China has now overtaken the US for smart-speaker shipments

More than 5m smart speakers were shipped in the US during the first quarter of 2019, which represents around 22% year-on-year growth, according to research firm Canalys. But wait: the US is no longer the biggest market for these devices in the world, having been overtaken by China. In fact, 10.6m smart speakers shipped in China […]

Spotify Car Thing hardware streams music and podcasts to drivers

Spotify has unveiled its first hardware: a voice-controlled speaker for cars that will stream music and podcasts. However, ‘Car Thing’ isn’t a commercial product… yet. Instead, the speaker is being used for a test in the US with “a small group of invited Spotify Premium users” according to the streaming service. Those people will install […]

BBC plans Alexa rival

“Auntie – what’s the weather going to be like today?” This is not some reference to Mary Poppins or Paddington but rather to the fact that the BBC is reportedly working on a voice assistant rival to Alexa and Siri. It is being dubbed “Auntie” internally but will probably not be the official name it launches […]

YouTube Music launches free, ad-supported tier for Google Home speakers

Reports earlier this week that Amazon was preparing to launch a free music-streaming tier for its Echo smart speakers sparked a drop in Spotify’s share price. So what effect will today’s news that YouTube Music is launching a ‘free, ad-supported experience’ for Google Home speakers have? In fact, YouTube Music’s free audio tier will work […]

Facebook is working on its own Alexa-style voice assistant

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personal interest in AI voice-assistants is well known: in 2016 his personal mission for the year was building an AI ‘butler’ named Jarvis. Now the social network is working on a voice assistant to serve its 2.32bn users around the world. CNBC was first to report on the plans yesterday, claiming that a team […]

Sandbox Issue 226: What people just don’t “get” about digital marketing

Lead: what digital marketing trends are most underrated or simply misunderstood in 2019? That’s the question we put to the music marketing community and got them to hold forth on the subject. This resulted in a lot of ideas and a lot of new paths for marketing this year and beyond. Campaigns: TikTok goes all […]

Google Assistant can now talk like musician John Legend

“Imagine hearing the silky smooth voice of John Legend answering your pressing questions everyday. Or narrating your local weather forecast. Or singing you happy birthday,” wrote Google’s Manuel Bronstein in a blog post yesterday. No, Legend isn’t back on the dating market. Instead, he’s lent his voice to Google’s voice assistant, Google Assistant – albeit only […]

Pandora will test interactive voice ads later this year

When we talk about what voice assistants and smart speakers mean for music, we tend to focus on interactions with the music itself: people asking Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri to play certain tracks and artists, or other kinds of requests eliciting personalised streams of music. We don’t talk so much about how those music […]

IDC predicts 144.3m smart speaker shipments in 2019

Research firm IDC has published its latest predictions for shipments of ‘smart home devices’ – a category that includes smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home, but also home-security, lighting, smart thermostats and video-streaming gadgets. Music Ally is most interested in smart speakers, obviously: IDC reckons that 144.3m of them will ship globally this year, and […]

Indies and Amazon talk smart speakers and music: ‘It’s all about metadata’

According to research firm Strategy Analytics, shipments of smart speakers grew by 169% in 2018 to 86.2m units globally, driven by Amazon Echo, Google Home, and devices from Alibaba, Baidu, Xiaomi and Apple among other companies. At next week’s AIM Connected conference in London, the opening panel will be discussing “smart devices’ effect on streaming”. […]

AI-music startup Endel to release albums through Warner Music

Music Ally has for some time been covering the emerging wave of startups exploring AI music: algorithms trained on catalogues of existing music, with the aim of then being able to create their own new melodies – and even entire tracks. Thus far, the most prominent commercial model for all this has been that espoused […]

Sandbox Issue 224: Up Hit Creek. THE DRY STREAMS PARADOX

Lead: The Dry Streams Paradox is when there is a huge gap between the number of streams an act gets and the number of fans they have or can reach. Just because someone plays one of your songs, it does not follow that they even know what your name is. Does this all mean that […]

UMG boss on smart speakers: ‘Have the title in the chorus’

We reported yesterday on UMG boss Sir Lucian Grainge’s keynote at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. Now more details are emerging about what he talked about, including non-mobile devices like smart speakers. Grainge talked about the challenges for labels of a voice-driven world. “Our experience is people can’t ask for a song when […]

Sonos share-price plunges after it reveals CFO to step down

It’s a compliment, of sorts, if your company’s share-price falls by 15% after you announce plans to step down. Although we doubt Mike Giannetto will be celebrating: he won’t quit as Sonos’ chief financial officer until later in 2019, so for now, that share-price remains his problem to worry about. In fairness, the plunge wasn’t […]

There are 66m smart speakers in the US – and 70% are Echos

Research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) has issued its latest estimates on the smart-speaker market in the US. It claims the number of speakers in use grew from 37m at the end of 2017 to 66m at the end of 2018, including 13m bought in the fourth quarter of the year. The relative market-shares […]

Smart-speaker startup Whyd pivots to focus on software

Music Ally first wrote about French startup Whyd back in 2012, when it was a discovery website for people to collect music from YouTube, SoundCloud and other sources in one place. By 2016, the company had pivoted to focus on building its own smart speaker as a rival to Amazon’s Echo. Now it’s shifting again, […]

Report claims voice assistants are ‘bigger in the car’

When we write about voice assistants and smart speakers, we tend to assume that these trends are happening first in the home, and will then move to cars. Actually, a new study from Voicebot suggests that this may be muddled thinking. “Smart speakers and other devices with embedded voice assistants get a lot of media […]

Michael Bublé is the latest artist to get his own Alexa skill

Paloma Faith, then Little Mix, and now Michael Bublé. The Canadian crooner is the latest artist to get his own Alexa skill – a voice-controlled app for Echo smart speakers and other devices using Amazon’s virtual assistant. Fans saying ‘Alexa, open Bublé Daily’ will get access to the skill, which has launched in the UK, […]

Consumer-tech body predicts $398bn of US tech sales in 2019

This week, it’s the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Get ready for a blizzard of new-gadget announcements, from TVs and speakers through to robots and smart toilets. The show’s organiser is industry body the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), and every year it publishes its predictions for tech sales in the year ahead, as […]

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