Streaming giant Spotify expands into video, original content

21 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Faced with heightened competition, Spotify adds video streaming.

Streaming leader Spotify on Wednesday announced an expansion into video and original content, reaching beyond music as the company faces challenges to its dominance and strives to turn a profit.

Streaming music service Spotify will soon provide video content from musicians, news organisations and TV networks in a bid to sign up more subscribers, the company said.NEW YORK – Spotify just laid out its plans to be more than a streaming music service, moving to add videos and podcasts in a new service that will now be available in the US, UK, Germany, and Sweden.Global music-streaming leader Spotify is adding video and customizable features to draw in more users and ad revenue as competitors such as Jay-Z’s high-fidelity Tidal and a rumoured forthcoming streaming product from Apple Inc. threaten to steal its market share.

The world’s biggest audio music streamer, with 60 million active users, said Wednesday it decided to broaden its offering, in part to capitalize on Americans’ long commutes, Spotify’s CEO told The Post in a private interview. “A lot of Americans are sitting in their cars for a long time,” explained CEO Daniel Ek, who was in New York to announce at a press conference a slew of new business initiatives with the help of Tiësto, D’Angelo and Questlove. “Tens of millions had connected to Spotify via Bluetooth but they still didn’t play music their entire drive,” said Ek, adding that heavy Spotify users wanted news, weather, traffic and podcasts, too, so he approached content providers about what they could offer. Spotify, by far the largest company in the booming streaming industry, said it wanted to turn into a broader, and more personalized, platform to bring in subscribers throughout the day. A new recommendation function, similar to what rival Pandora Media Inc offers, will let people pick channels based on lifestyle activities, like “songs to sing to in the shower,” or “100 plus hits form the 1980s,” the Stockholm-based company said. The changes chart a path that puts Spotify into direct competition with YouTube at a time when Apple is planning to relaunch its own streaming service.

The streaming music giant wants to expand its user base in advance of a much-hyped IPO, looking to take on the likes of Snapchat, YouTube and Facebook with a collection of video clips. Daniel Ek, the founder and chief executive of the eight-year-old Swedish company, said that Spotify was recognizing the all-encompassing power of smartphones in modern life. “There is an incredible opportunity to soundtrack your entire day — and your entire life — in all of its complexity,” the 32-year-old entrepreneur told a launch event at a converted New York warehouse off the Hudson River. Some features, such as playlists curated to taste for different times of the day, are aimed at people who use the service for musical discovery; others, such as in-app streaming video and audio from partners such as ESPN and Vice, are designed to keep people using Spotify when they’re tired of tunes. They include originals commissioned by the company and existing content from late-night comedians Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, ESPN studio shows and clips from everywhere from BBC to Condé Nast Entertainment. In one of the more inventive features, Spotify unveiled a new function for runners that will detect motion through the smartphone and select music based on the pace.

Spotify struck a myriad of partnerships with news organisations like the BBC, Vice, Walt Disney Co’s ABC, podcasts from Slate, and short programme clips from Turner Broadcasting Conan and Comedy Central’s critically acclaimed hit, Broad City. Spotify isn’t the first streaming subscription service to include videos — Tidal and Xbox Music have libraries of music-related video content — but its service will stretch further into comedy, news, and other non-musical areas. The video content, available on both the free and paid tiers, is likely to make Spotify’s free ad-supported platform even more attractive to users, which could make some music labels unhappy. Ek said the updated platform would be available immediately in the United States, Britain, Germany and Sweden, and would be rolled out in the coming weeks to the 54 other countries and territories where Spotify is present. The new features, he told the crowd, are all about “creating a true soundtrack for your life” as streaming services converge with the previously separate worlds of broadcast and owned music.

Streaming music now represents more than $1-billion (U.S.) of the floundering $15-billion global recording industry, compensating for declining physical and download sales. But competition, not only from streaming music companies including Apple Inc’s Beats, is intensifying when other platforms such as Snapchat are thrown into the mix. Subscription revenue from audio service will top US$5 billion (S$6.68 billion) in 2020, according to Generator Research, and by that date 100 million users will be paying for streaming music. Even though the potential for lucrative ads is clearly part of the reason for Spotify’s video shift, the company didn’t make it clear how advertising would fit into its new service. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles.

Over time, Spotify’s vice-president of user experience Rochelle King said Wednesday, playlists will keep track of listening habits and adjust to them. Mark Mulligan, a music analyst who recently wrote a book on digital changes in the music industry, said in an interview that the content expansion is both a boost to Spotify’s value proposition and reassurance for the company’s investors in the face of increasing competition. Mulligan said acquisition costs for programming like Vice news hits are simpler, and video advertising a more proven revenue generator. “This is a way they could potentially create a viable advertising business, as opposed to the one they’re struggling with,” he said. He, too, pointed out the tight margins that come with music-licensing costs. “I don’t think Spotify or any music service will get far with just music streaming.” he said. “The video market is a lot bigger than the audio market in terms of advertising dollars.” While the video market is dominated by YouTube, Mr. Spotify is taking a cue from Songza, an online radio startup acquired by Google last June, and will offer playlists that correspond to specific moods or activities (such as “chill” or “travel”).

Verna said, Spotify doesn’t need to own the market to reap its benefits. “Video is such a broad market that you can carve out niches in it and still have a huge business,” he said. The company also announced a new feature that will use the sensors in a user’s phone to determine their pace when they’re out on a jog and then play music with beats that complement the workout. While Spotify is a private company and does not report its results, British newspaper The Guardian reported earlier this month that despite year-over-year revenue growth of 45 per cent in 2014, the company still posted a loss. Technology website The Verge revealed the company’s original contract with Sony Music Entertainment earlier this week, outlining its large advances for labels and the murkiness surrounding how much label revenue flows to artists.

But there’s not a straight line from more streams to better economics for Spotify, especially considering that it pays royalties on a per-stream basis. YouTube’s Music Key is set up to be a Spotify competitor, and the Google-owned service is also working on a subscription service offering a way around pre-roll ads on its videos. In expanding to video, Spotify faces its first uphill battle for market share – it’s an audio Goliath, but a video David – but it’s betting that letting users watch video in its app will pay off in spades. The world’s most valuable company has an enormous arsenal of content, and rumours are swirling that it’ll be taking that to the streaming game under the Beats moniker at its June 8 Worldwide Developers Conference keynote presentation.

A day before Spotify launched its sweeping content additions, Paris-based Deezer, which bills itself as the world’s second-largest music streaming service, announced a similar, but less sweeping upgrade: more than 20,000 podcasts to hear within the app. While both those offerings give it a higher price point than Spotify’s, Tidal has the market cornered for audiophiles and I-got-it-first consumers. There really isn’t a problem here for Apple to fix,” says Mr Andrew Sheehy of Generator. “The only actual advantage that Apple has is the install base and its market power.” Then again, those are big advantages. Because Apple takes a 30 per cent commission of revenue from apps downloaded onto its devices, it will make much better margins when it offers a competing service at a similar price.

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Finding the ‘Joy’ in Jennifer Lawrence

20 Jan 2016 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Joy’ review: Jennifer Lawrence cleans up in enjoyable biopic.

Writer-director David O. Their latest collaboration — following in the footsteps of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle — is a biographical picture about the life and times of Joy Mangano.Jennifer Lawrence groans when she’s asked about singing the classic Nancy and Frank Sinatra duet Something Stupid with co-star Edgar Ramirez in her new film Joy. “David [O Russell, the movie’s director] texted me last night to ask if he could put it on the soundtrack and this is what I texted him back,” the actor says as she digs around for her mobile phone and reads out her response verbatim. “‘David, no!!!’ and it is three exclamation marks.In a very abbreviated nutshell, that actually happened to Joy Mangano, 59, the fabulously successful Long Island entrepreneur/inventor and HSN pitchwoman whose rags-to-riches journey started with the invention of a mop.

Russell has made three kinds of movies: offbeat romances (“Flirting With Disaster”), surreal comedies (“I Heart Huckabees”) and dramas about dysfunctional yet appealing families (“The Fighter”). In real life, Mangano is the Long Island housewife and inventor who became famous and eventually rich after bouts of near-bankruptcy, by creating and marketing her Miracle Mop. Out Boxing Day in Australia, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence in the fictionalised life story of Joy Mangano, a single mum from Long Island who made her fortune selling a mop. On Christmas Day, “Joy,” a movie inspired by her struggles as a divorced, single mother turned mogul by way of that mop, will open at movie theaters across America.

This was before she hooked up with the giant Home Shopping Network, becoming their most effective pitch person and eventually selling her parent company, Ingenious Designs, to HSN. Gross, I can’t listen to it; I have to go to bed.’ And I said yes, but it’s a groaning, reluctant yes.” It’s the kind of unfiltered moment you come to expect when interviewing Lawrence, who may now be one of the most famous actors on the planet but still blurts out whatever she’s thinking with such self-deprecating charm it’s impossible not to be, well, charmed.

Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Miracle Mop inventor and QVC pitchwoman Joy Mangano glues the movie together, but it threatens to unravel at any time. Lawrence, 25, looks genuinely surprised when complimented about how unchanged she seems from our earlier interviews before the fame and Oscars. “But there would be no reason to change,” she says with a shrug. “I just have a job and I love my job. In the film, Lawrence’s Mangano is a colourful character, a single mom with a unique relationship and friendship with her ex-husband, and an enterprising woman who parlays her creativity into an incredibly successful business.

Mom (Virginia Madsen) stays in her bedroom and watches soap operas, until she falls for a Haitian plumber (Jimmy Jean-Louis) who fixes a hole in her bedroom floor. She landed minor roles on TV shows such as Monk, Cold Case and Medium before her 2010 indie film Winter’s Bone led to her becoming the second youngest best actress Oscar nominee in history. This is true even when the film tilts off its rocker with a bit of Russell-esque madness built into the screenplay, and with the director failing to always keep the energy going. That resulted in not only a string of critically acclaimed films, an Academy Award and another Oscar nomination, but also her very own mega-franchise as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Joy’s grandma (endearing Diane Ladd) delivers messages of empowerment and smooths over constant fights, but she’s opposed by the money-grubbing rich woman (Isabella Rossellini) who dates Joy’s dad and sends negative messages about her. Lawrence’s endearing habit of speaking her mind resulted in a controversial essay she penned on Lena Dunham’s website about her discovery during the Sony hacks that she was being paid less “than the lucky people with dicks” on her recent films, including American Hustle. “I completely understand when people say actors shouldn’t talk about politics and things they don’t know about, but this was my gender at stake and it was being threatened with unfairness and I thought, ‘What is the point of having this voice if it’s not to speak out for myself and for everyone else who can’t?’,” she says unapologetically.

Upon learning that Lawrence would be playing her mom, Miranne says, “I braced myself so I wouldn’t fall on the floor.” As for Mangano, she says Lawrence playing her “made me feel old, number one. Lawrence hangs out with a posse of celebrity girlfriends, including Amy Schumer and singer Adele, but the reason is simple. “The friendship gets expedited a lot when you meet someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt has no agenda,” she says. Draining her savings and taking out loans, she started off small, selling her mops to local boat owners. “She persuaded QVC to take a thousand, but sales were poor and they tried to send them back,” says Mason. “She suggested letting her demonstrate it herself, and the channel agreed.” Sales skyrocketed and Mangano’s career as a QVC pitch woman was launched. That’s so amazing there aren’t even words.” Mangano and her three children didn’t view “Joy” until the Dec. 13 premiere in Manhattan, though a family outing to see “Trainwreck” included a trailer.

This is, after all, the self-confessed reality-show junkie who confessed in a recent Vogue interview that on the night of her 25th birthday party, friends surprised her with a visit from reality queen Kris Jenner, who presented her with a cake inscribed, ‘Happy Birthday, you piece of shit!’ The only time she seems tongue-tied is when asked about her relationship status, after a four-year stint with X-Men: First Class co-star Nicholas Hoult and a year with Coldplay singer Chris Martin before their breakup earlier this year. “Next!” Lawrence says in a no-nonsense voice, pausing as she decides if she’ll continue that thought. For one thing, Mangano’s childhood is not that interesting for a film, despite some flashbacks to her as a youngster (when she is played by 10-year-old Isabella Cramp, who does actually look like we imagine Lawrence could have at the same age). A satire on the acquisitiveness of the public? (Here, QVC foists unnecessary things on gullible viewers who could better save their money.) Russell doesn’t seem to know. And, of course, the grave ending would be a lie: Mangano is very much alive at the age of 59, still inventing, still pitching products, still a superstar of the American home shopping universe. There’s the Clothes It All luggage system, essentially a rolling suitcase with a removable garment bag, and the Super Chic vacuum, which releases fragrance into the air.

If I even casually say something to a reporter, that quote haunts me for the rest of my life,” she says, “so I am never, ever, ever talking about boys again!” I don’t think any of us brought enough tissues!” A good portion of the film was shot last winter in Boston, and though the always-busy Mangano was twice scheduled to visit the set, snowstorms made travel impossible. He has mixed genres successfully before, as in the anti-war comedy-drama “Three Kings,” but the blender often grinds to a halt in “Joy.” Just as we’re getting used to the realism of Mangano’s fight for respect, Russell photographs Rossellini as if she were a gargoyle.

One of her creations, the thin and velvet-covered Huggable Hanger, remains a bestseller for HSN, at more than 300 million sold, and was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. Yet in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Cooper, De Niro and Russell all supported her with fine work; here they lay back and make the movie a one-ring circus where she has to be acrobat, bareback rider and clown.

He had a presence all of his own.” At one point, Miranne says, “Jennifer grabbed Joy’s hand and said to David, ‘Look at the nails, a French manicure.’ ” (That manicure is a Mangano signature.) Lawrence revealed that in studying for her part as Joy, she watched recordings of the inventor’s early pitches on HSN, including ones for “Huggable Hangers” and found her so compelling that she wanted to buy them on the spot. There is something special when creative people get together.” Mangano’s take on Lawrence? “She’s beyond her years, so brilliant, hysterical and so talented.

Critically, Russell’s sense of wonder and beauty turns elegiac moments — especially when Joy Mangano becomes fully realized as a woman and as a business executive — into scenes of great beauty. Lawrence recently said on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” that the movie was “half Joy Mangano’s story and half [Russell’s] imagination and other powerful, strong women who inspired him.” The director mined much of his Mangano material by phone.

The cast includes Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Susan Lucci (in a mock TV soap opera that gives Joy some of its silliness) and even Melissa Rivers as her late mother Joan Rivers. There’s no situation Joy cannot overcome or circumvent.” At a Newsday photo shoot at Mangano’s luxurious but serene 42,000-square-foot mansion on 11 acres in St. As for parting advice for the ambitious? “If this movie inspires even just one more person to believe in themselves and to go after their dreams, then it’s made a very special impact in this world.

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