How Kobalt is simplifying the killer complexities of the music industry – gpgmail


Backed by over $200 million in VC funding, Kobalt is changing the way the music industry does business and putting more money into musicians’ pockets in the process.

In Part I of this series, I walked through the company’s founding story and its overall structure. There are two core theses that Kobalt bet on: 1) that the shift to digital music could transform the way royalties are tracked and paid, and 2) that music streaming will empower a growing middle class of DIY musicians who find success across countless niches.

This article focuses on the complex way royalties flow through the industry and how Kobalt is restructuring that process (while Part III will focus on music’s middle class). The music industry runs on copyright administration and royalty collections. If the system breaks — if people lose track of where songs are being played and who is owed how much in royalties — everything halts.

Kobalt is as much a compliance tech company as it is a music company: it has built a quasi “operating system” to more accurately and quickly handle this using software and a centralized approach to collections, upending a broken, inefficient system so everything can run more smoothly and predictably on top of it. The big question is whether it can maintain its initial lead in doing this, however.

The business of a song

Image via Getty Images / Mykyta Dolmatov


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Apple Music comes to the web – gpgmail


The Daily Crunch is gpgmail’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Apple Music launches a public beta on the web

While this is the first time Apple has made its music service available on the web, the recent popularity of an unofficial website suggested that there’s some pent-up demand here.

The beta website includes most of Apple Music’s core features, but if you’re a new user looking to sign up, you’ll have to do that elsewhere, through the mobile or desktop app, for now.

2. NY attorney general will lead antitrust investigation into Facebook

In a statement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said her team “will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.”

3. Alibaba acquires NetEase Kaola in deal worth $2 billion

Alibaba-owned Tmall Global and Kaola are China’s largest and second-largest cross-border e-commerce platforms, respectively, and as a result of the deal, Kaola will be integrated into Tmall.

4. Xiaomi has shipped 100 million smartphones in India

The Chinese giant, which has held the top smartphone vendor position in India for eight straight quarters, said budget smartphone series Redmi and Redmi Note have been its top selling lineups in the nation.

5. Facebook is making its own deepfakes and offering prizes for detecting them

Facebook, Microsoft and many others are banding together to help make machine learning capable of detecting deepfakes — and they want you to help.

6. YouTube launches a dedicated Fashion vertical

The new vertical, YouTube.com/Fashion, will attempt to better organize some of the video platform’s fashion content, including style videos from top creators, industry collaborations, live streams from the runway, inside looks into the fashion industry, behind-the-scenes video and vlogs from fashion icons.

7. How early-stage startups can use data effectively

Koen Bok outlines what he’s learned from his experience using data to take design software company Framer from seed round to Series B. (Extra Crunch membership required.)


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Apple Music launches a public beta on the web – gpgmail


Apple Music is coming to the web. Apple today is launching a public beta of its popular music streaming service on the web, which will be available to all Apple Music subscribers worldwide. This is the first time that Apple Music has been officially offered on the web, though an unofficial app over the past few months has gained attention after attracting hundreds of thousands of users.

Clearly, there was some pent-up demand for a web version of the service.

To use the new Apple Music web version, subscribers can visit the link beta.music.apple.com and sign in with their Apple ID.

At launch, the service includes many core features, like searching and playing songs from the Apple Music catalog, searching and playing songs from your library (if Sync Library is enabled), accessing your playlists and more.

All the main sections from the Apple Music app will also be available, including Library, Search, For You, Browse and Radio. Other features will roll out over time as the service is further developed.

During the beta testing period, Apple will be soliciting feedback from customers as it works on the product to help it streamline features and squash any bugs.

At a later date, new users will be able to sign up for Apple Music through the website. But for the time being, you’ll need to be an existing subscriber who signed up elsewhere.

The web version is now one of several ways Apple is making its music service more accessible across platforms.

The service is already available as an app for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Mac. And at this year’s WWDC 2019 event, Apple announced its plans to dismantle iTunes on the Mac, making Music a standalone app with access to both downloads, library content and Apple Music’s streaming service.

Apple Music is also offered on non-Apple platforms, like Android, Windows, Sonos and Amazon Echo.

Cross-platform availability is essential in today’s streaming market, as Apple Music faces competition from Spotify, Pandora/SiriusXM, Amazon Music, YouTube Music and other local players.

At last count, Spotify had 108 million paying subscribers in the quarter ending in June and Apple Music topped 60 million subscribers in late June.


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Inside the Porsche Taycan’s minimalist, 911-inspired interior – gpgmail


Porsche has taken the wraps off the interior of the all-new, all-electric Porsche Taycan ahead of its world debut September 4. Gone are the buttons and the clutter. This is a minimalist and sleek interior for the modern digital age.

Porsche released several images of the interior on Thursday. Earlier this week, gpgmail was among numerous media outlets that got an up-close view of the interior (along with some other things we can’t talk about) and a chance to play around with the infotainment system.

Porsche didn’t just slap a bunch of screens in and call it a day. Here are the details and what stood out.

911 design lines

At first glance, the dashboard might give viewers a twinge of déjà vu. And they wouldn’t be wrong.

Designers used the dashboard from the 1963 Porsche 911 as inspiration. And that’s evident in the images below, which show a clean and sleek dashboard.

The 911 DNA is evident. But this isn’t some throwback. This is a modern vehicle with its own design story, which includes horizontal digital screens that are sandwiched between the upper and lower dash lines and stretch all the way over to the passenger seat.

The elevated center console stretches down from the horizontal central screen to two air vents that are not the mechanically operated louvres found in most vehicles today. Instead, the direction of the airflow is controlled digitally via an 8.4-inch touch panel located just below the central screen. This touch panel houses the climate control system and includes a track pad with haptic feedback. The trackpad can also be used for quick address inputs.

Tucked under the touch panel is a small flat space to place a wallet or phone. Two cups holders and a storage unit, which is equipped with wireless charging and two USB ports, completes the center console.

Porsche’s design team repeatedly talked to gpgmail about the emphasis on the driver. And that shows. (The design team worked on the interface alone for 3.5 years.) Although, there are plenty of passenger features here, as well. From the driver’s seat, everything is in reach and without constantly looking over to the center display. Natural voice integration courtesy of Nuance is activated by a “Hey Porsche” trigger or simply pressing the voice button on the central display or dedicated button on the steering wheel.

The minimalist design continues to the all-digital instrument cluster. This free-standing panel, which houses the instrument cluster, has a slight curve to it. Interestingly, it doesn’t have the standard cowl or lip that is often used to prevent reflection. Instead, Porsche used glass coated with a vapor-deposited polarizing filter.

Porsche-Taycan-Interior-instrument

The digital instrument cluster is the highest point of the dashboard in the Porsche Taycan

The instrument cluster

Inside the 16.8-inch cluster display, the driver will see three round instruments that display information. Drivers can customize what each of these instruments displays. Drivers also can remove the information for a more streamlined look in “pure mode.”

This pure mode displays only essential information, such as speed, navigation or traffic sign recognition (so you know what the speed limit is). Pure mode, which manages to give the interior an even more minimalist look, could be a handy and fun feature for a Taycan owner on track day.

Perhaps one of the most functional features is the map mode. The map replaces the central power meter in this mode. But it really becomes useful when “full map mode” is turned on, which extends the map across the full display. gpgmail wasn’t allowed to take photos of the interior during its visit to Porsche North America headquarters, so readers will have to imagine a digital map taking up most of the instrument cluster.

Finally, just to the left and right of the main instrument cluster, drivers will see small, touch-control fields at the edges of the screen for operating the light and chassis functions. One of these buttons is a trigger key, which lets drivers customize what it operates.

A piece of a Porsche 918

Scanning the interior, it becomes quickly obvious that the classic transmission shift selector lever is not in the center console. Looking to the right of the steering wheel and in the instrument cluster is a compact transmission shift switch — the same used in the Porsche 918.

All the screens

The Porsche Taycan has several screens. Oh, so many screens. Beyond the digital instrument cluster is a horizontal 10.9-inch central display. Directly below this is a tilted screen that houses climate control as well as a digital track pad that gives haptic feedback.

From the central screen and moving to the right is a display for the passenger. The passenger display cannot be turned on if the driver is the only one in the vehicle, according to Oliver Fritz, director of driver experience at Porsche.

Porsche is experimenting with streaming video on the passenger display. This likely won’t be available when Porsche begins delivery before the end of the year, but could be rolled out in future over-the-air software updates. For now, the company is testing technology that would prevent the driver from being able to view the screen. Fritz emphasized that this idea was still in testing and Porsche won’t roll out streaming video unless it’s sure the driver cannot see the screen.

Dark mode

Porsche designers have made “dark mode” the default in the instrument cluster and the rest of the infotainment system. That can be changed to a white background, Porsche said. gpgmail doesn’t recommend that though. The dark mode, and the ability to turn off the central 10.9-inch infotainment display and optional passenger one, should let drivers enjoy the road and escape the annoying “blue light” that emanates from so many vehicles these days.

Interior colors and leather-free options

Porsche will offer a number of color combinations in the interior, including an all-black matte look, which gpgmail viewed. The company’s design team didn’t reveal the total number of interior color combinations, but they did list a few. There will be four exclusive interior colors for the Taycan: a black-lime beige, blackberry, Atacama beige and Meranti brown. An optional interior accent package will include black matte, dark silver or neodyme, which is like a champagne gold color.

The doors and center consoles can have wood trim, matte carbon, embossed aluminum or fabric.

The company is also offering a leather-free trim interior, which includes the steering wheel. One such material is called “Race-Tex,” a microfiber material partially consisting of recycled polyester fibers. The floor covering uses the recycled fiber “Econyl,” which is made from recycled fishing nets, among other things, Porsche said.

Porsche designer Thorsten Klein was careful not to call it vegan. He told gpgmail that even synthetic materials can be treated using animal products. Porsche is pushing to source materials that don’t use these processes, but until then, the company won’t use the vegan term.

Today, Porsche uses a process called “OLEA” for tanning the leather used in the Taycan. This process uses olive leaves.

Apple Music and more

Earlier this week, Porsche announced it will integrate Apple Music into the Taycan, the first time the music streaming service has been offered as a standalone app within a vehicle.

But Apple Music is just one of the many features in the infotainment system. The user interface is laid out to always show three main buttons: home, vehicle and messages. The messages feature lists notifications coming into the vehicle. The voice feature can also be used to read these messages out loud.

Other buttons on the central screen include navigation, phone, settings, climate, news, calendar, charging information, weather and Homelink, which can be used to open the owner’s garage door.


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Mobile gaming is a $68.5 billion global business, and investors are buying in – gpgmail


By the end of 2019, the global gaming market is estimated to be worth $152 billion with 45% of that, $68.5 billion, coming directly from mobile games. With this tremendous growth (10.2% YoY to be precise) has come a flurry of investments and acquisitions, everyone wanting a cut of the pie. In fact, over the last 18 months, the global gaming industry has seen $9.6 billion in investments and if investments continue at this current pace, the amount of investment generated in 2018-19 will be higher than the 8 previous years combined.

What’s interesting is why everyone is talking about games and who in the market is responding to this and how.

The gaming phenomenon 

Today, mobile games account for 33% of all app downloads, 74% of consumer spend, and 10% of all time spent in-app. It’s predicted that in 2019, 2.4 billion people will play mobile games around the world – that’s almost one third of the global population. In fact, 50% of mobile app users play games, making this app category as popular as music apps like Spotify and Apple Music and second only to social media and communications apps in terms of time spent.

In the US, time spent on mobile devices has also officially outpaced that of television – with users spending 8 more minutes per day on their mobile devices. By 2021, this number is predicted to increase to over 30 minutes. Apps are the new primetime and games have grabbed the lion’s share.

Accessibility is the highest it’s ever been as barriers to entry are virtually non-existent. From casual games to the recent rise of the wildly popular hyper-casual genre of games which are quick to download, easy to play, and lend themselves to being played in short sessions throughout the day, games are played by almost every demographic stratum of society. Today, the average age of a mobile gamer is 36.3 (compared with 27.7 in 2014), the gender split is 51% female, 49% male, and one-third of all gamers are between the ages of 36-50. A far cry from the traditional stereotype of a ‘gamer’.

With these demographic, geographic, and consumption sea-changes in the mobile ecosystem and entertainment landscape, it’s no surprise that the game space is getting increased attention and investment, not just from within the industry, but more recently from traditional financial markets and even governments. Let’s look at how the markets have responded to the rise of gaming.

Image courtesy of David Maung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Games on Games 

The first substantial investments in mobile gaming came from those who already had a stake in the industry. Tencent invested $90M in Pocket Gems and$126M in Glu Mobile (for a 14.6% stake), gaming powerhouse Supercell invested $5M in mobile game studio Redemption Games, Boom Fantasy raised $2M from ESPN and the MLB and Gamelynx raised $1.2M from several investors – one of which was Riot Games. Most recently, Ubisoft acquired a 70% stake in Green Panda Games to bolster its foot in the hyper-casual gaming market.

Additionally, bigger gaming studios began to acquire smaller ones. Zynga bought Gram Games, Ubisoft acquired Ketchapp, Niantic purchased Seismic Games, and Tencent bought Supercell (as well as a 40% stake in Epic Games). And the list goes on.

Wall Street wakes up

Beyond the flurry of investments and acquisitions from within the game industry, games are also generating huge amounts of revenue. Since launch, Pokemon Go has generated $2.3B in revenue and Fortnite has amassed some 250M players. This is catching the attention of more traditional financial institutions, like private equity firms and VCs, who are now looking at a variety of investment options in gaming – not just of gaming studios, but all those who had a stake in or support the industry.

In May 2018, hyper-casual mobile gaming studio Voodoo announced a $200M investment from Goldman Sachs’ private equity investment arm. For the first time ever, a mobile gaming studio attracted the attention of a venerable old financial institution. The explosion of the hyper-casual genre and the scale its titles are capable of achieving, together with the intensely iterative, data-driven business model afforded by the low production costs of games like this, were catching the attention of investors outside of the gaming world, looking for the next big growth opportunity.

The trend continued. In July 2018, private equity firm KKR bought a $400M minority stake in AppLovin and now, exactly one year later Blackstone announced their plan to acquire mobile ad-network Vungle for a reported $750M. Not only is money going into gaming studios, but investments are being made into companies whose technology supports the mobile gaming space. Traditional investors are finally taking notice of the mobile gaming ecosystem as a whole and the explosive growth it has produced in recent years. This year alone mobile games are expected to generate $55B in revenue so this new wave of investment interest should really come as no surprise.

A woman holds up her cell phone as she plays the Pokemon Go game in Lafayette Park in front of the White House in Washington, DC, July 12, 2016. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Government intervention

Most recently, governments are realizing the potential and reach of the gaming industry and making their own investment moves. We’re seeing governments establish funds that support local gaming businesses – providing incentives for gaming studios to develop and retain their creatives, technology, and employees locally – as well as programs that aim to attract foreign talent.

As uncertainty looms in England surrounding Brexit, France has jumped on the opportunity with “Join the Game”. They’re painting France as an international hub that is already home to many successful gaming studios, and they’re offering tax breaks and plenty of funding options – for everything from R&D to the production of community events. Their website even has an entire page dedicated to “getting settled in France”, in English, with a step-by-step guide on how game developers should prepare for their arrival.

The UK Department for International Trade used this year’s Game Developers Conference as a backdrop for the promotion of their games fund – calling the UK “one of the most flourishing game developing ecosystems in the world.” The UK Games Fund allows for both local and foreign-owned gaming companies with a presence in the UK to apply for tax breaks. And ever since France announced their fund, more and more people have begun encouraging the British government to expand their program saying that the UK gaming ecosystem should be “retained and enhanced”. But, not only does the government take gaming seriously, the Queen does as well. In 2008, David Darling the CEO of hyper-casual game studio Kwalee was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to the games industry. CBE is the third-highest honor the Queen can bestow on a British citizen.

Over to Germany, and the government has allocated 50M euros of its 2019 budget for the creation of a games fund. In Sweden, the Sweden Game Arena is a public-private partnership that helps students develop games using government-funded offices and equipment. It also links students and startups with established companies and investors. While these numbers dwarf the investment of more commercial or financial players, the sudden uptick in interest governments are paying to the game space indicate just how exciting and lucrative gaming has become.

Support is coming from all levels

The evolution of investment in the gaming space is indicative of the stratospheric growth, massive revenue, strong user engagement, and extensive demographic and geographic reach of mobile gaming. With the global games industry projected to be worth a quarter of a trillion dollars by 2023, it comes as no surprise that the diverse players globally have finally realized its true potential and have embraced the gaming ecosystem as a whole.


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Shazam data is powering Apple Music’s newest chart, the Shazam Discovery Top 50 – gpgmail


Apple continues to make use of Shazam, the music recognition app it acquired for $400 million in 2018. Earlier this month, Apple publicly launched its Music for Artists dashboard which included insights powered by Shazam data. Today, Apple announced that Shazam data will also now power a new Apple Music chart: the Shazam Discovery Top 50.

The chart will feature a weekly global ranking of the top 50 artists on the move and their trending track, based on Shazam data.

The Shazam app today has been downloaded a billion times and sees 20 million “Shazams” per day — that’s the number of times a user pushes the button to identify a song that’s playing. These Shazams will now be used to identify tracks that are poised for a breakout.

This is a different sort of metric than a traditional music chart would use, as it’s not a reference to how many downloads, purchases or streams a song has — instead, it lends itself more to insights about up-and-coming artists.

That said, the chart may include a variety of songs at different points in their lifecycle. The majority may be emerging artists, but some songs may be experiencing a burst of momentum for other reasons. To rank on the chart, the song could be demonstrating a pattern of moving quickly through Shazam’s charts, rapid growth, steady growth, or it may be growing geographically, the company says. Of all of the above.

The new Apple Music chart will feature songs that are trending in the U.S. and over 10 other countries.

This isn’t Shazam’s first foray into music charts by any means. Today, you’ll find Shazam online offers a Top 200 chart for the U.S., various other countries, and as a global top chart, in addition to a 10-song “Discovery” chart for the U.S. and a smaller subset of other markets.

The Discovery Top 50 for Apple Music doesn’t currently match up with the online version of the Discovery chart, which may be related to the timing of its updates.

The launch of the new chart is another confirmation as to why Apple wanted to bring Shazam in-house — not for its nifty parlor trick of music recognition, but rather for the data it acquires on trending music. This gives Apple another means of competing with Spotify, whose own Artist dashboard launched exited beta back in 2017, giving it a big head start on serving artists and musicians with insights.

The new Shazam chart is being highlighted today in the Browse tab of the Apple Music app on iOS and Mac, and elsewhere in the app.

 


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Porsche is integrating Apple Music into the all-electric Taycan – gpgmail


Porsche said Monday it will integrate Apple Music into its upcoming all-electric Taycan sports car, the first time the music streaming service has been offered as a standalone app within a vehicle.

The announcement illustrates the latest efforts by Porsche to focus on digital entertainment in its vehicles as well as its further alignment with Apple.

The Apple Music integration will begin with the hotly anticipated Taycan. However, the relationship between Apple and Porsche won’t end at there, Porsche North America CEO Klaus Zellmer told gpgmail.

Apple CarPlay, an app that brings the look and feel of an iPhone to the vehicle’s central screen, is already offered in new Porsche models, a list that will include the Taycan. And like the rollout of Apple CarPlay, a fully integrated Apple Music app will eventually make its way into the rest of the Porsche lineup.

The intention is to give all Porsche customers the “same bandwidth of services,” he said, adding that Apple Music will be introduced into new vehicles that have the technology to integrate the streaming services. It was a sentiment echoed in a statement by Porsche AG board member Detlev von Platen.

For now, the partnership between the two companies will give Taycan owners access to Apple Music — and its 50 million songs, Beats 1 live streamed radio station and curated playlists — through the vehicle’s touchscreen display or its voice assistant. Apple Music, which costs $9.99 for an individual membership, recently surpassed 60 million subscribers.

The integration means more than an Apple Music app icon popping up on the Taycan’s digital touchscreen. The company wanted the experience to be seamless, meaning no wonky sign-ins, phone pairing or separate accounts. Instead, Porsche is linking an owner’s Apple ID with their Porsche Taycan ID. Apple Music content in the Taycan will be identical to what’s on the user’s iPhone app.

Apple Music in the Taycan can also be accessed via Porsche’s voice assistant, which will let users request songs, albums, playlists, or radio stations.

New and existing Porsche owners will be given a free six-month subscription to Apple Music, another hint that the integration will eventually reach other vehicles in the German automaker’s portfolio.

Once that period expires, owners will have to pay for the streaming service. Although if Taycan owners reflect Porsche’s larger U.S. customer base, it’s possible that many already have a subscription. More than 80% of the U.S. Porsche customers also have iPhone, Zellmer told gpgmail.

Porsche said it will also give Taycan owners three years of free in-car internet.

“None of our customers will have to worry about data consumption while streaming,” Lars Buchwald, director of sales and marketing at Porsche Connect for Porsche AG, said during an event Monday at Porsche’s North America headquarters in Atlanta.

Apple is a natural fit for Porsche, Zellmer said, noting that the brands of the two companies are closely aligned with their parallel focus on design, technology and innovation.

Both brands also share a closed system ethos. For instance, Porsche doesn’t support open source-based Android Auto, the competitor to Apple CarPlay. And while that doesn’t mean Apple Music will be the only app ever integrated into the Taycan or other Porsche vehicles, they will likely be few and far between.

“Generally speaking, we always want to be in control of that system for privacy reasons,” Zellmer said. “We don’t want our customers to be approached with marketing or advertising messages that are not relevant or adequate. We will always be very cautious about whom we grant access to our digital ecosystem in our cars. Another reason why Apple is our partner is because they have exactly the same attitude.”


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Apple Music for Artists comes out of beta with an iOS app and Shazam data – gpgmail


Apple Music launched its data dashboard for musicians more than a year ago. Today, the company is taking that product — Apple Music for Artists — out of beta, and adding some new features in the process.

For one thing, it’s no longer a web-only product, because Apple is releasing an iPhone app. On both web and iOS, Apple Music for Artists allows musicians and their teams to see how often a song has been played, how many listeners it’s reaching and how many times it’s been purchased.

There’s also an “insights” section designed to highlight noteworthy data at any given moment, like how the first week of a new song compares to the first weeks of previous songs, or when the popularity of a song is spiking, or if they’ve hit a big milestone like 1 million plays.

Apple is also introducing data from Shazam, the music-recognition app it acquired last year. The idea is to capture listener behavior that’s very different from seeking out an artist or a specific song — it’s more about a moment of spontaneous connection, when you hear a song and think, “Whoa, what’s this?” (This also provides a window to behavior beyond Apple Music listeners.)

One of the goals is to give musicians the data they need to actually guide their decisions. For example, they might see that a song that’s not many plays compared to their big singles, but it’s doing surprisingly well on Shazam — so maybe it’s time to shift promotion.

And the data is also browsable by city, on a map. So if someone’s planning a tour, they can use this to data to choose which cities or visit, or to find the correct venue size in a given market.

Apple says all the data (including Shazam data) goes back to the launch of Apple Music in 2015. Any artist can claim their account for free.


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Earbuds lets audiences stream the playlists of athletes, entertainers and each other – gpgmail


Earbuds, a new startup from Austin founded by former Detroit Lions lineman Jason Fox, wants to bring the power of social media to your eardrums.

The company is one of a growing number of startups trying to rejuvenate the music streaming market by combining it with social networking so that audiences can listen to the playlists of their favorite athletes and entertainers… and their friends.

For Fox, the idea for Earbuds sprung from his experiences in the NFL, watching how other players interacted with crowds and hearing about the things fans wanted to know about their favorite players’ routines.

“We were playing Caroline in the first game of the season and Cam Newton was warming up right next to me,” Fox recalled. “He was jamming. Getting the crowd into it. And I was thinking there’re 85,000 people here and millions of more people watching at home…  And I thought… how many people would love to be in his headphones right now?”

Earbuds founder Jason Fox

It wasn’t just Cam Newton who received attention. Fox said at every press conference one or two questions would be about what songs teammates played before games. On social media, players would take screenshots of their playlists and post them to platforms like Twitter or Instagram, Fox said.

The company has been out in the market in a beta version since February and has focused on lining up potential Earbuds devotees from among Fox’s friends in the NFL and entertainers from music and media.

“We made a decision to tweak something and make it very very heavily around influencers because that’s what’s really driving traffic for us,” Fox says. 

Screen Shot 2019 08 07 at 5.44.50 PM

Image courtesy of Earbuds

At its core, the app is just about making music more social, according to Fox. “There’s a social platform for everything, but in the days of terrestrial media distribution music has remain isolated,” he says. 

Logging on is easy. Users can create a login for the app or use their Google or Facebook accounts. One more step to link the Earbuds app with Spotify or Apple Music (the company offers one month free of the premium versions of either service to new users) and then a user can look for friends or browse popular playlists.

A leaderboard indicates which users on the app have streamed the most music and users can create their own streams by adding songs from their libraries to build in-app playlists.

Earbuds isn’t the first company to take a shot at socializing the music listening experience. The olds may remember services like Turntable.fm, which took a stab at making music social but shut down back in 2013. Newer services, like Playlist, are also combining social networking features with music streaming. That site focuses on connecting people with similar musical tastes.

Fox thinks that the ability to attract entertainers like Nelly (who’s on the app) and athletes could be transformative for listeners. Basically these artists and athletes can become their own online radio station, he says.

Fox spent nearly a year meeting with streaming services, music labels, athletes, artists and college students (the app’s initial target market) before even working with developers on a single line of code. The initial work was done out of Los Angeles, but after a year Fox moved the company down to Austin and rebuilt the app from the ground up to focus more on the user experience.

Early partnerships with Burton on an activation had snowboarders streaming their music as they rode a halfpipe proved that there was an audience, Fox said. Now the company is working on integrations across different sports and even esports.

Fox raised a small friends and family round of $630,000 before putting together a $1.5 million seed to get the app out into the market. Now the company is looking for $3 million to scale even more as it looks to integrations with sports teams and other streaming services like Twitch (to capture the gaming audience).

The company currently has seven employees.

Earbuds is available on iOS.

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