Rise of the Robot Music Industry

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AI is transforming music streaming, talent spotting, promotion and even composition.

Robotic is not an adjective that many musicians would want applied to their songs but the industry has been fast to embrace data analytics and artificial intelligence to help tailor its services to the increasingly fickle listener.

Algorithms are seeping into the music business to help with talent spotting, promotion and even composition in an industry that has been historically resistant to change and was one of the first to feel the effects of “disruption” through piracy and music sharing.

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Streaming services have already ushered in an era of “hyper personalisation” for music lovers. Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, launched in July 2015, had racked up 40m listeners around the world and 5bn track streams by May this year, according to a report from the BPI prepared by Music Ally. These playlists monitor what a person is listening to, and cross-references that data with other users with similar tastes to recommend new songs and artists.

Apple Music has opted to use human curators such as Zane Lowe, the radio DJ, for its playlists, but Spotify has doubled down on its robotic recommenders with new services such as Release Radar and the Daily Mix to tempt its subscribers down different paths.

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Yet discovery is only the equivalent of a debut album for streaming services, and can be a blunt tool. Users of Spotify Discover complain that it is hit and miss — often suggesting the same artists and songs repeatedly, and failing to adapt to the often random whims of the listener.

The industry is now hoping that the use of artificial intelligence will bring better analytics, and even predictive technology.

A listener’s location, mood and even the weather conditions are now being built into some recommendation engines. Google Play is, for example, working on such adaptive functions.

“A bot will be able to recognise guilty pleasures . . . see that I’ve been to the pub and serve me a Little Mix record when I’m on the way home,” says Luke Ferrar, head of digital at Polydor, pointing to the use of algorithms to understand how people listen to music. Read the rest of this entry »


How Your DVR was Hijacked to Help Epic Cyberattack

The massive siege on Dyn, a New Hampshire-based company that monitors and routes Internet traffic, shows those ominous predictions are now a reality.

“The complexity of this attack is because it’s so distributed. It’s coming from tens of millions of source IP addresses that are globally distributed around the world. What they’re doing is moving around the world with each attack.”

An unknown attacker intermittently knocked many popular websites offline for hours Friday, from Amazon to Twitter and Netflix to Etsy. How the breach occurred is a cautionary tale of the how the rush to make humdrum devices “smart” while sometimes leaving out crucial security can have major consequences.

Dyn, a provider of Internet management for multiple companies, was hit with a large-scale distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), in which its servers were flooded with millions of fake requests for information, so many that they could no longer respond to real ones and crashed under the weight.

[Read the full story here, at USAToday]

Who orchestrated the attack is still unknown. But how they did it — by enslaving ordinary household electronic devices such as DVRs, routers and digital closed-circuit cameras —is established.

The attackers created a digital army of co-opted robot networks, a “botnet,” that spewed millions of nonsense messages at Dyn’s servers. Like a firehose, they could direct it at will, knocking out the servers, turning down the flow and then hitting it full blast once again.

The specific weapon? An easy-to-use botnet-creating software called Mirai that requires little technical expertise. An unknown person released it to the hacker underground earlier this month, and security experts immediately warned it might come into more general use.

Mirai insinuates itself into household devices without the owner’s knowledge, using them as platforms to send the sever-clogging messages even as the device continues to do its day job for its true owner. Read the rest of this entry »


Chicago to Apply 9% ‘Netflix Tax’ for ‘the Privilege to Witness, View or Participate in Amusements that are Delivered Electronically’

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“The amusement tax applies to charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in an amusement.”

Netflix service in Chicago is about to get notably more expensive. On the hunt for new revenue, Chicago’s Department of Finance is applying two new rules that would impact companies like Netflix and Spotify. One covers “electronically delivered amusements” and another covers “nonpossessory computer leases”; together they form a unique and troubling new attempt by cities to tax any city resident that interacts with “the cloud. According to the Chicago Tribune, streaming service providers need to start collecting the tax starting September 1.

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“This includes not only charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements in person but also charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements that are delivered electronically.”

The new tax is expected to net the city of Chicago an additional $12 million annually.

“The amusement tax applies to charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in an amusement,” states the city’s new ruling (pdf).

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“This includes not only charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements in person but also charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements that are delivered electronically.” Read the rest of this entry »


A Wireless Sensor That Locks Your Mac When You Walk Away

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 writes: Security is boring—particularly when it works properly.

The new Sesame 2 key fob is a dead-simple security solution for your Mac that’s exactly the right kind of boring. It automatically locks your computer when you walk away from it. Also, not as boring, it allows for some customizable actions including two-factor authentication.

The small device fastens to your keychain or slips into your change pocket and pairs to your Mac over Bluetooth. It can determine your physical distance from your machine, and when you wander too far away from your Mac, it can force the screen to lock, requiring a login to access the desktop again.

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When you return, it can either unlock your computer automatically or, if you have the optional Two-Factor Authentication mode enabled, require both the system password and the Sesame 2 to unlock the computer.

Atama originally put out its first Sesame Bluetooth key last year. This new version, the Sesame 2, is now available on the London-based company’s website for $39, or at Apple Stores and Amazon in the U.K. for £39.

The distance that triggers a screen lock is somewhat customizable—users can choose between “Near” and “Far” locking distances. While there’s some fluctuation in actual distance because of varying real-world conditions, the “Near” option typically locks your Mac once you step 20-25 feet away from it. Read the rest of this entry »


Music for the dead: $30,000 coffin that plays fave tunes

Do you have a passion for music that you’ll take to the grave? A Swedish coffin company is helping loved-ones stream music straight to the recently departed. The world’s first ‘Di-Hi-Fi’ CataCombo Sound System, which costs around $29,910, is aimed at music-lovers who don’t want to rest in peace.

Read the rest of this entry »