Category Archives: Tech

The Spotify Playlist Problem

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.49.56Let me start this article by saying that I love Spotify. Great company, great team – and lately, rather ironically given the naysaying of Thom Yorke et al, emerging as something of a potential music industry saviour when you look at the machinations of Google, Amazon and other tech giants, who seem fairly intent on driving the value of music down to zero. So, to summarise: I’m a big fan.

Having said that, I feel there’s an awkward question that has to be asked, namely: why, in Spotify’s Browse section, are 99.9% of the playlists Spotify’s own?

If you’re not familiar, Browse is the “uninformed” discovery section – the editorial area where Spotify can push playlists of its choosing. At the top are more day-to-day relevant playlists, and further down are various mood-related starting points which then offer a variety of playlists to choose from.

Here’s the Browse section today (click to enlarge):
Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.53.40

Of all the playlists shown there, only the BBC’s Playlister one in the centre isn’t made by Spotify.

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Revisiting the Facebook reach debate

facebook_logoThe debate around Facebook Pages and their organic reach has been ongoing for years now, but it always spikes again when Facebook themselves cop to the fact that organic reach is changing or that their algorithm has changed in some manner.

The latest development is an apparent admission on Facebook’s part that Pages will now see organic reach drop to “between 1-2%”. For what its worth, previous organic reach was around 6%, and two years ago I remember telling bands I worked with that 10% was probably a sign things were going well – anything more than 10% would be a bonus. So, let’s be clear: Facebook organic reach has never been all that great.

Now though as we drop nearer and nearer to a zero figure, it rightly leaves many wondering why they bother. Just last week, Eat24 announced they were deleting their Facebook Page citing the hopeless reach as a factor.

I certainly sympathise. Let’s be clear: I’ve never been of the view that we all deserved unlimited reach with our Pages. However the ideal always felt like a balance of sorts, with day-to-day posts achieving decent reach (provided they were good) and ‘milestone’ posts (which in the context of bands would mean new single/video/album/tour) getting promoted to ensure maximum reach not just to fans but to broader audiences too. There was logic to this: it ensured a good flow of decent content to fans (which in turn kept them on the site, thereby benefiting Facebook as well) whilst also ensuring that Facebook would see money for promoting those key posts to broader audiences.

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Got an Android device? Using Google Music? Then get this app:

Cast to UPnPI stumbled on this app the other day, and its a fine example of someone taking Google’s infrastructure (in this instance its Play Music app and the Android platform) and making something pretty awesome.

So what’s the app? Titled (rather un-sexily) Cast To UPnP/DLNA for GMusic, the app turns your Android device – and specifically the Play Music app – into a UPnP/DLNA host. In plain english, this means you can play your music from your phone (and this includes the All Access streaming part of Play Music) to any UPnP/DLNA receiver – like your Xbox360, a Sonos, XBMC etc etc.

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Nevermind Apple TV or Chromecast – buying an Android TV stick is a complete no-brainer

mk808bLike most geeks of my ilk, I have a few devices that plug into my TV and connect me to the net. With my Apple TV I can watch Netflix and do various others things. Having jailbroken it, I can also run XBMC now, which finally makes the device more worthy of its pricetag. Elsewhere I have an Xbox 360 which can also stream Netflix, and additionally can stream Sky, BBC iPlayer and various other on-demand services. Generally, that’s the one that sees the most use here.

Lately though, something else has eclipsed both – and frankly is proving such good value for money that it beats even that Raspberry Pi in the “so cheap it’d be mad not to buy one” stakes: an MK808B Android TV stick.

What’s an Android TV stick? In short, its a tiny dongle-like mini-computer with an HDMI socket, bluetooth, wifi and two USB sockets. It plugs directly into your TV and turns it into an experience similar to that on an Android tablet. And the price? Just £33 – including delivery.

Here’s the thing: Apple TV, Xbox, Roku and various other devices of their ilk are all closed platforms in one manner or another. You can only run the apps that they permit onto their platform. Android, on the other hand, has an infinitely wider number of apps available and as such leaves them all for dead when it comes to beefing your TV experience up. YouTube, VEVO, Netflix, Spotify, Rdio, TuneIn Radio, Google Music, Google Movies, XBMC, Skype… you name it, the Android TV stick can run it. You can even add in support for beaming content from your phone to the TV (e.g. to show a photo) Its really quite incredible.

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Why music discovery services fail for me

"Music discovery needs to be socia..." "ENOUGH!"Music Discovery remains a very hot topic at present, and the most notable entrant to the market of late has been Soundwave. I met their CEO at Hard Working Class Heroes in Dublin last year, and was impressed by the proposition. So, when it finally launched recently, I was all over it. In using it though, something occurred to me: an important fact which I think exposes the flaw in many of these new music apps and services.

I don’t particularly care what my friends are listening to.

Soundwave makes the same mistake that Spotify did with their Facebook firehose: I simply don’t need to know what my friends are listening to all the time, any more than I need to know what clothes they’re wearing or what apps they have running on their computers at the moment.

Here’s the thing: every music service (or feature) seems to start with a default position of involving some kind of social element. But my experience with music isn’t social most of the time; its actually highly personal. All of this got me thinking about what kind of music service I’d like to see, so I thought I’d spec it out here.

1.It must nurture and develop my relationship with music
First and foremost, any music service has to focus on my own relationship with music. I want it to surface content of interest across ALL the artists I listen to. Think about this. It would seem most music discovery services are all about the new. We all like to find new music of course, but what about the existing artists I already know and love? I want something that will find rarities I may have missed: songs, remixes, live performances… all those things that in pre-internet days I strived hard to find (often buying in bootleg form or paying over the odds for as the item was so rare). My point here is that my relationship with music does not lie solely with discovering new bands; a huge part of it is about discovering more from those bands I already like.

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