12/9/13: Yahoo acquires Evntlive for streaming concerts

Brad Hill
December 9, 2013 - 12:20pm

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And now, onward to today's news.

Brad Hill
December 9, 2013 - 12:20pm

Yahoo acquired concert-streaming platform Evntlive, which immediately shut down its ongoing operation. The Evntlive site carries an announcement of the takeover. No world on how much Yahoo spent. Evntlive was seed-funded at $2.3-million.

In a takeover/shutdown of this sort, it is unclear whether the service brand will re-start as a stand-alone property. Its technology platform could be integrated into an existing Yahoo service such as Yahoo Screen, which is cited in Evntlive’s announcement. 

Brad Hill
December 9, 2013 - 12:20pm

Song recognition apps like Shazam and SoundHound tap into a widespread desire to identify music in any environment. Shazam has been downloaded from the Android app store over 100-million times; SoundHound has seen over 50-million downloads. One use for these apps is to identify songs on the radio and integrate them into personal online playlists via music services.

Music service Rhapsody upgraded its Android app with something called Track Match, to solve the music-recognition need within its full-featured subscription platform. It’s a good idea -- you hear something, tell Rhapsody to identify it, save it in your library. The feature makes the celestial jukebox more connected to the real world of sound.

How well does it work?

Ideal Conditions

To test Track Match’s ear, we started easy. Using mid-level computer speakers streaming another music service (not Rhapsody), we held up an Android smartphone running Rhapsody’s Track Match feature. The phone was about three feet away from the speakers.

We started with two electronica tracks: “Interloper” (Carbon Based Lifeforms) and “Merlion” (Emancipator). Rhapsody failed to recognize either one. Rough start -- even more so when we put Shazam and SoundHound on the trail of those two tracks, and both apps identified them without hesitation.

Was the music too obscure for an initial test? Probably not, as both tracks appear in the Rhapsody catalog. We veered a bit toward pop mainstream with “You’ll Find Love” (The Cutes). The result was odd. Rhapsody did not recognize The Cutes, but did seem to know the track title, and displayed a list of other tracks whose titles contained “find love” (e.g. “You’ll Never Find Another Love”). This perplexing result cause some head-scratching in the RAIN office, but onward.

Persevering, we played “Rescue” (Yuna), and “Burn” (Ellie Goulding). Success! Rhapsody Track Match proudly identified both songs. In the heart of the mainstream, we tested “Alien” from Britney Spears’ new album, and Michael Buble’s holiday classic, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” No problem with those.

Classical Success

Classical music provides an interesting laboratory for track-matching. The standard classical repertoire has been recorded dozens of times by different performers -- it is all cover music, when you think about it. So apps like Shazam, SoundHound, and Rhapsody Track are challenged to identify the piece (for example, Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”) and the performer (one of the innumerable pianists whose recordings of that piece are in the standard catalog).

We started with the “Moonlight,” and Rhapsody hit both marks. We tried an orchestral work: Tchaikovksy’s “Cappriccio Italien.” Bingo. We did others, and Rhapsody kept pace. (Interestingly, Rhapsody started as an all-classical service in 2001 before quickly expanding to all genres.)

Listening to Itself

It occurred to us that Rhapsody might have trouble recognizing music as played through another service. That wouldn’t be an excuse, of course -- any song-identification program must deal with poor listening conditions of all sorts. Still, we set up a Rhapsody echo chamber, playing the first two (unrecognized) electronica cuts from Rhapsody’s web app, through the same speakers. It got them! Perhaps the encoding process or compression rate differed in the two tests, but again, it’s still a fail if the matching app cannot cut through sonic issues. Speaking of sonic issues... 

We simulated real-world conditions by simultaneously playing music and a sound effect of crowd noise. We laid in the noise pretty heavily. Going back to Britney Spears and Michael Buble, Rhapsody teased out the music through the crowd sound.

The Upshot

We’re glad Rhapsody introduced this differentiating feature. We hope for reliability improvements to come.

Brad Hill
December 9, 2013 - 12:20pm

In and out of sleep, that is.

Pandora updated its iOS app for Apple devices, adding a wake-up alarm. The app already had a timer feature that encouraged falling asleep to Pandora radio with a timed shut-off. Now users can fall asleep to Pandora, wake up to Pandora, and fortify the “hours listening” metrics Pandora publishes every month.

Pandora is biting into two competing categories with the new wake-up feature. First, obviously, clock radios and the radio stations embedded in most of them. Second, Apple’s wake-up alarm built into all iOS devices.

That built-in iOS alarm is easily controlled by Siri, which is an Apple advantage. It is a simple use-case to poke Siri in the ribs, sleepily mutter “Set the alarm for 6:00am,” slam the phone down on the nightstand, and drop directly into delta sleep. Voice control would make Pandora’s alarm a killer feature. We tried to make Siri recognize Pandora’s alarm, but she grew annoyed, and suggested setting a “reminder to call mom.” OK, we acknowledge our negligence in that area, but still wish for a voice-controlled Pandora alarm clock.

We tested the alarm by setting it one minute into the future. Oddly, Pandora warned us to plug into a power source, as if our half-full battery was gasping its last breath. Never mind that -- the alarm worked fine, gently arousing us from a 60-second reverie with a selected custom station.

You can stop the alarm or snooze it for a preset amount of time. We respectfully request an “OK” function which turns off the alarm but keeps the music playing.

Brad Hill
December 9, 2013 - 12:20pm

How does alternative music become classic? Maybe Flashback Alternatives (www.flashbackalternatives.com) can help us puzzle it out. “The Past, Present, and Future of Classic Alternative Music” might be a head-scratching conundrum, but the music is good. We’ve been energized for Monday work with Morrissey, ABC, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, A Flock of Seagulls, and Depeche Mode.

The site is as snappy as the music, and provides a few reason for registering: a chat room which is sometimes active and a request line, to name two. On-site discussion forums are there for deeper conversations, and they also contain show playlists. FA presents over 10 themed shows such as An Alternate Universe, World of Noise, Friday Night Live, Friday Afternoon Bad 70s, and The Unheard Music. 

A pop-out player leaves the main page free for poking around. The site sometimes responds a little slowly, but not when you click the Support tab. An elaborate contribution page accepts monthly, annual, and one-time giving.