Spotify is falling behind on lyrics and voice

Spotify’s lack of full lyrics support and its minimal attention to voice are beginning to become problems for the streaming service. The company has been so focused on the development of its personalization technology and programming its playlists, it has overlooked key features that its competitors – including Apple, Google, and Amazon – today offer […]

Spotify’s lack of full lyrics support and its minimal attention to voice are beginning to become problems for the streaming service. The company has been so focused on the development of its personalization technology and programming its playlists, it has overlooked key features that its competitors – including Apple, Google, and Amazon – today offer and are now capitalizing on.

For example, in the updated version of Apple Music rolling out this fall with iOS 12, users won’t just have access to lyrics in the app as before, they will also be able to perform searches by lyrics instead of only by the artist, album, or song title.

And Apple Music is actually playing catch up with Amazon on this front.

Amazon Music, which has quietly grown to become the third largest music streaming service, allows users to view the lyrics as songs play, and ties that to its Alexa voice platform. Amazon Music users with an Alexa device can also search for songs by lyrics just by saying “play the song that goes…”.

The company has been offering this capability for close to two years. While it had originally been one of Alexa’s hidden gems, today asking Alexa to pull up a song by its lyrics is considered a standard feature.

Though Google has lagged behind Apple, Spotify and Amazon in music, its clever Google Assistant is capable of search-by-lyrics, too. And as an added perk, it can also work like Shazam to identify a song that’s playing nearby.

With the rise of voice-based computing, features like asking for songs with verbal commands or querying databases of lyrics by voice are now expected features.

And where’s Spotify on this?

It has launched lyrics search only in Japan so far, and refuses to provide a timeline as to when it will make this a priority in other markets. Even tucked away in the app’s code are references to lyrics tests only in the non-U.S. markets of Thailand and Vietnam.

Those tests have been underway since the beginning of the year, we understand from sources. But the attention being given to these tests is minimal – Spotify isn’t measuring user engagement with the lyrics feature at this point. And Spotify CEO Daniel Ek wasn’t even aware his team was working on these lyrics tests, we heard, which implies a lack of management focus on this product.

Meanwhile, competitors like Apple and Amazon have dedicated lyrics teams.

We asked Spotify multiple times if it was currently testing lyrics in the U.S. (You can see one person who claims they gained access here, for example.) But the company never responded to our questions.

Image credit: Imgur via Reddit user spalatidium

Some Spotify customers who largely listen to popular music may be confused about the lack of a full lyrics product in the app. That’s because Spotify partnered with Genius in 2016 to launch “Behind the Lyrics,” which offers lyrics and music trivia on a portion of its catalog. But you don’t see all the song’s lyrics when the music plays because they’re interrupted with facts and other background  information about the song, the lyrics’ meaning, or the artist.

That same year, Spotify also ditched its ties with Musixmatch, which had been providing its lyrics support, as the two companies could no longer come to an agreement. There was expectation from users that lyrics would return at some point – but only “Behind the Lyrics” emerged to fill the void.

Demand for a real lyrics feature remains strong, though. Users regularly post on social media and Reddit about the topic.

A request for lyrics’ return is also one of the most upvoted product ideas on Spotify’s user feedback forum. It has 9,237 “likes,” making it the second-most popular request.

(The idea has been flagged “Watch this Space,” but it’s been tagged like that for so long it’s no longer a promise of something that’s soon to come.) There is no internal solution in the works, we understand, and it’s not working on a new deal with a third-party at this time.

 

The lack of lyrics is becoming a problem in other areas, as well, now that competitors are launching search-by-lyrics features that work via voice commands.

In fact, Spotify was late, in general, to address users’ interest in voice assistance – even though a primary use case for music listening is when you’re on the go – like, in the car, out walking or jogging, at the gym, biking, etc.

It only began testing a voice search option this spring, accessible through a new in-app button. Now rolled out to mobile users on Spotify Premium, the voice search product works via a long-press on the Search button in the app. You can then ask Spotify to play music, playlists, podcasts, and videos.

But the feature is still wonky. For one thing, hiding it away as a long press-triggered option means many users probably don’t know it exists. (And the floating button that pops up when you switch to search is hard to reach.) Secondly, it doesn’t address the primary reason users want to search by voice: hands-free listening.

Meanwhile, iPhone/HomePod users can tell Siri to play music with a hands-free command; Google Assistant/Google Home users can instruct the helper to play their songs – even if they only know the lyrics. And Amazon Music’s Alexa integration is live on Echo speakers, and available hands-free in its Music app.

Even third-party music services like Pandora are tapping into the voice platforms’ capabilities to provide search by lyrics. For example, Pandora Premium launched this week on Google Assistant devices like the Google Home, and offers search-by-lyrics powered by Google Assistant.

Spotify can’t offer a native search-by-lyrics feature in its app, much less search-by-lyrics using voice commands option, because it doesn’t even have fully functional lyrics.

Voice and lyrics aren’t the only challenges Spotify is facing going forward.

Spotify also lacks dedicated hardware like its own Echo or HomePod. Given the rise of voice-based computing and voice assistants, the company has the potential to cede some portion of the market as consumers end up buying into the larger ecosystems provided by the main tech players: Siri/HomePod/Apple Music vs. Google Assistant/Google Home/Google Play Music (or YouTube Music) vs. Alexa/Echo/Amazon Music (all promoted by Prime).

For now, Spotify works with partners to make sure its service performs on their platforms, but Apple isn’t playing nice in return.

Elsewhere, Spotify may play – even by voice – but won’t be as fully functional as the native solutions. With Spotify as the default service on Echo devices, for example, Alexa can’t always figure out commands that instruct it to play music by lyrics, activity, or mood – commands that work well with Amazon Music, of course.

Other cracks in Spotify’s dominance are starting to show, too.

Amazon Music has seen impressive growth, thanks to adoption in four key Prime markets, U.S., Japan, Germany and the U.K.. With now 12% of the music streaming market, it has become the dark horse that’s been largely ignored amid discussions of the Amazon vs Spotify battle. But it’s not necessarily one to count out just yet.

YouTube Music, though brand new, has managed to snag Lyor Cohen as its Global Music Head, while Spotify’s latest headlines are about losing Troy Carter.

Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook just announced during the last earnings call that Apple Music has moved ahead of Spotify in North America. He also warned against ceding too much control to algorithms, in a recent interview, making a sensible argument for maintaining music’s “spiritual role” in our lives.

“We worry about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft,” Cook mused.

Apple was late to music streaming, having been so tied to its download business. But it also had the luxury of time to get it right, knowing that its powerful iPhone platform means anything it launches has a built-in advantage. (And it’s poised to offer TV shows as a part of its subscription, too, which could be a further draw.)

How much time does Spotify have to get it right?

Despite these concerns, Spotify doesn’t need to panic yet – it still has more listeners, more paying customers, and more consumer mindshare in the music streaming business. It has its popular playlists and personalization features. It has its RapCaviar. But it will need to plug its holes to keep up where the market is heading, or risk losing customers to the larger platforms in the months ahead.

Apple Music introduces a classical section curated by Deutsche Grammophon

Apple Music has launched a curated channel dedicated to classical music. Created by one of the most prominent classical music labels in the world, Deutsche Grammophon, the new section features performance videos, audio albums, and three radio stations that are dedicated…

Apple Music has launched a curated channel dedicated to classical music. Created by one of the most prominent classical music labels in the world, Deutsche Grammophon, the new section features performance videos, audio albums, and three radio stations that are dedicated to playing music from Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach. ... Read the rest of this post here


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Verizon Unlimited Users Get Apple Music Free For Six Months

Verizon Unlimited wireless plan users can now get free Apple Music for six months. Here’s everything you need to know about it. [ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

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[ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

How to add Apple Music albums to your Home screen on iPhone and iPad

This step-by-step tutorial will teach you how to add—and instantly play—your favorite Apple Music album right from the Home screen of your iPhone or iPad. Although this requires iOS 12’s new Shortcuts app, our instructions apply to the Apple-owned Workflow app as well.

howto apple music album home screen

iOS 12’s Shortcuts app lets music lovers easily add the album they’ve been listening to over and over to their Home screen on an iPhone or iPad, ready to be played with a tap of an icon.... Read the rest of this post here


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‘Friends Mix’ For Apple Music Rolling Out, Creates Playlist Of Songs Your Friends Are Listening To

‘Friends Mix’ for Apple Music is rolling out right now which creates a playlist of songs your friends are listening to. Here are the details. [ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

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[ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

Apple Music users spot ‘Friends Mix,’ a new personalized playlist of friends’ tunes

Apple appears to be working on another personalized playlist for Apple Music subscribers – this time, one that shows you what your friends are listening to on its service, as opposed to a personalized playlist filled with editorial or algorithmic recommendations. The new “Friends Mix” playlist includes 25 songs and is updated on Mondays, according […]

Apple appears to be working on another personalized playlist for Apple Music subscribers – this time, one that shows you what your friends are listening to on its service, as opposed to a personalized playlist filled with editorial or algorithmic recommendations. The new “Friends Mix” playlist includes 25 songs and is updated on Mondays, according users who have gained access to this new feature and screenshots of the playlist’s description.

News of the playlist was first spotted by a user on Reddit, then reported by 9to5MacAppleInsider and several others, as a result.

Apple has not yet formally announced the addition, and many other Apple Music subscribers are not seeing the playlist at this time.

Apple has also not yet responded to a request for comment, so it’s unclear if the playlist is now rolling out or is something in testing. (This post will be updated with more information, as available.)

According to the original poster on Reddit, the playlist appeared in their Apple Music app on a device that was running iOS 12 beta – this could indicate it’s something that won’t launch to the public until the general release of iOS 12 later this fall.

The tester also noted they had just installed the iOS 12 beta, which could explain why they saw it first.

TC editor Matthew Panzarino, who’s also on the iOS 12 beta, now has the feature, as well. However, others here on the iOS 12 beta – and lower versions of iOS – do not yet.

 

Above: Friends playlist; image credit Reddit user reesyy

Personalized playlists are a key selling point for streaming music services, with Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, iHeartRadio and others all offering a variety of playlists for their subscribers. In Apple’s case, it already offers a handful of these, including “Favorites,” “New Music Mix,” and the latest addition, launched over a year ago, “Chill Mix.”

It’s long been time for Apple to expand its lineup of playlists further – especially given Spotify’s growing selection, which now includes its flagship playlist Discover Weekly, its Daily Mixes (plus a new variation, Your Daily Car Mix, apparently, Redditors also spotted), Release Radar, Your Summer Rewind, and Time Capsule.

[gallery ids="1687466,1687467"]

Above: More screenshots, including the playlist description: “A selection of songs based on what your friends have been listening to. Refreshed every Monday.”

However, the value of a playlist of your friends’ music is more questionable.

Though social music was Spotify’s original aim, through integrations with Facebook and tools to find and follow others, it has stepped away from that in later years. Instead, it’s more focused now on making the service feel individualized to each user – after all, your friends could be listening to some awfully terrible stuff. 

The arrival of the new playlist follows the recent news that Apple Music is leading Spotify in the North American market, announced by Apple CEO Tim Cook on the last earnings call. Cook also said Apple Music now tops well over 50 million current subscribers and free trial users; Spotify, by comparison, now has 83 million paying subscribers.

Do you have Friends Mix? If so, send me a screenshot noting your iOS version and when it appeared: sarahp@techcrunch.com. 

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Cupertino’s making it easier to enjoy the songs being listened to by your friends. Apple Music now contains an all-new Friends mix under the For You tab. It’s updated each Monday automatically.... Read the rest of this post here


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If your iPhone or iPad is running iOS 12 or newer, you can discover music more easily in the stock Music app by using a handy lyrics search feature that works across Apple Music’s 40 million song catalog and your own music library.

The stock Music app on iOS 12 and later brings a new lyric search feature, in addition to the existing ability to find a song you like by its artist, title and more

iOS 12 brought lyrics search to the stock Music app on iPhone and iPad. With it, customers can discover more easily new music or old songs they like by typing just a few words. The app will find any tracks on Apple Music or in your library that match the typed lyrics.... Read the rest of this post here


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Festicket and Spotify can now help you find festival tickets based on your music tastes

With the summer rolled in, Spotify now gives you a little help when making the decision on which festival to go to, based on the artists you follow and the music you listen to.

Festicket, a UK-based online booking platform for festivals, has partnered with Spotify to help music lovers discover music festivals around them and find festival tickets based on the music they listen to.... Read the rest of this post here


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