Wednesday January 28, 2015 8:57 am PST by Joe Rossignol
Sony announced on Wednesday that it will be shutting down its Music Unlimited on-demand streaming music service ahead of launching Spotify on PlayStation Music. Music Unlimited will shut down in all 19 countries it operated on March 29, 2015, with nearly all of the countries among the 41 regions that Spotify for PlayStation Music will be available upon launch, including the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil.
Music Unlimited launched in December 2010 on PlayStation Network in several countries worldwide, and the service was later extended to iPhone [Direct Link], Android, PlayStation Vita and other devices and platforms. In February 2011, it was reported that Sony viewed Music Unlimited as a potential iTunes Store alternative and that it was considering pulling music from Apple's platform if its own service became successful.
"If we do [get mass take up] then does Sony Music need to provide content to iTunes?" Mr Ephraim asked. "Currently we do. We have to provide it to iTunes as that's the format right now."
"Publishers are being held to ransom by Apple and they are looking for other delivery systems, and we are waiting to see what the next three to five years will hold."
The on-demand streaming music landscape has gone through significant change in the past three years, however, and Music Unlimited failed to remain competitive with industry leaders such as Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and Beats Music. Music Unlimited users with active subscriptions will continue to have free access to the service through the March 29 closing date.
Tuesday January 13, 2015 6:28 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
Apple has seemingly ended its weekly iTunes "Single of the Week" promotion that gave out a free music single download each week on the iTunes storefront. As noted by Business Insider, a member of the Apple discussion forums claims an Apple support employee informed him the company decided to drop the weekly promotion.
I contacted iTunes Support and they told me the decision was made to drop the free Single of the Week. Seems they don't want people browsing the Store anymore. I told them that the free single each week got me to the Store and I usually bought a few songs. Now, there's less reason to go. They've stopped the free single in other countries too.
The "Single of the Week" promotion began in 2004, and in a similar vein to Apple's "App of the Week" promotion on the App Store, it gave out free singles every week from artists and bands of varying genres and popularity. Though forum user Bob Foss' confirmation of the promotion's end remains unverified, Apple also recently decided to end its annual "12 Days of Christmas" iTunes Store giveaway.
Volunteers in our forums have tracked the free iTunes Store content in several countries for a number of years, but the 2015 music thread remains empty as evidence of Apple's apparent decision to cancel the promotions.
Friday December 5, 2014 6:39 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
A few weeks out from Christmas, Apple has turned on nearly a dozen holiday-themed iTunes Radio stations that offer a variety of genres from sing-a-longs for kids to old seasonal classics.
The ten stations include: Children's Christmas Holiday Sing-Along, Country Holiday, Classical Holiday, Holiday Classics, Holiday Hits, Latin Holiday, Rockin' Holiday, Soulful Holiday, Swingin' Holiday and The Sounds of Christmas.
Only a handful of the stations are readily available in the Featured Stations section on the front of the iTunes Radio tab, but all of them can be found with a quick search.
iTunes Match subscribers can listen to the stations ad-free, as per usual, but non-subscribers can expect occasional advertisements between songs.
The Christmas themed stations can be added to users' My Stations lists now, in iTunes on Mac and PC, and in the Music app on iOS. iTunes Radio remains available only in the United States and Australia, despite rumors of additional "early 2014" expansions.
Monday December 1, 2014 8:31 am PST by Kelly Hodgkins
Apple this week is scheduled to appear in court and face accusations that it deliberately crippled competing music services and players in an iPod class action lawsuit from 2005, reports The New York Times. The trial will feature testimony from Steve Jobs, whose emails and a videotaped deposition taken before his death will play an important part in the plaintiffs' case.
The complaint focuses on Apple's older iPod models, which only supported music purchased on iTunes and songs downloaded from CDs. Also being disputed is Apple's FairPlay system of encoding purchased music, which limited music playback to the iPod and not competing MP3 players. In the suit, consumers claim Apple violated antitrust law by deliberately limiting interoperability with competitors, while exclusively promoting its products and services.
The email testimony is expected to paint Steve Jobs as an aggressive businessman who worked hard to ensure the success of the iPod and iTunes. This success often came at the expense of smaller competitors, which were not allowed to connect to Apple's popular iPod ecosystem. In one already released email, Jobs addresses Apple's lack of support for the-then upcoming MusicMatch music store.
"We need to make sure that when Music Match launches their download music store they cannot use iPod," he wrote. "Is this going to be an issue?"
Part of the case also involves Apple's interactions with RealNetworks, which devised a workaround in 2004 that allowed content from its music store to be played on the iPod. In an angry statement released to the media, Apple accused RealNetworks of hacking the iPod and threatened to disable this functionality in future iPod software updates.
To counteract Jobs' testimony, Apple is expected to argue that updates to the iPod and iTunes were designed to improve the platform for the consumer and not cripple competing devices. The company also likely will point out that the price of the iPod has gone down over the years, despite Apple's alleged monopolistic behavior.
Monday October 20, 2014 7:25 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
As previously reported, Apple plans to relaunch its recently acquired Beats Music subscription early next year and hopes to offer the service with with a lowered monthly cost. According to new "industry scuttlebut" relayed to Re/code, Apple is pushing music labels to cut streaming music subscription prices in half to $5 per month.
The logic of Apple’s argument, relayed by people who’ve heard the pitch secondhand: Apple’s best iTunes buyers spend about $60 a year on downloaded music — $5 a month. So if subscription services dropped that low, any download buyers that switched over to the streaming model would generate just as much revenue for the music labels. And, more important, the market of potential subscribers would get much larger.
Any reduction offered to Apple would be available to other services, making it less likely music industry executives would approve of a 50 percent discount. Re/code notes Apple will more likely meet the music labels in the middle with a monthly fee in the range of $7-8.
While Apple negotiates the terms for its Beats Music streaming service, rival Spotify is upping the ante with a new Spotify Family plan. Similar to Rdio's Unlimited Family plan, Spotify Family allows a premium subscriber to add up to four additional members for $4.99/month each, a 50 percent discount off the regular $9.99 individual premium plan. Spotify announced the family plans today and will roll then out globally in the coming weeks.
Thursday October 16, 2014 3:54 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Alongside OS X Yosemite, Apple today released iTunes 12.0.1, a revamped version of iTunes that’s been designed with OS X Yosemite in mind. iTunes 12.0.1 can be downloaded from the Mac App Store and is available for both Mavericks and OS X Yosemite.
iTunes 12 offers an elegant new design that incorporates translucency to improve depth. It also has a streamlined toolbar that aims to give users more room to experience content, and it melds the iTunes Store with the Library, making it easier to navigate between personal collections and what’s available in the store.
There are dedicated icons for music, movies, and TV shows, and Recently Added albums, movies, and TV shows are displayed at the top of the library for easy access.
iTunes 12 also includes support for several iOS 8/Yosemite features, including Family Sharing, and it brings improved playlist editing as well.
Wednesday September 24, 2014 7:31 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
In a first for streaming music, Pandora, Spotify and Apple's Beats Music are among the leaders in App Store revenue as customers increasingly subscribe to the services using in-app purchases. According to data provided by App Annie and published by Billboard, the music services were among the top ten revenue generators for all non-game applications in the iOS App Store during the month of August.
Internet radio service Pandora lead the trio, maintaining its number 2 spot in iOS App Store revenue. Spotify climbed seven spots from number 14 in July to number 7 in August, while Apple's Beats Music moved up two spots to slide into the top ten at the number 9 slot.
All three services offer free apps that allow customers to purchase a subscription using an in-app subscription option. Pandora offers access to its paid Pandora One plan ($4.99 monthly), while Spotify allows users to pay $12.99 a month for its ad-free, offline premium subscription. Beats Music provides two options, allowing users to choose between $9.99 monthly access or a yearly subscription for $99.
Apple introduced in-app subscriptions a few years ago to iOS 6. As part of the App Store payment process, the company takes a 30 percent share of all in-app subscription revenue.
Thursday September 18, 2014 6:10 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
Apple and U2 have a long history of working together, producing a special edition U2 iPod in 2008 and more recently releasing the band's latest album, "Songs of Innocence," for free. According to Time, Apple and U2 reportedly now are collaborating on a new music format that will boost digital music sales.
Details on the music format or the secret project surrounding it were not revealed, but U2's Bono says it will help musicians sell more of their music.
Bono tells TIME he hopes that a new digital music format in the works will prove so irresistibly exciting to music fans that it will tempt them again into buying music—whole albums as well as individual tracks. The point isn’t just to help U2 but less well known artists and others in the industry who can’t make money, as U2 does, from live performance. “Songwriters aren’t touring people,” says Bono. “Cole Porter wouldn’t have sold T-shirts. Cole Porter wasn’t coming to a stadium near you.”
Digital music sales are declining as consumer interest in online streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora grows. According to Nielsen SoundScan data from the first half of 2014, digital album sales fell 15 percent year over year, while digital track sales fell 13 percent. At the same time, streaming music increased 42 percent.
In the U.S., iTunes currently is the market leader for digital music downloads, but Apple is not blind to the steady decline in these digital music sales. The company launched the Pandora-like iTunes Radio along with iOS 7 and recently purchased Beats Music for $3 billion.
Friday September 12, 2014 9:55 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
As part of its iPhone 6 and Apple Watch announcement, Apple featured U2's latest "Songs of Innocence" album, making it the company's biggest album release ever by providing the title to 500 million iTunes customers for free. The album and its lead single "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" are the cornerstone of an upcoming marketing campaign by Apple that is worth an estimated $100 million, although the deal has received some criticism from users who do not wish to have the album added to their iTunes accounts and in some cases automatically downloaded to their devices.
But the deal is a significant one by any measure, and Billboard Magazine sat down with U2's new manager Guy Oseary to talk about the deal and the band's future plans with the Cupertino company.
In the Billboard interview, Oseary shot down criticism that the deal was disruptive to the music industry and detrimental to other artists, arguing that the release is a "big concept" and should serve to inspire other musicians to innovate in their own way.
Well first of all, when music becomes a piece of the conversation at an Apple event, that’s always a good thing. Two is, the power of music and the fact that it can actually be shared with 7 percent of the planet in one push of a button. That’s a pretty big concept. Any sort of innovation may inspire other people to do things that are innovative. We may see someone sitting with another manager, or another band going, "Hey, what can we do that's interesting maybe with our lyrics or our videos or something interactive with the ticketing to our shows?"
Oseary also confirmed that the Apple-U2 deal is a "long-term relationship", with the parties working together to promote innovation in music.
We're working on other things as well with Apple that have to do with how music is heard and innovation, with [iTunes VP of content] Robert Kondrk leading that charge. There’s a lot of things still to come that are really interesting. The band really wants people to engage with albums, they want them to support the art form of artwork and lyrics and video content and just get into their music in a much different way than an MP3 file.
Focusing on the deal itself, Oseary stopped short of confirming that Jimmy Iovine played a role in negotiating the deal, saying only that the Beats co-founder and now Apple employee has long been "a source of support and guidance" for the band. Given Apple's long-standing interest in music and its dominant position that has been threatened in recent years by subscription services, Iovine has been viewed as a key reason for the Apple-Beats deal for his extensive relationships within the music industry.
Thursday July 10, 2014 9:24 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
Apple today released iTunes 11.3, including several improvements to iTunes Extras, including new features for HD movies. This new content will be added automatically to previously purchased iTunes movies for free.
Alongside the launch of iTunes 11.3, Apple has also announced that the Apple TV is finally supporting iTunes Extras with the 6.2 software update released late last month. The first-generation Apple TV supported iTunes Extras, but the feature was lost when Apple revamped the Apple TV back in 2010.
Finally, Apple has also announced that iTunes Extras will be coming to iOS with the public release of iOS 8, which is slated for this fall.
iTunes 11.3 includes all-new iTunes Extras for HD movies. iTunes Extras can include behind-the-scenes videos, short films, high-resolution image galleries, director's commentary, scenes, and more. These immersive iTunes Extras can also be enjoyed on Apple TV with Software Update 6.2 now, and will be available on iOS 8 this fall.
New iTunes Extras will be automatically added to your previously purchased HD movies as they become available - at no additional charge.
iTunes 11.3 can be downloaded from the software update tool in the Mac App Store or Apple's iTunes web page.
Update: Apple has added a feature page [iTunes Store] to the iTunes Store highlighting iTunes Extras and compatible movies. The page also includes a promotional video for iTunes Extras.
Monday June 16, 2014 8:07 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
A growing number of complaints on Apple's Support forums suggest there is an ongoing problem with Apple's iTunes Match service. According to the posts in multiple threads, the service times out when users try to upload new tracks for matching by Apple's iTunes servers.
"I've been using iTunes Match for about a year and a half and have started experiencing a new problem in the last couple of days. I've added a few new tracks to my library over the last couple of days and have attempted to "Update iTunes Match." However, the matching process is stalling out at the end. It looks like it's just about to finish but then it never does, " writes Apple Support forum member Ryan Hargrove.
The issue apparently began on June 9/10th and is still affecting users almost a week later. Various attempts to fix the issue by updating iTunes, restarting the computer and more were unsuccessful.
"This started today. It was working fine. I have deleted my entire library and I can't even get one song to go through. Thoughts? I've been working with this all day. I have uninstalled iTunes, downgraded iTunes, upgraded iTunes again. Finally, I erased all data...Libraries...playlist data, etc.. I'm extremely frustrated now. I had synced about 4,000 songs since September and it had been working fine," writes Apple Support forum member ExileAtkins.
Apple has not acknowledged the problem, with its System Status page still showing that all iTunes services are fully operational. Further tests by affected users and MacRumors staff suggest the problem may only involve tracks that are not included in Apple's iTunes library. These self-recordings and Indie music tracks appear to stall during the upload process, while recognized songs are matched without issue.
We have reached out to Apple for comment and are awaiting a reply. Since this problem is likely a server issue on Apple's side, affected users will have to wait until Apple addresses the issue internally.
Friday February 28, 2014 9:13 pm PST by Husain Sumra
Apple's iTunes chief Robert Kondrk met with record label executives during Grammy Week in January about the potential of more exclusive album releases, like Beyoncé's iTunes-exclusive album last December, according to Billboard.
Apple Inc.’s music chief Robert Kondrk has been pressuring major labels for releases similar to last year's Beyonce exclusive, excluding services like YouTube and Spotify to help shore up slowing download sales, according to music executives familiar with the conversations.
While digital music track sales fell from 1.34 billion units to 1.24 billion units in 2013 due to the rise of streaming services like Spotify and YouTube, Beyoncé's album sold 1 million copies globally in a week iTunes alone.
Kondrk is using the album's success to sell label executives on the prospect of exclusively releasing albums on digital storefronts like iTunes. He told executives the exclusives don't have to be limited to iTunes as long as they weren't on streaming services like Spotify. The move would be to preserve sales on digital storefronts.
Finally, Kondrk asked executives if they could lock down individual track sales until after a certain window of time, which would then allow users to purchase individual music tracks and listen to albums on streaming services. This is in stark contrast to Steve Jobs' sell of unbundled legal access to music when the iTunes Music Store was introduced in 2003.
In January, it was reported that digital music sales declined year-over-year for the first time since the opening of the iTunes Music Store as more users opt for streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and iTunes Radio.
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