5 questions for… Auddly, targeting the source of music creation

Auddly essentially logs metadata around the creation of a song, in a centralised database. But more than this, it offers collaboration and information tools: it’s a kind of Sharepoint for songs, which takes a creative project from an idea to the finished article.

Many disputes come from the very early days of a song — where a bunch of collaborators become embroiled in the song production process, it can be hard to keep track of who was involved in what. So Auddly offers song section management tools, enabling agreement between participants as you go along. Then finished songs can be shared with a publisher, pitched to a label, uploaded to the cloud and so on.

So, does it deliver on its objectives? I spoke to Niclas Molinde, who has partnered with songwriters Max Martin and Björn Ulvaeus on Auddly, to talk about what it brings for songwriters and the broader industry.

1. Why does Auddly exist — what problem does it set out to solve?

I started Auddly out of a clear need. I’m a songwriter/producer, so I know what it is like to be a passionate music maker: what matters is what comes out of the speakers. But this also needs to generate an income. If someone uses your music, you will want to get a piece of the pie. The average song today has 4 song writers, I’ve seen one with 19. The beauty of copyright is that everyone can have an opinion, but if there’s any disagreement, if the data is missing or wrong, the money ends up in the wrong pockets.

For example, an artist or writer could get more money than they should, as a streaming service is not aware more songwriters exist. Or the money can end up in a black box, circling around and eventually ending up in settlements which get divided up by the big companies. This is the challenge Auddly is looking to address.

A few years ago, myself and a colleague wanted to start a collaboration with three 3 really talented young songwriters. The normal way to do this is to start a publishing company — so, for the first time ever, I was a publisher talking to creators. All I needed was who they wrote with, the name of the song, and the ‘split’ — how royalties should be allocated. I suddenly realised how bad I had been at doing this, with my publisher!

If I want to make sure we are all paid, we need the right information. Not just by itself, but to link this to other information from other sources. In this collaboration, it became a full-time job (and of course, it’s worse for the big publishers). I went online to find a system for this, but couldn’t find anything. Everything started from there.

2. How did you approach Auddly in terms of both product and getting it out there?

The idea behind Auddly is to capture data from the creators, who are the only people who know the truth about what they are creating. Traditionally, you ask creators once a song is out on the market, but then it’s too late. You have to capture this early, from the studio.  We created the platform so we don’t force creators to talk about splits in the room. You can discuss the split when you are ready, and log the information directly. All creators are using phones, so that’s the obvious place to do it.

Having faced this situation, I decided to develop a platform for myself. I didn’t know anything about the tech side, so when I spoke to a system developer, he said, “It’s going to be huge, why don’t you do it for whole industry?” That’s where it started! This situation has evolved dramatically, now we’re not trying to affect one company or country, we are trying to change industry internationally by setting the standard for how data is captured.

In terms of outreach, I had a brilliant start, as my first partner was Max Martin. When I spoke to him, I found he has same problem in his publishing company, this led to Björn Ulvaeus from Abba so I had an amazing start. From all my years working in the music industry, I have learned it’s all about politics. I knew that me by myself wouldn’t be enough to reach out, so the strategy to involve Max and then Björn was a great help. With that team, we started to try to sell to the industry.

3. What are Auddly’s biggest challenges — does it require mass adoption to be successful?

We are different to many music startups, in that we are in it to make change happen for creators. The majority of startups are focused on post-release but very few are working on creation process before it goes out to release.

Our first goal is to become a standard for the industry, then we have succeeded — my shareholders want to see big change. Of course, commercial success for the platform would make it a double win.

A significant challenge has been the creators themselves — as soon as you mention rights, they glaze their eyes, it’s a subject they don’t want to talk about! But in the next sentence they complain they don’t get paid properly. I spoke to one creator about his other job as a waiter, he said it was very important for him to fill in his time reports. That’s it, I said, we’re the time reports for the song writing process!

Another challenge has been engaging with the music rights management ‘bloc’ — publishers, performing rights organisations (PROs) and so on. They don’t want to distract people from making music, but at same time this bloc knows how messed up the system is right now. Industry rights management is based on 4 codes, which need to be in harmony. At the moment, codes are not linked and matched but if the information was clean from the beginning, then it would be much more transparent.

4. What’s happening right now in Auddly’s world?

There’s a lot of things happening right now. We are focusing on PRO collaboration, plus engagement with digital streaming providers such as Spotify and Apple Music. This is very important as streaming providers want to be able to add credits to their songs, which helps them deliver their services. It’s a win-win, as then creators see more revenue. All this can be achieved with the creator using our platform 20 seconds after they create.

We are also, finally starting to get major support, e.g. with the PROs such as PRS For Music. As I’ve said, these organisations are very important to us.

5. How will things map out over 1, 2, 5 years?

The big vision is to become a standard platform for all the metadata in the studio: to achieve this, we need to get to a few milestones which we’ve set out as how is a song is created.

– First the songwriters — publishers and PROs are important here.

– Second the recording — so, the labels and managers

– And next, mastering — which is where streaming services come in.

We put a lot of effort to get all of these organisations engaged, but our main focus is to get to creators — these will always be the ones who know the truth about what they are doing. For this, we see education as hugely important. Today 50% of the world’s population has access to streaming, when this gets to 80% there will a great deal of money in the industry, but the rights management world is not prepared or that.

Education to creators is going to be hugely important, so we started the Music Rights Awareness foundation, whose main purpose is to inform and educate creators about music rights and to prepare the next generation. I try to get as many partners involved in this. Many creators don’t know the difference between a recording and a composition, for example. They shouldn’t have to know everything, but we want to make it simple and easy to create.

6. Bonus question — what’s your desert island disc?

I would take if I only took one CD to a desert island, well… I would have to say Sting. The soundtrack to Leaving Las Vegas with Nicholas Cage is an album I enjoyed so much, I would without a doubt take that one.

My take

Writing songs is both the easiest, and the hardest thing in the world. Getting the creative process right can be is like trapping mist in the middle of a scrum — so it’s understandable that just doing it becomes the absolute focus. At the same time, not logging who was involved in what can lead to financial loss, the disputes that emerge years down the line (only if a song has been successful) come from not spending a little bit of time on what goes around a song.

Auddly is trying to make it possible to capture both the spark of creativity and the boring metadata that goes around it. Behind it all is a big ask — to get creators to do “the boring bit that gets you paid.” This will need not only simple tools, but also a critical mass of expectation across the industry.

Like cycling helmets, this is possible but it requires a great deal of education and support particularly among younger creatives, who may doubt the possibility of anything they do ever achieving success (“Aw, man, why do we have to deal with that stuff right now, can’t we just get along?”).

This being said, to have an accepted standard for data format, and then potentially for accepted best practice, is a very important step in the right direction. As the number of creators continues to broaden, this problem isn’t going to go away. We didn’t talk about initiatives such as Ethereum which of course play a part — there is nothing technological stopping the right answer, at the right time, becoming de facto and therefore solving this continuing challenge.

With StageLight, Android finally gets a serious music editing app

One big reason you don’t find many audio editing options on Android is due to the operating system not being great when it comes to latency (aka when audio is slightly delayed during recording). But with the launch of Open Labs‘ new Stagelight app on Android, that should get a bit better.
Stagelight initially launched as a Windows audio editing app that could be used by everyone from casual music makers to professionals, an alternative to GarageBand for those without a Mac. It provides an easy interface to create or mix tracks, and even offers original sound libraries (for a fee) from popular artists such as Linkin Park and Timbaland, both of whom are part owners. You can import audio you’ve recorded and pretty quickly test different beats and sounds from those libraries within the Stagelight platform. Therefore, the move to Android was a natural next step that was previously held back by the last few versions of the OS not being ideal for recording, according to Open Labs founder Cliff Mountain.
“When we first started testing Stagelight on Android we realized there was 0.5 to 2 seconds of latency on some devices,” Mountain told me. “If you can imagine trying to tap out a beat, you couldn’t tap and keep up in time because the output latency would throw you off.”
In simpler terms, it would be like trying to learn an entirely new song with a band whose individual members were between one and two seconds behind what you were playing. But with release of Android Marshmallow, that isn’t the case. Open Labs worked with both Google and Intel to fine tune Stagelight’s ability to perform on par with other pro audio editing apps.

A list of all the lessons Stagelight offers for people that aren't familiar with making their own tracks.

A list of all the lessons Stagelight offers for people that aren’t familiar with making their own tracks.

The Stagelight Android app, which launches today, is initially available as a free download, much like its Windows application. The free version will let users create new tracks, and offers tutorials for those who aren’t very familiar with how to make a song on the platform. Premium versions of Stagelight range from $10 to $100 and allow users to save tracks, share or upload music to sites like SoundCloud, use better looping tools, gain access to larger sound libraries, and more.
Even more than fixing the latency issues, Mountain said bringing Stagelight to Android will help further the company’s goal of getting people more comfortable with making music.
“We want to free the music. We know people have music inside them,” Mountain said. “When you walk into a room full of people and ask who enjoys music, everyone raises their hand. But if you ask how many enjoy making music, it’s usually only a subset… because there is a [preconceived] idea that producing music is difficult. It doesn’t have to be.”
Building a track on the Stagelight platform.

Building a track on the Stagelight platform.

For Americans, this might not be as much of an issue — or maybe my worldview is biased having grown up in Nashville “Music (Business) City,” Tennessee (and having many friends graduate college with a degree in recording industry management). Internationally, there is a much bigger opportunity for a good music creation/editing on Android, especially for Stagelight, which is available in 127 countries. That’s also something Open Labs part owner Joe Hahn of Linkin Park agrees with, telling Gigaom via email that the band: “…has 63 million fans on Facebook and most of those fans are international. We know from research that most people outside of the U.S. use Android phones, so we encouraged Open Labs to develop Stagelight for Android so that everyone has a chance to use this amazing music tool.”
Open Labs said eventually it would like to add more features that allow users to share their work, as well as the ability to save audio editing projects to the cloud to make better use of Android’s mobility.

Pandora acquires Rdio for $75M in cash

Pandora has agreed to acquire key assets from Rdio, a streaming music service that competes with Spotify and similar products, for roughly $75 million in cash.
That’s more than $50 million less than Rdio raised across six rounds of venture financing, according to Crunchbase. Pandora said in a press release that the final figure might change because it’s subject to “certain purchase price adjustments.”
Pandora will acquire Rdio’s technology and talent but not the operating business — which means the Internet radio company won’t be delving into the on-demand streaming business the moment it acquires the portions of Rdio that interest it.
Instead, the company said it plans to “offer an expanded listening experience by late 2016” depending on its ability to “obtain proper licenses.” Pandora, in other words, will give itself some time to assimilate Rdio before it takes on Spotify. (Rdio said it’s service won’t be affected today, but will offer updates on the status in the near future.)
On an investors call following the announcement, Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews said the company opted to purchase Rdio’s assets rather than building it from scratch because Pandora had already determined that it’s strategy was to eventually offer an on-demand component. As such, buying the assets allow Pandora to move quicker, he added.
The deal is a further sign of consolidation in the music streaming market. Apple spent $3 billion on Beats last year, and is shutting down the Beats Music service at the end of the month. Grooveshark, another streaming service, closed in April.
Yet the streaming music market will remain crowded despite that consolidation. Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music, Google Play Music, Deezer, Tidal, and other services will continue to vie for attention in this oversaturated space.
This is the second major acquisition for Pandora in the last few months, with the first being a $450 million purchase of ticketing business Ticketfly. Between Ticketfly and the presumably soon-to-launch on-demand component of Pandora, hopefully it’ll be enough to keep it competitive with the slew of rivals.
Investors, however, don’t seem to be very impressed by the development, as Pandora’s stock is essentially flat slightly in after hours trading.

Spurred by Apple’s Beats 1, Dash Radio grows to 3M subscribers

Having Apple launch what’s essentially a copycat version (Beats 1) of Dash Radio’s human-curated digital radio service didn’t cause founder Scott Keeney (aka DJ Skee) to lose confidence in what his startup was doing. Instead, he estimated that Apple’s entrance as a competitor would be more positive than negative.
That was nearly six months ago. Since then, Keeney’s words have proved true, with Dash Radio doubling the total number of subscribers to more than 3 million. Dash told Gigaom that 2.5 million of those are active subscribers, or users that spend an average of 30 minutes per session listening to one of its 65+ human-programmed radio stations over the course of a month. (The company didn’t reveal how many sessions per month its users have, however.) Dash said it hasn’t spent much to market the service to drive that growth since launching, which I believe. The startup has only raised $2 million in seed funding to date, and doesn’t monetize with traditional advertising or monthly paid subscriptions.
Dash Radio initially launched in 2014 after Keeney became disillusioned with the compromises both terrestrial and satellite radio were making to support advertising. Because of this, radio has been pronounced dead by many people over the years, especially with the rise of Internet-connected cars with preloaded music services like Spotify, Pandora, and Rdio.
You’d think radio was dead, too, if every listening experience you had over the last decade was basically circling through several genre-themed music stations — all of which present listeners with a guided list of approved or recommended songs from big labels, intermixed with periodic commercial breaks featuring irritating audio ads and DJs who sound like they’re paid minimum wage when on the air. That means streaming music services that simulcast terrestrial radio broadcasts aren’t much better. On top of that, there are now plenty of free streaming alternatives that offer greater control over the listening experience.
But those popular streaming services don’t really recapture the thing that made radio great in the pre-Internet era of music, according to Keeney. And casual human curation via shared playlists (a popular staple of Spotify) also falls short. “People don’t have time (or even want) to sit down and create a playlist with all the appropriate music,” he said, adding that most streaming services just feel hollow when you don’t know exactly what you want to hear.
Part of that is due to control. Dash Radio lets you switch stations, but that’s all the control you get over the content. You can’t skip, pause, or influence the playlist on Dash. The stations themselves are programmed by well-known artists (Snoop Dogg, Odd Future), magazines, celebrities, long-time radio personalities, and folks who are just really good at directing you towards interesting music.
But alas, Dash still needs to make money somehow. To do that, the service is focused on a mix of different revenue sources including a white-label version of its platform for celebrities and brand-sponsored stations. Both of those efforts also add value to Dash in the form of curated content that’s available in the station line up. For instance, the most recent example is a Halo 5: Guardians brand station from Microsoft, which features cinematic music tracks from Halo.
The next phase of growth for Dash Radio will largely involve partnerships to increase its distribution in connected vehicles, smart TVs, smart home audio systems, and other devices that cater to those looking for streaming music services. Dash also wants to extend an olive branch to music labels to potentially generate revenue.
“We think there’s a place for the labels, the big streaming services, and in future updates you’ll even see [integrations] that let you save or add songs you hear from a station on Dash,” Keeney said. “But we think radio curated by real people is still the best way to discover new music and hold your attention.”

Facebook debuts streaming-focused ‘music stories,’ with help from Spotify & Apple Music

It’s been a while since the world’s largest social network gave any attention to music, but today it’s making another attempt.
Facebook introduced a new post format today called “music stories” that allows its users to listen to 30-second previews of songs their friends share from Apple Music or Spotify. People who like what they hear will also be able to add the song to their streaming libraries or purchase the track via iTunes.
“We hope by making this experience better, artists will share more, friends will share and engage more, and music will become a better part of the Facebook experience overall,” Facebook director of product Michael Cerda said in a blog post. The feature is currently limited to Facebook’s iPhone app.
These new music stories are limited in their scope. The songs will be streamed via the service from which they were shared. And at least for now, all interactions will be limited to those two services. This means someone who likes a song shared from Spotify is screwed if they prefer Apple Music and vice versa.
There are also many other streaming services — Deezer, Rdio, Pandora, Slacker, 8Tracks, Tidal, and probably a dozen others I can’t remember — that aren’t supported with this feature. I suspect that won’t bother most Facebook users, the majority of whom probably use Spotify or Apple Music, but it’s still likely to irk some.
The feature is reminiscent of Twitter’s #Music service, which tapped Rdio and Spotify to allow its users to listen to music shared by their networks. That service wasn’t long for this world: Twitter reportedly considered pulling the plug on it six months after its debut, and it was shut down in April 2014.
Facebook’s music stories are probably longer for this world. The company hasn’t yet built an entire service around streaming music — it’s just made it easier for people to listen to the songs their friends already share. That’s a far lower commitment to the category than a standalone service like #Music was.
That said, it will be interesting to see how this affects streaming music services that aren’t supported by the new format. How many music stories will Rdio or Tidal users have to see before they sign up for Apple Music? How many songs will Deezer subscribers listen to before jumping ship to Spotify?
If music really is as social as Facebook imagines — and the company is often right about what people are sharing to its network, thanks to the vast amount of data it collects and parses every day — this could make a big difference to people whose friends and family all use a different streaming music service.
Or perhaps it will lumber about without making much difference to most people. If #Music taught us anything, it’s that even though music is a social experience, it’s not necessarily a social networking experience. There’s a difference — Facebook’s about to find out exactly how much that matters.

Pandora’s move into music event ticketing

On October 7th Pandora announced that it was buying a live music ticketing company, Ticketfly, for $450 million. Part of the rationale was said to be to create “the most effective marketplace for connecting music makers and fans.”
How important is live music today?
Live music represents approximately 64% of the US music industry revenue. For some period of time it was possible for artists to survive on record/CD sales alone (a trend you could say the Beatles started in 1966), but the pendulum has swing back, so now almost all artists are relying on their live music revenue. That probably makes sense in the world of streaming today, where popular artists and hit songs make only pennies from streaming services. The number of megastars touring is key to the headline success of any given year, but most nights most venues don’t have Taylor Swift, and smaller bands on the rise need to find their audience to keep going.
Who goes to music concerts?
Unfortunately for promoters most people, even the self described “active concert goer,” do not actually go to very many gigs in a given year. Live Analytics (part of Ticketmaster) suggested that the average 25-45 year old goes to 3.6 concerts per year (compared to 200+ restaurant visits).  Sports enthusiasts go to more events. Music has it tougher than sports for a variety of reasons, in particular no season tickets, and no predictable scheduling. You don’t know months in advance about a cool band’s one gig in town, which ends up coinciding with your anniversary dinner, but you do know the schedule of the Raiders home games.
Discovery: But I don’t know any of the current bands…
One of the advantages that Pandora can bring to the table is a well tested recommendation capability. It is not that hard for promotors to sell U2 or One Direction tickets, but Pandora knows the bands that are similar to the mega stars you like. “Listening to early Springsteen- check out The Hold Steady,” for example. They can show you the bands you don’t know well, who are coming to town, where you might find tickets a few days in advance, and would not have found out about otherwise.
Advertising: How do people find out about concerts?
It turns out that one of the most common ways for people to find out about great concerts is to hear their friends say “I went to this great gig last night.” IMG_20111114_130429This is perhaps one of the more subtle challenges a concert promoter faces. If you are trying to reach occasional purchasers of a product, who typically are not searching for “the next Surfer Blood gig,” (so search ads are inefficient) how do you do it? It used to be that fans looked at the back of the local newspaper (Village Voice, The Stranger etc) for gigs and maybe they saw something interesting. Those papers are dying, and local web services do not seem to be picking up that scenario. Pandora and similar services are reaching people at the time they are engaged — listening to the music for 20 hours a month — lots of opportunities to find a few bands playing locally that might fit a genre a customer is listening to.
Opportunity: Do all concerts sell out?
Live Nation, one of the US’s leading concert promoters, sees 40% of music tickets going unsold. They are working on CRM solutions and other customer engagement solutions, but unless you are in front of the potential concert goers a lot of the time, like a streaming service, it’s hard to keep people engaged in an activity they do once a quarter, at best.
Net- it makes complete sense for Pandora to be selling music tickets. It will be interesting to see how they integrate the ticketing solution into the core recommendations based experience over time, especially for their best customers, the Pandora One subscribers.

What Apple Watch does, in Tim Cook’s own words

On Monday, Apple will officially launch the Apple Watch, its first completely new product since the iPad was introduced in 2010 as well as its first major launch under CEO Tim Cook. Gigaom will be covering what Apple has in store live from the Yerba Buena Center on Monday.

But Apple actually introduced us to the Apple Watch back in September, and since then, Cook has spoken about the smartwatch several times in public. When he gets on stage in San Francisco on Monday to introduce Apple’s “most personal device ever,” some of what he’s going to cover will be new, and some of it he will have said prior, during the past six months as he’s been honing his Apple Watch pitch.

Here’s what to expect from Apple Watch, from Tim Cook, the boss of Apple himself (read it in a smooth-as-molasses southern drawl.)

On features

Apple CEO Tim Cook shows off the new iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple CEO Tim Cook shows off the new iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

I use mine to control my Apple TV. Another member of the team loves to use theirs as a viewfinder for their iPhone camera. Still another loves the walkie-talkie ability.

 iPhone 6 keynote, September 2014

And so I constantly use Siri with my watch, and ask different things, and all of a sudden, y’know, it’s just there. You can do things like get notifications across your watch.

And if you’re interested in keeping up with the sports score to the financial markets to whatever it is, it’s like this, the Watch knows you’re looking at it, and it comes on. If I’m not looking at it, the Watch is off.

I sit for too long, it will actually tap me on the wrist to remind me to get up and move. Because a lot of doctors believe that sitting is the new cancer, right? And arguably activity is good for all of us. And so if you haven’t moved within the hour, ten minutes before the hour it’ll tap you. 

And I think one of the biggest surprises people are going to have when they start using it is the breadth of what it will do.

Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, February 2015

And so with a Bluetooth headset, you can run and listen to your music without your iPhone.

Interview with Charlie Rose, September 2014

You can make a call from the Watch… You can interface with Siri. Siri with this point comes back in a textual mode, but we’d like to do something different with that over time. But it’s cool for all of us, but I think it is going to be profound for some people.

Comments at Berlin Apple Store, reported by 9to5Mac, February 2015

The watch is designed to be able to replace car keys and the clumsy, large fobs that are now used by many vehicles, Cook told The Telegraph.

Reported by The TelegraphFebruary 2015

On accuracy

We set out to make the best watch in the world, one that is precise, it’s synchronized with the universal time standard and it’s accurate within plus or minus 50 milliseconds.

iPhone 6 keynote, September 2014

On needing an iPhone

It requires an iPhone, yes, because they’ve been designed to work together… however, if you go for a run, and you don’t want to carry your iPhone, music is also in your watch.

Interview with Charlie Rose, September 2014

Apple Watch requires the iPhone because it’s been designed to seamlessly work together, like with Handoff where you might read an email on your watch and then respond to it on the iPhone, the email appears right in the lock screen of your iPhone.

iPhone 6 keynote, September 2014

On health and fitness 


So if you’re just someone who wants to be a bit more active, or maybe you just want to track what you’re doing during the day, or perhaps you exercise regularly, or even if you are a very serious athlete, Apple Watch helps you live a better day.

We have two new applications in Apple Watch. The first is the fitness app. The fitness app monitors all of your activity and movement throughout the day. And the second is the workout app. The workout app allows you to set specific goals for specific types of workouts, like cycling or running.

iPhone 6 keynote, September 2014

So this is yet another way to begin to build a comprehensive view of your life, which should empower you to take care of yourself over time, and when you need help, it empowers you to take certain data to your doctor to get help from them.

Interview with Charlie Rose, September 2014

Apple Watch… also includes comprehensive health and fitness apps that can help people lead healthier lives.

Internal memo, September 2014

I use it in the gym constantly to track my activity level, my exercise, how long I’m exercising.

Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, February 2015

On charging

Photo by Tom Krazit/Gigaom

Photo by Tom Krazit/Gigaom

We’re using inductive charging, it has a magnet and it aligns perfectly to the back of the watch, it is so simple and elegant. 

iPhone 6 keynote, September 2014

We think people are going to use it so much you will end up charging it daily.

Interview at Wall Street Journal conference, October 2014

On how Apple Watch is like the iPod

If you think about the, for those of you can remember, the MP3 industry, before the iPod — we weren’t the first company to make an MP3…. And so I see the smartwatch category very much like that. There are several things that are called “smartwatches” that are shipping, but I’m not sure you could name any. Maybe you could. I’m not sure the audience could name very many. But certainly there’s been none that have changed the way people live their lives.

Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, February 2015

On apps

Now as we showed you last month, we have been working with selected third-party developers on Apple Watch. Like BMW, like American Airlines, like Starwood, and they’ve created some really unique personal experiences for Apple Watch.

Apple Special Event, October 2014

Developers are hard at work on apps, notifications, and information summaries that we call Glances, all designed specifically for the Watch’s user interface.

My expectations are very high on it. I’m using it every day, and loving it, and I can’t live without it. And so I see that we’re making great progress on the development of it. The number of developers that are writing apps for it are impressive and we’re seeing some incredible innovation coming out there.

Apple Q1 earnings conference call, January 2015

On why it’s not a pair of glasses

We always thought that glasses were not a smart move, from a point of view that people would not really want to wear them. They were intrusive, instead of pushing technology to the background, as we’ve always believed.

 Comments reported by the New Yorker, February 2015

On Apple Watch being Apple’s most personal device ever

Apple Watch is the most personal device Apple has ever created.

iPhone 6 keynote, September 2014

The next chapter for us is about personal devices, about something that’s even more personal than what we had before. And I think the watch is a great place to start that.

Interview with Bloomberg, September 2014

And of course, we unveiled our most personal device ever with Apple Watch.

Internal memo, September 2014

The second new category [after Apple Pay] is Apple Watch, our most personal device ever

Apple Q4 earnings conference call, October 2014

Of course, I am talking about Apple Watch. It’s the most personal device we’ve ever created.

Apple special event, October 2014

In September, we gave a glimpse of the future with Apple Watch, our most personal device ever.

Internal memo, December 2014

Courtesy of Apple

Courtesy of Apple

On early sales and expectations

(Apple Watch revenue will be reported in the same category as Accessories, iPods, Apple TV, and Beats) But for now, in Q1, we’re not shipping any iPhone — excuse me, Apple Watches. And so it seems appropriate to start it that way. It also — to be also straight, is — I’m not very anxious in reporting a lot of numbers on Apple Watch, because of the — and giving a lot of detail on it because our competitors are looking for it. And so aggregating it is helpful from that point of view, as well.

Apple Q4 earnings conference call, October 2014

With things that are new, it’s not like a movie, where you can look at that first weekend and draw the line… What did the iPhone do on the first weekend? You don’t remember. Does it matter?

Interview with Bloomberg, September 2014

On price

Apple Watch starts at only $349.  

iPhone 6 keynote, September 2014

I think $349 is an incredibly low price for the value that we’re delivering.

Interview with Bloomberg, September 2014

 Tim Cook Unveils iPhone 6 and Apple Watch

Snapchat hiring journalists to become its own publisher

Not content to rely on major brands for its new media exploration section, Snapchat is also planning on making its own according to a new report by Digiday.

The company will produce high quality video, images, and text for people to view in the Discover tab. Theoretically, it will provide more content for Snapchat’s advertiser partnerships. Furthermore, it will help the company establish itself as a place to consume content, so it doesn’t just have to rely on its partners creating media specifically for Snapchat. As previously reported, the company is working with CNN, Vice, Buzzfeed, and a whole host of others to help them tailor content for its upcoming Discover section.

The company has been snapping up journalists for the endeavor, which explains why long time social reporter Ellis Hamburger left The Verge for Snapchat in November. According to their LinkedIn profiles, blogger Nicole James, videographer Matt Krautstrunk, Dom Smith, and CJ Smith, former MTV producer Greg Wacks, and even animator Kyle Goodrich will be joining him.

I’m curious to see what they create. Snapchat’s disappearing, finger holding format doesn’t naturally lend itself to media consumption. These people will have to get creative if they want Snapchat to become a second screen.

The recent leaked news of a soured Snapchat deal with Vevo, to create its own record label, also makes more sense now. It suggests that the company will look towards creating its own entertainment content in addition to — perhaps — journalistic. Music videos and comedy sketches are likely to be a better fit for the younger crowd then CNN reports.

Snapchat isn’t the only tech company pursuing a platisher (publisher meets platform) approach. Medium has faced criticism for its similar approach, and as Digiday pointed out Tumblr’s former platisher efforts failed spectacularly in 2013.

Neil Young: Pono won’t be a hardware company for long (video interview)

Neil Young’s high-definition audio startup Pono just started selling its Pono player, but the music legend told me during an interview at CES in Las Vegas Wednesday that he sees Pono getting out of the hardware business sooner rather than later. Asked whether Pono wants to continue to make its own hardware, Young said: “Not really. This is just so people can see what can be done. I would welcome the chance to have another company make this player.”

Young went on to say that he’d be happy to share Pono’s technology with other companies, and license the Pono brand. “It can say ‘certified Pono’ or it can say ‘branded Pono’. Those are the two things we offer, and neither of them are very expensive,” he explained.

Check out the full interview with Young:


Young said that he first thought about building the Pono when the MP3 format became popular around the turn of the century. He then started building a prototype four or five years ago. Young went on to announce Pono with an appearance on Letterman in 2012, but it took the company quite a while to actually get the product ready and out of the door.

In that process, Pono went through a number of CEOs, and is now officially headed by Young himself. Asked about that process, Young said: “It’s been difficult, we’ve made mistakes. But we are still here.”


Thom Yorke made as much as $20M from his BitTorrent experiment

As part of its mission to convince the music industry that it isn’t just for copyright infringers, BitTorrent launched a new product in 2013 called “Bundles,” which allow musicians and other artists to combine free downloads with paid products. One of the most high-profile figures to experiment with this feature last year was Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, who used it for his new album — and not only did he become the most legally-downloaded BitTorrent artist in 2014, but he may have made as much as $20 million.

What makes those kinds of numbers even more impressive is that Yorke didn’t launch his album bundle, called Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, until the end of September. By October — according to a comment on Twitter from an editor with Billboard magazine — the bundle had already been downloaded over 4 million times, and a year-end retrospective from BitTorrent says that the total number of downloads was 4.4 million.

When he released the album, Yorke said in a statement that he hoped the bundle would become an alternative to traditional music releases for more artists, saying it could prove to be “an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work [and] bypassing the self elected gate-keepers.”

Thom Yorke BitTorrent bundle

The paid portion of the bundle, which included seven songs, cost $6 to download — meaning the total amount of revenue generated by the project could be as high as $26 million. Since BitTorrent gives 90 percent of the income from its bundles to the artist, that means Yorke could have made almost $24 million from the album. That’s far more than he likely would have made releasing it using almost any other traditional method.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple, as a number of music-industry watchers have pointed out: the $26-million revenue figure assumes that everyone who downloaded the bundle paid for it. But bundles also include free downloads — in Yorke’s case, a song and a video. And BitTorrent allows the artist to decide whether to release the exact breakdown of free vs. paid, something that Yorke has chosen not to do, according to BitTorrent’s head of content strategy Straith Schreder.

Whatever the actual breakdown of paid vs. free is, however, more than 4 million downloads is still a big number, and if even half of those who downloaded it paid $6 for the bundle then Yorke still made a substantial amount of revenue with very little overhead. It certainly makes BitTorrent’s bundle program look pretty good compared with other distribution methods such as iTunes, which takes a 30-percent cut of the proceeds.

Update: Glenn Peoples of Billboard magazine estimates that Yorke probably made between $1 million and $6 million on his album, based on the likely number of people who paid for it rather than just getting the free track. The low number is based on the proportion of users who pay for Pandora.