versions separately) that let you stream music (typically) from $0 – $10 per month. If you like, you can distinguish between on-demand services (like Spotify) that let you pick each song, and radio services (like Pandora) that choose songs for you, but the overall concept is similar: unlimited music for a low monthly fee.

So how do you stand out in a field with 101 similar-to-identical competitors? It comes down to brand. We looked at brand awareness and listener penetration from a 2014 Edison Research study to determine which services are on consumers’ minds…and which aren’t. We’ll count down the top 10 services based on consumer awareness, and comment on the strengths and weaknesses for each.

For a comparison of the specific features and pricing for 13 of the most popular services, see the earlier TIME story here. To research all 102 services we reviewed, visit the music streaming topic on FindTheBest.

Note: YouTube, VEVO (music videos) and SoundCloud (a social sound creation and sharing platform) each boast over 200 million users, but none are strictly music streaming services, so you won’t see them in this countdown.

10. Last.fm

Awareness: 8% (poor)

Listening percentage*: Below 2% (very poor)

*”Listening percentage” is the percentage of people polled who have actually listened to the service.

Type: Hybrid on-demand and radio service

The gist: More of a community than a standalone service, Last.fm lets you build a profile based on your musical tastes, then helps you find new music tailored to your preferences.

What’s working: Integration with other services. Over the past six months, Last.fm has integrated with Spotify, YouTube, and VEVO, resulting in tons of new content and a giant catalog of tracks.

What’s not: Awareness and penetration. Last.fm started in 2002, back when social profile-based sites were still the hottest thing on the Internet. Today, people want plug-and-play solutions that suggest great tracks instantaneously, not (yet another) online community that takes weeks of ramp-up to really work. Fewer than 1 in 10 people know the site exists, and fewer than 1 in 20 have actually bothered to try it.

9. TuneIn Radio

Awareness: 10% (poor)

Listening percentage: 2% (poor)

Type: Radio

The gist: TuneIn Radio provides a massive, online database of radio stations and podcasts, going well beyond music into sports, news and talk. By our estimates, it’s also got one of the highest user bases on our list—with 50 million users, it ranks #5 out of the 102 services we reviewed.

What’s working: Number of users. Due to a massive selection (100,000+) of stations, TuneIn Radio has plenty of customers.

What’s not: Precise music selection. TuneIn Radio has more stations than you can ever listen to, but it lacks the smart, custom-style stations popularized by Pandora. With TuneIn, you’re less likely to find the perfect station, and more likely to bounce around.

8. Radio.com

Awareness: 14% (somewhat poor)

Listening percentage: Below 2% (very poor)

Type: Radio

The gist: Similar to TuneIn, Radio.com offers a variety of radio shows, spanning from talk to sports to music.

What’s working: A simple, memorable brand. Even though 14% awareness isn’t all that good, it’s amazing that Radio.com even scores that high, given its comparatively small penetration numbers. Competitor TuneIn Radio has more overall users, but people are actually slightly more likely to recall Radio.com when polled.

What’s not: A unique offering. Radio.com lacks a killer feature or particularly memorable interface, preventing the service from ascending in the ranks.

7. Slacker

Awareness: 14% (somewhat poor)

Listening percentage: 2% (poor)

Type: Radio

The gist: Slacker is a lesser-known, more fully-featured alternative to Pandora. By our estimates, it has 13x the songs of Pandora, but only a fifth the subscribers. There are three pricing tiers (free, $4/month, $10/month), with the priciest option being the most compelling, given the sheer number of features.

What’s working: Features. Slacker Premium Radio offers unlimited skips, offline listening, custom playlists, and crucially, the ability to replay songs — something Pandora’s music contracts simply won’t allow.

What’s not: Pricing. Slacker’s big edge over Pandora is features, but you have to pay $10/month to get the ones that really set Slacker apart. Most consumers won’t be willing to shell out the extra cash, even if they’d be getting their money’s worth.

6. Google Play Music

Awareness: 24% (decent)

Listening percentage: 3% (poor)

Type: On-demand

The gist: Google Play Music is Google’s alternative to Spotify (on-demand listening, $10/month), with 18 million available tracks.

What’s working: Android integration. Google Play Music fills a music void for Android the way iTunes supports music on iOS devices. For Android users, Google Play Music is a natural — and readily available — service.

What’s not: Awareness. The awareness numbers are actually somewhat low for a Google product, but typical for the company, it’s done little to promote a lower-priority Google service. And you can’t really blame it, given how razor-thin music streaming profit margins tend to be.

5. Spotify

Awareness: 28% (good)

Listening percentage: 6% (decent)

Type: On-demand

The gist: The industry darling, Spotify is probably the most referenced on-demand music service in the world of tech. The company offers a desktop-only, ad-supported free service and a $10/month, mobile-enabled premium service.

What’s working: Branding. In 2011, Spotify launched in the U.S. to much fanfare and positive press—Americans finally had the chance to try the popular European music service. Spotify has remained in the news off and on since then, and today, more than one in three people will recognize the brand.

What’s not: Non-premium mobile options. Without a premium subscription, Spotify’s mobile offering becomes a less-capable version of Pandora, cycling through songs radio-style instead of providing on-demand selection. For mobile-users, the (pricey) Spotify Premium is a must.

4. Rhapsody

Awareness: 40% (great)

Listening percentage: 2% (poor)

Type: Hybrid radio and on-demand service

The gist: An industry veteran, Rhapsody’s been in and out of the music press for years (most notably, as part of a 2011 merger with Napster). Its “unRadio” offering, however, is brand new, a nifty little service announced this past June in partnership with T-Mobile. At a cost of just $5/month, unRadio customers can listen to Pandora-style radio stations, but with no ads and unlimited skips.

What’s working: Awareness. Rhapsody’s been around long enough to garner an impressive 40% brand awareness, an advantage that’s particularly helpful when it comes to rolling out new services like unRadio.

What’s not: Actual use. Just 2% of people have actually listened to Rhapsody, a fairly dismal figure next to its strong awareness numbers. The T-Mobile partnership, however, has the potential to shake out a few more users.

3. iTunes Radio + iTunes Match

Awareness: 47% (great)

Listening percentage: 8% (decent)

Type: Hybrid radio and on-demand service

The gist: Apple’s music radio service is a carbon-copy of Pandora, with similar features (smart stations) and annoyances (limited skips, ads). Meanwhile, the iTunes Match service ($25/year) lets you turn all that music you stole into legitimate, cloud-based versions stored in Apple’s servers. Once you’ve matched your library, you can play those songs from anywhere on any Apple device.

What’s working: The iTunes brand. Say what you will about iTunes (ex: clunky, out-of-date), people know the name, and that’s a built-in advantage for Apple.

What’s not: Apple’s innovative spirit. Apple’s iTunes Radio is thoroughly reactive—a nervous response to the success of Spotify and Pandora. The Beats acquisition might keep the company out of real trouble, but for the time-being, it’s playing catch-up.

2. iHeart Radio

Awareness: 48% (great)

Listening percentage: 9% (decent)

Type: Radio

The gist: Combines Pandora-style genre-based radio stations with actual, live radio stations.

What’s working: Users and awareness. With 48 million users and 48% awareness, iHeart Radio is the fifth most-used and second best-known music streaming service in the industry.

What’s not: Focus. iHeart Radio attracts a wide variety of users through its giant selection of custom and live radio stations, but it doesn’t have the immediate, tangible selling points of an app like Spotify (ex: find any song) or the attractive simplicity of a service like Pandora (ex: type in a genre and sit back).

1. Pandora

Awareness: 70% (excellent)

Listening percentage: 31% (great)

Type: Radio

The gist: The classic online radio service, Pandora lets you type in a genre, album, song or artist, then plays a selection of songs it predicts you will like. Pandora is proud enough of its music-matching system that the technology has its own fancy name: the Music Genome Project.

What’s working: Despite the recent influx of competition, Pandora remains by the far the most recognized and used service, with over 75 million users and brand awareness at a remarkable seven out of ten. The radio concept itself couldn’t be simpler, but Pandora has had 14 years to build its brand and hone its matching-system, which gives the company a huge advantage over competitors.

What’s not: Number of songs. Pandora has far fewer songs (~1 million) than most of its rivals, a discrepancy that could sneak up on it as the other services get better. For the time being, Pandora can ride its strong brand, but eventually, the best products have a tendency to win out.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME wireless carriers

T-Mobile’s Unlimited Music Streaming Is the Worst for Net Neutrality

Matthew Williams -- Bloomberg / Getty Images T-Mobile CEO John Legere speaks during an event in Seattle on Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Music freedom" looks like a benefit for subscribers, and that's the most dangerous part.

Most things that T-Mobile has done over the last year have made me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but I felt a pit in my stomach on Wednesday when the carrier announced that certain streaming music services won’t count against users’ data limits.

Instead of treating all music services equally, T-Mobile has decided that the most popular streaming music services should get better treatment. If you have a limited data plan on T-Mobile, you won’t come any closer to your monthly cap when using Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, iTunes Radio, iHeartRadio, Slacker Radio and Samsung Milk Music.

This is the most insidious type of net neutrality violation, because it’s being pitched as a benefit. Most users stand to gain from the free data, so they may not even care about the slippery slope they’re on.

T-Mobile is well aware that it’s picking winners and losers, so it’s telling users to vote on other services that they’d like to make the cut. This by itself is messed up — why should I have to petition T-Mobile to give preferential treatment to a particular music service? — but it also underscores why net neutrality is so important. New or obscure streaming music services will remain at a disadvantage for as long as T-Mobile doesn’t recognize them. This, in turn, makes it harder for these services to take off, enforcing a vicious cycle.

What’s really scary is that some tech pundits don’t even see this as a problem. Ross Rubin, an analyst whose opinions I usually respect, wrote on Twitter that the free music streaming is “not really a net neutrality issue” because T-Mobile isn’t favoring any one provider or setting up a “fast lane” for chosen services. But with wireless Internet, data caps are just as important as speed limits. The incentive to use unrestricted services is just as strong.

The good news, for now at least, is that T-Mobile isn’t charging music services for uncapped data, according to The Verge. And as the smallest of the major carriers, T-Mobile doesn’t pose a huge threat to the streaming music market on its own.

But by going down this road — and getting a warm response for doing so — T-Mobile is signaling to its competitors that it’s okay to dole out preferential treatment as long as customers see a short-term benefit. Once the hooks are in, T-Mobile could easily start charging these music services for their customers’ data use, and other carriers could start doing the same. AT&T has already set up a system to allow “sponsored data,” and Verizon has expressed interest in this business model as well.

And there’s nothing you can do about it. We currently don’t have any net neutrality protections in the United States, and it’s unclear whether wireless Internet will even be included as the FCC draws up new rules that can withstand legal scrutiny. Besides, if enough people feel good about what T-Mobile is doing, it’s hard to imagine regulators getting in the way. T-Mobile tries hard to look like it’s putting an arm over your shoulder, but “music freedom” is actually more of a stranglehold.

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