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Hello everyone,

There are two big stories to cover from this weekend. First, Spotify is apparently in talks to acquire podcasting firm Gimlet. This will be the company's first foray into owning a content business, and further illustrates a desire to broaden beyond music in its core offering. Not something for labels to be concerned about for now... but a development to keep an eye on going forward.

The more exciting development over the weekend (for me anyway) was Marshmello's live performance within the game Fortnite. Mark Mulligan's description of his 12 year old son rushing to watch this perfectly mirrors my own experience with my son, and it was truly something to behold. I think many of us might apply a cynical eye to this, but for many kids this was their first experience of a live concert, even if that was wholly virtual within the game itself.

Experientially, there was a lot to love here. Simple touches like turning the gravity off when the big drop happened elicited whoops of delight and in general the show delivered was quite something to behold.

And then there's the money side. With virtual merch, its own dance and even XP points to earn for spraying up Marshmello posters around the game itself, this was truly a best-in-class exercise in monetising an event and marketing an artist. The mix of the performance is already exclusively available on Apple Music too, and (physical) tie-in hoodies are now on sale.

I tweeted over the weekend that this brought to mind when US rock bands of a certain age talk about the influence KISS had on them. Often it wasn't about the music so much as the spectacle of it all, and how much that impacted them as a child or teen. I think there's parallels here; these are the kind of great experiences that really get fans hooked in, and strikes me as a colossal win for Marshmello as an artist.

At a point where I often grumble that innovation is drying up in music, this proved to be a fine example of how great things can come together to make a massively successful event for all involved. Watch a video of the performance here (and have fun counting how many time the YouTuber and his mates say "sick!") but do dive into this one as there's no end of things to take from it.  

Have a great evening,

D.
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STORIES FROM THE MUSIC INDUSTRY:
Marshmello just played a live set to 10m people in video game Fortnite – and that wasn't even the most interesting move he made this weekend
The numbers are now coming in on the event’s audience, and they’re might impressive: according to reliable sources, over 10 million concurrent users witnessed Marshmello’s virtual concert. These people’s in-game avatars were all able to hit the virtual dancefloor in front of Marshmello’s own avatar and show off their dance moves. Fans now can, and no doubt will, buy official Marshmello X Fortnite merch – with a hooded sweatshirt setting you back no less than $55. (Youth sizes are, of course, available.) And the official extended mix of the Fortnite set is available exclusively on Apple Music.
Marshmello Just Live Streamed on Fortnite…So Just What is a Concert?
For my son and his friends this was every bit a shared live experience, each of them talking to each other via Xbox Live and dancing with each other on screen. In-game live experiences like this are nothing new, but it may just be that we are beginning to get to a tipping point in shared gaming experiences for Gen Z that will shape their entertainment expectations for years to come. Tweens and teens are already spending more time socializing via social media than real world contact, connected gaming is adding to that mix. Whereas most games played with friends have been first and foremost a shared gaming experience, Fortnite is teaching a new generation that the game itself is merely a platform for shared experiences.
Spotify is in talks to buy podcast startup Gimlet
Spotify, which has been trying to branch out of the streaming music business, is getting ready to make its first big move into podcasting: It plans to pay more than $200 million to buy Gimlet Media, the startup behind popular shows like Reply All. Sources say Spotify is in advanced talks to acquire Gimlet, the Brooklyn-based company which produces a network of popular shows and makes shows for advertisers like Gatorade. Gimlet has also been moving into TV production, including a deal that turned Homecoming, which started out as a scripted podcast, into an Amazon TV show starring Julia Roberts.
Music Created by Artificial Intelligence Is Better Than You Think
With Jukedeck’s Make tool, you pick a genre, mood, track duration, and optional “climax” point. Then you can tweak the instruments and tempo and see what comes out. Tweak the parameters and have another go. This is music to fulfill a purpose, and it’s cheap: Downloading your track and using it on a royalty-free basis costs 99 cents if you’re an individual or a small business, but it’s free if you give credit to Jukedeck. Larger businesses pay $21.99; there’s also an option to buy the copyright for a track outright.
PledgeMusic asks for patience amid acquisition talks
“The situation that PledgeMusic has found itself in is unacceptable and to all of the artists, managers, labels and fans who have put their trust in us, we are deeply sorry. All of us at the company are working around the clock to address everybody’s concerns and are hopeful of reaching a positive resolution soon,” explained a statement from the company. It added that “We are in discussions with several interested parties about a potential partnership with or acquisition of PledgeMusic.
 
STORIES FROM THE WIDER WORLD OF TECH:
Study tips YouTube to decline in popularity with British kids
It suggests games, Twitch and TikTok are among the factors in this decline. In the latter’s case: “Our data shows 1 in 10 tween girls (aged 10-12) used the Tik Tok social app in Q4 2018”. Some other stats worth chewing on from the report: Kids Insight’s surveys suggest that 58% of 4-18 year-olds are now using Netflix – another competitor to their time with YouTube – while one in five children now have access to a smart speaker, while the number of kids who control their devices with their voice has grown from 6% to 11% over the last year.
Microsoft preparing to bring Xbox Live to iOS, Android, and Nintendo Switch
Microsoft is getting ready to release an important software development kit (SDK) that will allow game developers to integrate Xbox Live into any titles that run across PC, Xbox, iOS, Android, and Nintendo Switch. Spotted by Windows Central, a GDC session reveals that Microsoft will announce its cross-platform push for Xbox Live next month. Some iOS and Android games already have Xbox Live Achievements, but they’re only enabled in titles from Microsoft Studios and there’s not many of them available right now. Microsoft describes this new push as much bigger.
Snopes quits and AP in talks over Facebook’s fact-checking partnership
Snopes, which recently rebuffed reports that its relationship with Facebook was strained, has stopped working for the program and the Associated Press is in negotiations over its role. Snopes joined Facebook’s group of third-party fact checkers in 2016, at first volunteering its services and the next year accepting a lump $100,000 payment for their work. But the company said in a statement that it’s rethinking providing services like this at all: At this time we are evaluating the ramifications and costs of providing third-party fact-checking services, and we want to determine with certainty that our efforts to aid any particular platform are a net positive for our online community, publication, and staff.
YouTube is experimenting with ways to tackle people weaponizing dislikes
Now, the company is planning to experiment with new ways to make it more difficult for organized attacks to be executed. Leung states in the video above that these are just “lightly being discussed” right now, and if none of the options are the correct approach, they may hold off until a better idea comes along. Right now, the current option is for creators to go into their preferences and indicate they don’t want ratings (likes and dislike numbers) to be visible; the issue is that videos with an overwhelmingly positive response also won’t be seen.
Still looking for more? Here's five other reads to take in:
New Technology Uses Lasers to Transmit Audible Messages to Specific People
Getting Ahead By Being Inefficient
$1 for a home in Italy? Sicilian town of Sambuca has an offer
Let Children Get Bored Again
Scientists Find a Simple Trick For Remembering Pretty Much Anything
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