These audio tools help you with work, concentration and relaxation

Music and a pleasant audio environment can increase productivity in the workplace and provide relaxation afterwards – at least that’s what studies suggest. We’ll show you some tools that will provide you with crackling chimneys, birdsong, cozy cafes and pleasant background music.

What do we all have great  noise-canceling headphones or modern laptop speakers for? For example, so that we can be pampered musically or simply with beautiful nature noises at work. Since the 1970s, researchers have repeatedly found a connection between music and increased productivity. In 2005, the American Teresa Lesiuk found out that people under the influence of music complete their tasks faster than those who cannot be exposed to sound. She was also able to determine a positive effect in terms of the wealth of ideas. How can that be?

Background audio helps with work

Put simply, it’s the dopamine. The happiness hormone – assuming the right choice of music – ensures a positive mood and stimulates motivation. While fast-paced pieces of music are said to be helpful for simple activities, researchers recommend quieter titles for more complex tasks. There are also relaxing natural sounds or sounds specially designed to activate different brain regions, such as white, brown or pink noise. All this and more are provided by the providers of various audio services and apps, some of which we present here.

These music and audio tools will help you

Focus at Will advertises neuroscientific music. (Image: Focus at Will)

Focus at Will

If you want to take music and ambience really seriously for more productive work, Focus at Will offers you well-founded content. According to the developers, the music, composed according to neuroscientific findings and specially curated for certain requirements, increases the attention span compared to the normal value of 20 minutes to up to 200 minutes. The service is primarily aimed at students, professional writers, developers and lawyers. According to the developer, the catalog of music and ambient sounds such as running water amounts to several thousand hours. You can use Focus at Will as a client on macOS and Windows , as an app on iOS and Android or in a web browser.

Price : Free / from $ 9.95 per month per user (Pro version)

Noisli is the place for anyone who likes natural soundscapes. (Screenshot: Noisli)

Noisli

At Noisli you get a versatile sound mixer with which you can put together a feel-good atmosphere from up to 28 different sounds with a click of the mouse. Would you like the crackling of a campfire with ocean surf and rumbling storm clouds in your ears? Or do you prefer noise that increases concentration? Noisli makes it possible. As a small additional feature, Noisli even has a text editor on board, which is supposed to enable trouble-free and efficient work, as well as colored backgrounds and timers for automatic switch-off. It is available in every browser, as an app for iOS and Android and as an extension for Google Chrome . You can hear up to 16 different sounds per day for one and a half hours free of charge.

Price : free / from 8 euros per month and user (Pro version) / 2.29 euros (app)

Hipstersound.com mixes café scenery with music and nature sounds. (Screenshot: t3n)

Hipstersound.com

The name says it all – and hipster sound doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. The service offers you various restaurant and café soundscapes, to which you can switch on other noises such as rain and open fire, but also casual jazz, piano and guitar music. Only three environments are available in the free web service; more are available in the premium model. This also brings additional features such as a rain noise simulator and a generator for noise of different frequencies.

Price : Free / $ 29 per year per user (Premium)

Coffitivity

It is a cliché that aspiring writers, bloggers and creative workers in general often sit in cafes to be diligent. There is a reason for this, however: Quiet work environments supposedly suppress the creative thought process, while ambient noises that are too loud distract from the essentials. The Starbucks backdrop is therefore exactly in the middle. The makers of Coffitivity take advantage of this and offer different types of background rumors from restaurants, bistros and more. You can virtually sit down in the browser. Coffitivity is also available as a free, somewhat streamlined app for iOS and Android and as an open source app for macOS .

Price : Free / from $ 9 per year per user (Premium)

Although primarily an entertainment service, Spotify also has numerous playlists that are designed for productive work. (Screenshot: t3n)

Spotify

Unsurprisingly: Spotify, the world’s best-known music streaming service, can also give you a musically support at work as it does during sports workouts and relaxation. For this you will also find a variety of suitable playlists on Spotify itself, which are designed for concentrated work. It’s best to find out for yourself how well the respective combinations fit you. We have picked out a few recommended ones for you .

Price : free / 9.99 euros per month and user (premium)

With Rainy Mood you bring a cozy thunderstorm atmosphere to your desk. (Screenshot: Rainy Mood)

Rainy mood

“Rain makes everything better” – at least that’s what the Android and iOS app Rainy Mood thinks and provides you with a varied selection of rain and thunderstorm noises in an endless loop that you can put together individually. This should ensure relaxation and a pleasant working atmosphere. You can also use Rainy Mood in your browser for free. Here, however, you do not have the opportunity to put together your own individual rain backdrop. The ministry does that for you. For this you can also play music selected by the provider that is embedded by YouTube.

Price : free / 3.19 euros (Android) / 3.49 euros (iOS)

Noise is typically minimalistic for iOS and offers you a sound mixer for various natural sounds. (Image: Apple App Store)

Noise

If you are busy with your iPhone or iPad , or at least have it close by at work, you can use the Noise app to create a productive work audio atmosphere. You can put together your backdrop from twelve different ambient sounds such as the babbling sound of the sea, a cozy café or the spring wind. If you want different sound environments for different situations, you can save your compositions as mix tapes. Additional noises and the option of running Noise in the background are available as an in-app purchase or as part of the premium version, which also supports Airplay.

Price : free / 1.09 euros (individual sounds / functions) / 8.99 euros (premium)

Amazon Music: Free music streaming with advertising now for all users

Amazon is launching an alternative to Spotify Free. The free, advertising-financed music streaming offer from Amazon Music can be used on smartphones, tablets and Fire TV devices.

So far, Amazon has only offered its free, ad-supported music streaming service to owners of an Echo speaker . Since November 19, 2019, it can be used via the Amazon Music apps on any smartphone with Android and iOS, web browser and Fire TV products without Amazon Prime membership.

Free Amazon Music Offer: You only need an Amazon account

With theAmazon offers free streaming service * an alternative to the free Spotify Free offer from the music streaming industry leader Spotify. There is a big difference between the two free services: While Spotify Free users have access to the complete streaming offer of 50 million tracks, Amazon’s free service delivers a reduced selection of music based on playlists and, according to their own statements, “thousands” of radio stations on a song, artist, era or genre. They also have access to the top playlists – and “the best Christmas carols”.

Amazon Music Free

The free Amazon Music offer offers “thousands” of playlists and radio stations. (Screenshot: t3n / Amaazon)

The advertisements on Amazon’s service take place after playing some songs and are several seconds long. The length and number of advertising depends on usage, according to Amazon. Offline playback is not possible in the advertising-financed model, which is reserved for paying customers.

Despite the comparatively limited scope, it is clear that Amazon’s offer is a clear challenge to Spotify. According to the latest figures , Spotify has 248 million users , 113 million of which are paying customers. Spotify’s ad-financed service also offers a wider range of functions: Among other things, users can also create their own playlists. For people who only listen to music in the background, the restrictions should not be relevant.

Amazon Music with 3 paid models

In addition to the new free offer, Amazon now offers three different paid models for its music streaming service. Prime Music is part of the Amazon Prime Bundle , which costs 69 euros a year. It includes access to two million songs and “thousands of playlists”.

Echo Studio supports 3D and HD audio.  The respective sound quality is displayed in the Amazon Music app.  (Photo: t3n)

Echo Studio supports 3D and HD audio. The respective sound quality is displayed in the Amazon Music app. As standard, the best available sound quality is always streamed (Photo: t3n)

Amazon Prime Music Unlimited is divided into two sections:For 9.99 euros per month * , users get access to 50 million songs, thousands of playlists and radio stations. Similar to Spotify, Amazon offers family membership for 14.99 euros. Furthermore, Prime customers can book the Unlimited tariff a little cheaper for 7.99 euros. Since September 2019, Amazon has been offering the Amazon Music HD service with better sound quality to match its premium echo loudspeaker Echo Studio (test) . HD content is transmitted at up to 3.7 megabits per second, while the standard quality on Amazon Music is a bit rate of 320 kilobits per second. Amazon’s HD Music costs from 14.99 euros or 12.99 euros for Prime customers.

Music, news and TV – Apple’s planned super subscription should start in 2020

The supposedly planned by Apple super subscription for music, news and TV services is apparently taking shape. Such a service could be launched as early as 2020. Apple hopes for more customers.

A few weeks ago, the media had already reported on Apple’s alleged plans to want to put together a combination of the paid services Apple TV Plus and Apple Music. According to new information, the rumored Super Abo should – at least in the US – include Apple TV Plus and Apple Music as well as Apple News Plus. This subscription offer could be launched as early as 2020, as Bloomberg reports, citing company insiders.

Super subscription: Apple is said to have negotiated with publishers

The new rumors about the supposedly planned super subscription feed on information about commission negotiations that Apple is said to have conducted with publishers involved in the News Plus service. Accordingly, the iPhone group is said to have secured the rights there to bundle the subscription service with other paid services. The News Plus service, launched in March in the US, offers users access to a range of magazines and newspapers and costs ten US dollars a month. Apple keeps half of the income and the publishers get the other half.

According to the insiders, the publisher would lose income in the event of such a super subscription, as the costs for the individual News Plus service would have to be reduced. However, the publisher’s revenues are apparently well below their expectations anyway. According to Bloomberg, a publisher can expect on average less than $ 20,000 a month. With Texture, the service taken over by Apple , which forms the basis for News Plus, the income was significantly higher. The number of News Plus subscribers is unknown. The service is available in the US, UK and Australia.

Apple wants to bundle fee-based services

Apple, in turn, wants to increase the number of customers by bundling its fee-based services in a super subscription. Apple is already experimenting with linking the services. Most recently, students with a music subscription were given free access to the newly launched TV Plus . TV Plus for one year free of charge for Apple hardware buyers who bought it after September 9th. Apple apparently has a similar model in mind for the future as Amazon has introduced with its Prime subscription. The group has not commented on the media report.

Spotify tests music video function, Youtube Music runs behind

The rapidly growing YouTube music app is apparently inspiring Spotify to new features. Music videos could soon be available on the world’s largest music streaming service.

As the reverse engineering expert Jane Wong found out, Spotify is working on a significant functional expansion of its playback screen. So far, it has either been dominated by the presentation of the album cover or shows the quite new Spotify canvas .

Spotify app: Playback screen is drilled out

In the future, Spotify apparently wants to give its users the choice of which content should be shown on the playback screen. A new tab selection at the top of the screen should obviously be able to display the complete music video in addition to the album type and the canvas.

With this function, Alphabet’s Youtube Music is currently setting itself apart from Spotify. Here, the user has the choice in a prominent place whether only the song or the video should be played.

Spotify Canvas: Nice, but not particularly useful

With the Spotify Canvas, the streaming service tried to create a kind of visual replacement for videos. So far, only selected artists can store three to eight-second moving image loops, which are displayed instead of the album cover and should offer a more contemporary form of presentation than a rigid album cover can. Spotify refers to the canvas animations as “album art for the streaming age”.

Nevertheless, the short canvas animation is no substitute for a music video and probably no user will want to look at the moving representation more than once. A full integration of available music videos could probably give the service a further boost, but above all increase the benefit for the listeners significantly. Spotify announced content a few years ago, but has not yet implemented it.

On the left the video function already available in the YT Music app, on the right the screenshot from the Spotify beta, which shows that the service is working on something similar. (Screenshots: t3n / Jane Wong)

YT-Music puts Spotify under pressure

It is quite possible that those responsible saw no immediate need because no other service offered a corresponding service. The cards have been reshuffled with the seamless video integration in the Youtube Music app.

It is currently unclear when a corresponding function will be rolled out and what this will look like in concrete terms. As Wong’s screenshot shows, the Spotify developers are still in the middle of the conception phase because they write: “Thank you for your interest in videos. We are still researching what could happen at this point [in the app]. “

Jane Wong, the tech blogger who no unofficial app feature can hide from

Reverse engineering is the passion of software developer Jane Wong from Hong Kong. According to her own statements, she likes to spend her weekends looking through apps for new features that have not yet been officially announced.

So she can look back on a considerable backlog of finds that has brought her the attention of big media houses like the BBC time and again. At t3n, too, we have often taken up your research results.

Spotify surprises with significant sales and profit growth

Spotify generates 28 percent more sales with 31 percent more paying customers than last year. The biggest leap is the net profit, which increases from 43 to around 241 million euros.

Spotify has presented its annual report for the third quarter of the current year and surprised analysts and investors. They had expected a loss and not earnings per share.

90 percent of sales come from premium customers

The increase in profits comes from the increase in premium customers, mainly from Southeast Asia and Latin America. But increases in student and family accounts also have their share in the development.

Spotify was able to acquire around 31 percent new payers and increase the number of users from 87 million to 113 million customers. At the same time, sales with premium customers increased to around 1.5 billion euros.

Spotify only achieved around 170 million euros through its advertising-financed service. Here the streaming service grew from 109 million to 141 million users. This means that Spotify has a share of 45 percent of paying customers, who are responsible for over 90 percent of sales.

Spotify: User numbers are growing twice as fast as Apple Music

The streaming market leader can refer to 248 active users for the key figure of “monthly active users” (MAU), which is important for assessing digital services. This is also a significant increase compared to the 191 million MAU in the same quarter of the previous year.

Compared to the direct follower Apple Music with its around 60 million customers, Spotify points to a twice as fast user growth, as well as a much higher activity of its own users. Amazon Music also sees the company lagging behind, which is mainly due to the fact that there is a much less favorable relationship between paying and advertising-financed customers.

The company’s podcasting strategy is also showing initial success. With around 500,000 podcast titles, Spotify already offers a noteworthy offering, which, according to the company, is already used by around 30 million MAUs.

All of this causes the streaming service to raise its own forecasts. 270 million people are expected to use Spotify by the end of the year. The number of premium customers is expected to grow by another ten million.

The good news led to an eight percent rise in Spotify shares.

The music industry generates the majority of its sales through streaming services

The majority of sales in the German and American music industries are generated through streaming services. In addition, vinyl could soon make a comeback.

The revenue share of streaming services in the German and American music industry grew in the first half of 2019. Services such as Spotify and Apple Music account for an increase of 27.7 percent and 56.4 percent of total sales in this country. In the USA it is already 80 percent of total sales and an increase of 26 percent. These are the results of the Recording Industry Association of America , or “RIAA” for short, and the German Music Industry Association , “BVMI” for short.

Growth drivers in the music industry: Spotify and Apple Music

In the first six months of 2019, the German music industry is expected to have achieved total sales of around 783 million euros, 7.9 percent more sales than in the first half of 2018 and the highest growth rate since 1993. According to the Federal Music Industry Association, audio streaming is responsible for this, which is said to have increased by 27.7 percent. The remaining share of total sales is made up of 28.2 percent CDs, 6.6 percent music downloads, 4.4 percent vinyls, 1.2 percent music DVDs and Blu-rays, 3.0 percent ring tones and Co. and with 0.3 percent other physical media such as Super Audio CDs (SACD) or cassettes.

According to the RIAA, the US record industry is also said to have recorded an increase in sales of 18 percent in the first half of 2019. With 80 percent of the 5.4 billion US dollars, the largest share was also achieved through streaming services. The American music industry achieved the remaining share of total sales 9 percent through the sale of physical media, 9 percent through downloads and 2 percent through so-called “synchronization royalties”, ie the use and licensing of pieces of music in films, for example.

The growth drivers are Spotify , with over 100 million subscribers, and Apple Music , with over 60 million subscribers , for which the California-based company launched a web app a few days ago .

Is the vinyl record making its comeback soon?

In Germany, CD sales are said to have stabilized slightly with a decline rate of 11.7 percent, halved compared to the same period in the previous year, while sales of vinyls are said to have increased by 7.4 percent. In the US, vinyl sales are said to have increased by 12.9 percent, while CD sales remained almost unchanged. Specialized media such as Rolling Stone therefore attest vinyl records a comeback and predict that vinyl sales could soon exceed CD sales for the first time since 1986.

Really now? Upload function for Youtube Music is coming

In a support document, Google explains how YouTube Music users can upload their local music library to the service. The catch: it doesn’t work.

It’s simple: you open the web app of Youtube Music and pulls your music with the mouse anywhere on the surface in the open browser window. Alternatively, you can click on your profile picture at the top right and select “Upload Music” from the drop-down menu.

Upload should be completely unproblematic

Now the files, which can be in the formats Flac, M4A, MP3, OGG and WMA, are uploaded to your account. A progress bar keeps you up to date on the success of the campaign. You don’t even have to be a paying subscriber to Youtube Music Premium. After the upload, the uploaded files are available in the service, although it may take a while before they are actually displayed.

Just drag files anywhere on this surface. Sounds good, but it doesn’t work. (Screenshot: t3n)

That sounds very good, in Google’s official support document . The only catch is: it doesn’t work. Neither in Germany nor anywhere else in the world.

The catch: it doesn’t work

So has Google rashly put out a support document that will sooner or later be collected again? Or is it an indication of an imminent launch of functionality that Play Music users have been waiting for years? We do not know it.

Regardless of this, the feature would by no means answer all open questions or offer previous Play Music users an equivalent replacement. Because the upload function comes with considerable restrictions – if it comes.

Upcoming upload function is not the yellow of the egg

For example, it is not possible to share the uploaded music with others in a family plan, for example. Playlists that contain uploaded content as well as streaming content also work for other listeners, but only without the uploaded content. In addition, your own files are not taken into account for the recommendation algorithm. At least Youtube Music will automatically remove duplicates.

Furthermore, the automatic synchronization of existing music data with Google Play Music will not be possible. This also applies to content acquired there, not just uploads that have already been made. Here, as it has for two years, Google continues to promise to make an adequate offer when the time comes.

It looks like the not yet available upload function for Youtube Music is little more than a kind of renamed Google Drive for sound files. That’s a bit thin.

Apple Music web app launched

Apple has donated a web app to its music service Apple Music. The beta can now be used in the browser.

Apple has given Apple Music a web interface . This means that the music service, like competing offers from Spotify, Amazon, Google or Deezer, can be used in the browser regardless of device or operating system. As usual for beta versions, there are still problems in some places.

 

Apple Music web beta is still in trouble

With the new Apple Music web app, you can browse music collections as usual, view personal recommendations and listen to the radio. To browse your own collections and playlists, you’ll need to sign in with your Apple ID. However, new registrations are currently not possible via the web app. Therefore, when you try to set up access, you will be redirected to iTunes or you have to set it up via the iOS or Android app.

music
Price: Free
Apple Music
Price: Free

Some songs stutter in the beta, which Apple should probably fix soon.

Unofficial web version of Apple Music

With the web version, Apple is following suit and is adapting its offer to that of its competitors Spotify, Amazon, Google and Deezer. So far, Apple Music could only be used on desktop systems within the iTunes media software or indirectly. In June, the company announced that it would crush iTunes  and split the functions into individual apps. The web version is therefore an image of the new Music app. A hobbyist published the first unofficial browser variant eight months ago on Reddit .

Apple Music: Streaming service has over 60 million subscribers

Apple Music , the iPhone company’s streaming service launched exactly four years ago, has exceeded 60 million subscribers. But Spotify is still far ahead.

On June 30, 2015, Apple launched its music streaming service in 100 countries, including Germany. On its fourth birthday , Eddy Cue , the senior vice president responsible for the Group’s online services, said of the French tech platform Numerama that Apple Music had cracked the 60 million subscriber mark. But this also includes users who are currently testing the service for free.

60 million paying customers: Apple Music is growing

This means that Apple remains well behind its rival Spotify , which has over 100 million paying premium customers . As of April 2018, at the most recent announcement of numbers, Apple Music had 40 million paying subscribers and Spotify had 70 million premium customers. Another eight million users used the Apple streaming service free of charge.

Spotify had 159 million monthly active users. Spotify currently has 217 million monthly active users. The Swedish streaming service has grown significantly faster than Apple Music over the past 15 months, just in terms of the number of paying users. In the US, Apple Music is said to have recently recorded higher growth rates than Spotify, as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) wrote in April . It is not known whether this trend was sustained.

In any case, Cue was very satisfied with the increase in users. In addition, the platform will be further optimized on all devices. With iOS 13, for example, a kind of karaoke function for Apple Music is to come. The corresponding lyrics were added by the Apple employees themselves. Cue also noted that Apple Music was the most widely used streaming service in the company’s own ecosystem as positive. The Apple Music channel Beats 1 also has tens of millions of listeners.

Apple Music ahead of Spotify in the US

In the USA, Apple Music is said to have already overtaken Spotify – currently, according to the WSJ, 28 million paying subscribers versus 26 million, as The Verge writes . Spotify expects strong growth to continue in the coming months. By the end of the year, the Swedes are expected to have 117 to 127 million premium customers and 245 to 265 million monthly active users worldwide.

Android 10: Youtube Music replaces Google Play Music

Google has announced that Youtube Music will be preinstalled on all new devices with Android 10 and Android 9 in the future, replacing Google Play Music.

With the change of the pre-installed music player , away from Google Play Music to Youtube Music, Google is taking the next step to abolish the older offer. Google launched Youtube Music last summer, but announced that Google Play Music would continue until further notice.

Youtube Music offers fewer features than Google Play Music

With the change in status as the standard app, it can be speculated that this “for the time being” could soon come to an end. Against this is the fact that Google continues to offer the Play Music app through the Play Store so that die-hard fans can continue to download and use it.

Because there are good reasons to stay on Google Play Music. For example, Youtube Music does not allow the purchase of music and only offers limited access to local music files. Google has now released its own app for podcasts, but this is only available for Android, not for iOS.

A bigger problem for committed music lovers is losing their own playlists when switching from Google Play Music to Youtube Music. So far there has been no migration strategy, although external providers offer solutions for this. Music that has already been purchased via Google Play Music or added to your own media library is also not available in Youtube Music.

While these are all problems that Google could fix quite easily, they have not yet been done. For intensive users of Google Play Music, it is to be hoped that the manufacturer will address the problems, as promised , before pulling the plug.