The 75-Page iBook



Atlantic Records has taken an uncommon approach to using Apple’s iBooks Author — touted as a creation platform that will “reinvent the textbook” — by building an interactive ebook for rock band Shinedown‘s next album.

The 75-page ebook comes out March 27 to coincide with the Amaryllis album release and visually tells the story of the band’s new songs, creative process and cover art.

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records

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Atlantic Records has taken an uncommon approach to using Apple’s iBooks Author — touted as a creation platform that will “reinvent the textbook” — by building an interactive ebook for the band Shinedown‘s next album.

The 75-page iPad ebook will be available March 27, coinciding with the Amaryllis album release. The ebook visually tells the story of the multi-platinum rock band’s new songs, creative process and cover art.

Frontman Brent Smith says the ebook, titled “FOR YOUR SAKE: Inside the Making of Shinedown’s Amaryllis,” revives the complete album experience, which changed when CD booklets and liner notes became less prevalent.

“With so many people getting their music digitally these days, they don’t always get to enjoy the full experience that you get by exploring physical CDs or vinyl albums,” Smith told Mashable. “I remember picking up Soundgarden’s Superunknown. For me, it’s a perfect example of an album that does an amazing job at connecting the artwork and packaging to the actual music.”

“No other major recording artist has done this yet, no other artist has told the story of an album like this before.”

The ebook is broken down into four parts and features never-before-seen photos presented in interactive galleries, as well as videos featuring detailed commentary from Smith.

Users also can discover the meaning of the lyrics through audio and visuals, and play with the album artwork designed by Atlantic Records creative director David Harrigan.

Atlantic Records roped in rock journalist Jonah Bayer to interview band members and pen the stories found in parts one and two of the ebook. Graphic artist Edith Levin designed each page.

“No other major recording artist has done this yet; no other artist has told the story of an album like this before,” says Mike Mignano, director of digital product development at Atlantic Records.

Mignano, who gave Mashable a hands-on demo of the ebook (see video below), says tools such as iBooks Author have allowed the label to create products in a way that wasn’t possible until recently. He adds that the label is also focused on experimenting with new products, such as apps and casual games, to give music fans experiences that don’t already exist in other mediums.

The Shinedown ebook will cost $5.99 and be sold on iBooks 2.

A Demo of Shinedown’s iBook

More About: apple, Atlantic Records, celebrities, Entertainment, iBooks 2, Music, Shinedown

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NikeFuel API

Nike will unleash the application programming interface (API) for NikeFuel — the company’s metric for tracking physical activity — during a music hackathon Sunday at South by Southwest.

NikeFuel is the technology behind Nike’s FuelBand, a waterproof wristband introduced in January that measures a user’s movement and syncs with an iPod touch or iPhone.

The API will allow third-party music developers to infuse NikeFuel features into their apps or platforms.

“Nike will be joining the Managers Hack to open up a BETA version of the NikeFuel API for the first time to developers interested in combining music with the Nike+ FuelBand,” hackathon organizer and rep at startup Backplane told Mashable Friday.

Backplane, which created Lady Gaga’s new Little Monsters social network, along with music-streaming service Spotify organized the hackathon to build the future of digital music distribution.

SEE ALSO: Path Adds Nike+ Integration, Lets You Share Running Data With Friends
At the event, hackers have eight hours to create and plan a demo that will be judged by a panel of music industry managers, including Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter (who co-founded Backplane), Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun and Roc Nation President Jay Brown. People from Spotify, Pandora, Nike and SoundHound also will help choose a winner.

The Managers Hack will be live streamed (see video below) starting at 3 p.m. ET.

Randi Zuckerberg, who left her role as marketing director at Facebook in August to launch RtoZ Media, will provide commentary throughout the event.

What Is Nike+ FuelBand?


Nike+ FuelBand

The Nike+ FuelBand is a new wristband that tracks a metric that Nike has developed called “Fuel,” which measures all physical activity across sports.

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What Is NikeFuel?

More About: api, backplane, fitness, fuelband, hackathon, health, Music, Nike, sports, spotify, sxsw, sxsw 2012

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This year, about 2,000 bands will arrive in Austin to play SXSW, hoping to grab the attention of label execs, A&R reps, and most importantly, new fans.

Typically, bands play around four shows during the music portion of the festival, which is plenty of opportunity to get exposure. But what if someone hears a band and wants to check out their site via mobile phone? Will most artist websites be ready to serve up a quality mobile experience for fans on the ground at SXSW?

The folks at ShareSquare parsed over 1,700 band websites listed on the official SXSW roster to figure out if they could handle the expected mobile traffic.

They found not many band websites had links to their social profiles, which could be a huge closed door for those fans eager to connect. Some of the websites were also woefully out of date. Some even used the dreaded framesets not seen since the Geocities days. For anyone on a phone, a crashed browser would be reason enough to kill interest.

See the infographic below to find out what else the survey uncovered. Do you think bands need to beef up their mobile presence? Let us know in the comments.



Thumbnail image courtesy crsan, Flickr.

More About: bands, Music, sxsw

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The Tech Innovators Series is supported by Lenovo. Lenovo does not just manufacture technology. They make Do machines — super-powered creation engines designed to help the people who do, do more, do better, do in brand new ways.

The Sonos Hi-Fi system makes a bold promise — to “stream all the music on Earth wirelessly in any room.” Twenty years ago this would have been the stuff of sci-fi; today it’s a reality that can be bought for less than $350.

However, the Sonos concept has been around for longer than you might think — almost 10 years — making founder and CEO John MacFarlane quite the visionary.

We’ve taken a look at the Sonos system, the thoughts, development process and technology behind it with commentary from Fiede Schillmoeller, Sonos’ director of PR and culture, to find out more.

The Innovative Concept, in Context

In 2002, the second-gen iPod was only just getting Windows compatibility, the iTunes Music Store hadn’t yet launched, Napster had been shut down and Pandora had not debuted to the public. Digital sales were yet to be incorporated into Billboard’s music single charts and there were less than 16 million U.S. households with a high-speed broadband connection.

In context then, MacFarlane’s idea of a digital streaming music service that used your internet connection to bring you music from both your computer and the web, and send it all around your home — without wires — looks positively revolutionary.

“When the Sonos founders got together they saw two trends — digital music and wireless — and their vision in 2002 was that all music was going to go streaming,” Schillmoeller tells Mashable.

“That was pretty early to make that statement, and I think we’re still not there 100%, but it’s inevitable. That, combined with wireless, makes the Sonos product. When we started developing the product there were routers in many houses already — the vision was that there will be a router in every house over time.”

With more than 80 million U.S. households now hooked up with a fixed broadband subscription, a wealth of legal online music streaming services and apped-up mobile devices that are ready to play nice with hardware, the Sonos system’s evolution has matched the pace of the wider markets perfectly, now offering a tidy solution that makes the most of complimentary products and services.

The Sonos System

Having evolved from the earlier bulky and expensive “ZonePlayer” models, the Sonos system now has two all-in-one players. These are the Play:5, a five-driver Hi-Fi speaker system that costs $399 and the Play:3, a smaller three-driver Hi-Fi speaker system for $299.

Both boast an Ethernet port to hook up to your router, but if you want to place the speakers in different rooms than your router, you can buy the Sonos Bridge for $49. This connects to your router and wirelessly links multiple Sonos players around the house.

In addition, there’s the Connect and the Connect:Amp that let you hook up existing speakers or home theater set-ups to the Sonos system.

Finally, there’s the Sonos Controller, a touchscreen remote that costs $349. Sonos sells few of these however, as the company also offers alternative controllers. For free.

Rather than force the consumer into shelling out an additional 300-plus dollars to complete the system, Sonos actively promotes its Sonos apps for iOS and Android devices. These apps offer full-fledged functionality and can be downloaded at the relevant app marketplaces for absolutely nothing. It’s a move that raised eyebrows in the industry.

“A lot of people in the industry claimed that we had gone insane,” says Schillmoeller. “But we could see over time that this was the best decision for our company, as it made the Sonos system so much more accessible, so much easier for everyone to control their systems. Really, our business was to sell players, so this really paid off for us big time.”

In fact, Sonos was one of the earliest CE companies to launch an iPhone app. Its first Controller went live in the App Store in the fall of 2008 — just a few months after the store launched. This speed, explains, Schillmoeller, is because the company already had its eye on the Apple mobile.

“We had a vision that when the iPhone came out it was pretty clear that this was going to change everything. This was the time when there was no apps for it, no App Store, but it was clear that smartphones had hit a different level.”

Since 2008, Sonos has continually updated the iPhone app, launched an iPad app and catered to users of another popular mobile platform and its variants, Android. The latest release is an app for any Android tablet running 2.2 or higher, such as the Kindle Fire, the HTC Flyer and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

“The apps have expanded to different platforms, we have just released an app for Android tablets, we have one for Android phones, a great one for the iPad. Those are the dominant controllers for the Sonos system, there’s still a piece of hardware that we sell, but the main controllers for people that buy a Sonos system are the apps, and that’s definitely the future for the company.”

How it Works

In an example set-up, the Sonos Bridge connects to your router with an Ethernet cable. The Play:5 speaker is in your living room. The Play:3 speaker is in your kitchen.

The two players connect to the Bridge and you can control the entire system from your computer or with your phone or tablet. You can stream music from your computer — your iTunes or Windows Media libraries — sign directly in to an online music streaming service, such as Spotify, Pandora,, Rdio, an internet radio station and so on, and play tunes from that service, or access music stored on a NAS.

You can play different music on different speakers — so a Spotify playlist on the Play:3 in the kitchen and an album from your computer on the Play:5 in the lounge, or play the same tune, perfectly synced, on both players.

You can control the system from multiple devices. So, you could turn the volume up in the kitchen from your computer, down in the lounge from your iPhone and change the tracks or music source from an iPad. As far as sound quality goes, the speakers automatically adjust the EQ levels dependent on the track.

Sonos puts a big emphasis on ease of use. Initial set-up is a master class in out-of-the-box simplicity. Adding new players into the system is as easy as pressing a button, adding a controller the same and the user interface is intuitive.

“If you see really good consumer electronics — take some Apple examples — the hardware isn’t the big deal. It’s always the software and the interface that drives the success, and this is the model we have,” says Schillmoeller.

Most consumers who set up a Sonos system won’t think twice about the tech behind it. The system works so well they won’t have to, but it’s based on a wireless mesh network. The Bridge creates the network from the router’s Internet connection and is the only device that needs to be hard-wired into the router. The players and controllers are mesh “nodes.” All devices then communicate across this easily expandable network, through the separate nodes.

“We did not want to rely on the router that was already installed, that’s where the idea for our own wireless network came about,” Schillmoeller explains. “It’s called SonosNet.”

“It’s rock solid. You can stream multiple tracks in multiple rooms, you can stream the highest quality files and uncompressed audio to multiple rooms in your house.”

The Development Process and the Future

The Sonos difference is not just in the details, it’s in the product development process. Schillmoeller talks us through it.

“When we start developing new products, the user experience, the hardware, software and customer support teams are all around one table. They start building the first ideas, then prototypes, then they start testing and go back and say ‘This doesn’t work the way the customer expected it to work,’ they go back, they adjust. That way you develop products in a much more customer-centric way.”

In fact, Sonos doesn’t categorize itself in the way most technology companies do. “We don’t see ourselves as a hardware company or a software company, because we believe consumer electronics should be a great combination of good quality, smart hardware and intelligent, well-designed code that goes along with it,” says Schillmoeller.

Sonos wants to create the “ultimate listening experience.” While it’s taken almost 10 years for the Sonos product and wider music and mobile industries to catch up with MacFarlane’s innovative vision, right now the Sonos system is as close to that as you can buy for under $400. And as far as the future goes?

“We’ll continue to work with the best partners and the best technology to provide access to music through various streaming services,” says Schillmoeller. “We believe that the future is digital, and we are committed to delivering music to consumers wirelessly in high-fidelity audio.”

Series Supported by Lenovo

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At its first-ever U.S. press conference, Spotify unveiled on Wednesday a new app platform that allows third-party developers to use the streaming service’s music library and community. Although the apps are only available in beta versions right now for desktop computers, a company executive told Mashable that Spotify will be “everywhere” in the future, including on mobile devices such as the iPad.

“Spotify will eventually be ubiquitous, especially as more users want music on tablet devices. Music lovers want music everywhere, including when they drive their car,” said Ken Parks, Spotify’s chief content officer and managing director for North America. “Based on how well the desktop apps perform, we are very open to the future. A music store will also come.”

A music store would allow members to purchase songs directly from the service could also arrive. This feature is already available for European Spotify. For now, Spotify is partnering with companies such as Rolling Stone,, Songkick and tunewiki to provide apps that will make the site more engaging for users, from allowing them to access song lyrics to purchase concert tickets. Parks confirmed that some users will start to see the apps automatically pop up through Spotify as early as next week.

Overall, Spotify’s business model is following a path similar to Facebook’s, starting first as a website before expanding to mobile and third-party apps. In September, the company rolled out social integration to Facebook and has attracted new members ever since.

Spotify has been under pressure recently from competitors such as Google Music, the recently-unveiled free service that allows users to upload, share and browse songs, and then listen to them on the go via cloud storage on Android devices. However, Park said he’s currently more concerned with “providing new ways to keep users engaged on the site and growing that user base” than standing out among competitors.

Parks also noted that the more people remain engaged on the site, “the more likely they are to return and pay for a premium service.”

Spotify members can use the site for free for the first six months and later opt-in to premium packages for unlimited access.

A preview of the new Spotify apps is now available for download.

More About: Music, spotify, Spotify apps

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spotify office

Spotify is kicking off its first-ever U.S. press conference in New York City on Wednesday, promising a big announcement about a “new direction” for the company. Although the company declined to comment on what to expect at the “What’s next for Spotify?” event, a PR rep told Mashable that “so much is coming.”

The latest rumor is that Spotify will launch an “app finder” with apps that allow users to buy concert tickets, look for song lyrics and read reviews, all while listening to songs. Spotify is also rumored to expand its application programming interface (API), so third-party developers can make Spotify’s music library available to their own users for a fee.

CEO Daniel Ek will serve as master of ceremonies, and there should also be a special guest or two. Since this is Spotify’s first big press event and it’s not typical for Ek to address the press in this manner, we’re expecting this to be big.

We’ll be bringing you the latest news from the event in our live blog below, starting at 11:45 a.m. ET.

UPDATE: The big news is, as we suspected, that third-party developers can now create apps on the site.

You can watch the live stream below, using the password l0vemus1c

More About: Music, spotify, streaming, trending

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Spotify Events

As Spotify gears up for its first-ever U.S. press conference in New York City on Wednesday, speculation is heating up about exactly what the streaming music service will announce.

All Things Digital is reporting that the company is likely to announce that third-party developers can make Spotify’s music library available to their own users. These users would then in turn have to pay Spotify for privileges. However, Spotify declined to comment on whether the event will include news about the company expanding its application programming interface (API).

It’s also rumored that an iPad app and a new music store where members can purchase songs directly from the service could also arrive. The latter is a more likely guess since it’s already possible for European Spotify members to buy songs from the streaming service.

Spotify – which arrived on U.S. shores just four months ago – sent out press invitations last week announcing that it has “exciting news” to share about a “new direction” the company is taking. The event called “What’s next for Spotify?” will stream online and should feature a special guest or two, along with CEO Daniel Ek.

Spotify has been under pressure recently from competitors such as Google Music, the recently-unveiled free service that allows users to upload, share and browse songs, and then listen to them on the go via cloud storage on Android devices.

There has also been an increase in concern among music partners about the impact of streaming on their business. More than 200 labels and publishers pulled out of various streaming services, from Spotify to Napster and Rdio, after a study claimed streaming music was hurting record sales.

Since this will be the company’s first time addressing the press in this manner – it didn’t even hold a press conference for its U.S. launch – buzz surrounding the event has been big.

Some experts believe that if Spotify opens up its platform to third-party developers, the music industry would be more open to a “music everywhere” concept, similar to how the TV industry gave cable customers access to watch TV programming online and via iPad apps, according to All Things Digital. The move could also entice more Spotify users to sign up for paid accounts instead of using its basic free model.

Spotify’s business is growing fast, helped along by its expansion onto Facebook. In addition, the company recently announced that its premium subscription growth doubled in the last year to 2.5 million, making it the largest music subscription service on the Internet. But with the addition of third-party developers having access to the site’s catalog, the growth could be much larger.

“What’s next for Spotify?” will kick off at 11:30 a.m. EST on Wednesday and Mashable will be there live blogging the event.

More About: Music, spotify, streaming

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Indie-rockers the Vaccines are debuting their new video for “Wetsuit,” which was almost entirely crowdsourced from fan photos submitted through Instagram, the photo-sharing app for iPhone. The video follows a festival-goer in a red hoodie from daybreak to day-ending Vaccines concert. Other than brief video segments, the entire video is from Instagram.

Fans were asked to take pictures of themselves at festivals and submit them by tagging them with #vaccinesvideo. The band received nearly 3,000 photos and approximately 15,000 likes on Instagram. The project, put together by Anomaly, also had an international splash with people from 99 countries visiting the contest site. It was then up to director Poppy de Villeneuve to sort through and pick the best photos to use and in what order.

“We always talk about breaking down the barriers between the band and the fans,” says Justin Young, lead singer for the Vaccines. “We like sharing music with them, meeting them, interacting with them, as most bands do. So this felt like the ultimate interaction. Instagram was suggested to give photos taken on people’s phone a nice warm feel.”

instagram image

That warm feel (thanks to Instagram’s vintage filters) fits the song well. “Wetsuit” has an end-of-summer, dog-days mood that the crowdsourced photos pick up. “It’s a journey; a day in the life. the song is quite nostalgic, and I think the photos and the character’s movements will prove nostalgic for all the people that went to festivals this summer,” Young says. “The song is about being young and being stupid and free.”

The biggest gamble, of course, is whether those photos would be any good. Crowdsourcing a music video has a lot of variables including quality of photo and how to make the video seem like more than a slideshow. “The main thing that we were surprised to find was just how good the imagery was,” says Paul Graham, founding partner of Anomaly. “This was normal people, possibly a little dizzy, around the fields of the world creating some beautiful shots. Together they really do capture that sense of what a festival, and a summer of music, is all about.”

Check out the video and let us know what you think in the comments — did the gamble pay off?

More About: crowdsourced, instagram, Music, music videos, videos

Monday’s Google Doodle celebrates the birthday of Queen’s legendary singer Freddie Mercury, and it’s definitely one of the most interesting doodles to come out of Google‘s workshop yet.

Arguably one of the best vocalists in rock music history, Mercury was born on Sept. 5, 1946, and died on Nov. 24, 1991. He was known for his flamboyant presence on stage, amazing four-octave vocal range and an unforgettable series of hits which ranged from hard rock to power ballads to neoclassical pieces.

Monday’s Doodle is also accompanied by a blog post from Google, which was written by none other than Queen’s guitarist Brian May, who recently performed at the MTV Video Music Awards with Lady Gaga.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Animated Google Doodles [VIDEOS] | Where Do Google Doodles Come From?

“Some people imagine Freddie as the fiery, difficult diva who required everyone around him to compromise. No. In our world, as four artists attempting to paint on the same canvas, Freddie was always the one who could find the compromise — the way to pull it through. If he found himself at odds with any one of us, he would quickly dispel the cloud with a generous gesture, a wisecrack or an impromptu present,” May wrote.

BONUS: More Google Doodles

The Christmas Google Doodle

Each package gets larger with a mouse-over, and a click on it returns search results pertinent to a specific country or the particular items featured in a scene. This one is from December 24, 2010.

Charlie Chaplin Google Doodle

The Google Doodle team stars in an homage to the silent film era’s greatest star’s 122nd birthday, April 15, 2011.

Google Logo Repelled by Cursor

This one’s done in HTML5 and was published Sept. 7, 2010. To get the full effect, here’s one you can interact with.

John Lennon Google Doodle

This Doodle commemorated John Lennon’s 70th birthday in October 2010.

Martha Graham

Debuting May 10, 2011, this Google Doodle marks dance choreographer Martha Graham’s birthday.

Robert Bunsen

Commemorated the birthday of the inventor of the Bunsen burner, German chemist Robert Bunsen on March 31, 2011.

Thomas Edison

The great inventor’s birthday was honored on February 11, 2011.

Independence Day

Marking Independence Day 2010.

Pac-Man’s 30th Anniversary

A real crowd pleaser was this playable Pac-Man game, which appeared on May 21. 2010. Here’s a playable version.

More About: animation, Freddie Mercury, Google, google doodle, queen

The beta for iTunes Match, Apple’s service for bringing all of your music to iCloud, has been released to developers.

The service is part of the release of iTunes 10.5 beta 6.1. iTunes Match scans a user’s music and finds copies of those songs in iCloud, regardless of whether those songs were purchased through iTunes. That music can then be played or streamed via iTunes.

The iTunes Match beta is available now to U.S. developers for $24.99 for a 12 month paid subscription. Developers that jump on iTunes Match during the beta period get an additional three months for free. Developers should back up their iTunes library because “Apple will periodically reset your iCloud library during the beta.”

Apple will face stiff competition for its cloud-based offering from startups like Spotify and Rdio. Apple’s strong relationship with the labels gives it a distinct advantage though as it prepares to push iCloud to the masses.

More About: apple, itunes, itunes-match, music

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