Media & Entertainment

No, Apple didn’t acquire music analytics startup Asaii, it hired the founders to work on Apple Music

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On the heels of news of not one but two acquisitions from Apple last week, a report surfaced yesterday that Apple had picked up yet another company, the music analytics startup Asaii, for under $100 million; the report led to a “confirmation” from a shareholder in a separate report. But as it turns out, neither appear to be correct.

But we asked and Apple has declined to confirm the deal, and it gave no green light to use its usual statement — the one it often issues when smaller startups are acquired. (You can see a sample of it in this story about Apple buying computer vision startup Spektral last week, which we did get Apple to confirm.) That is, the company has not acquired the assets of the startup.

What it has done is hire a few employees of the company — specifically the three founders, Sony TheakanathAustin Chen and Chris Zhang — who are all now working at Apple at Apple Music. (Apple has done this before: for example, it hired a team from the mapping app PinDrop in the UK; at the time it was also misreported as an acquisition.)

It’s not clear if the three will be working on similar technology, or other kinds of tools to affect how music is discovered on Apple Music. Apple has already launched a beta of its own analytics service called Apple Music for Artists.

Asaii announced in September that it would shut down its service October 14 (yesterday). It also provided music analytics, but it focused on a wider picture across multiple platforms (not just a single silo like Apple Music or Spotify).

Spotify — the music streaming business that is currently Apple’s biggest rival — has added a number of features over the years (some built in-house, some by way of acquisition) to improve the services that it offers to artists to have more transparency on how well their music, and their “brands,” are performing on Spotify. For Spotify, it’s part of a suite of services to help them leverage Spotify as a distribution platform to improve their overall business as artists.

Some believe that Spotify will continue to ramp up these services over time to take on more of the functions of a traditional label in a bid to improve its margins, and also provide more utility to artists. It’s making those moves at a time when many musicians and songwriters have grown disillusioned with the music industry and how they can (or can’t, as the case may be) make money in it.

So it stands to reason that Apple, too, might be considering how it can build similar features into Apple Music — although the company has not confirmed that it will, nor will it be using Asaii’s existing tools to do so.

To be clear, Apple already has some features in place to help promote and understand how music performs on its platform. The beta of Apple Music for Artists, which launched in June of this year, currently provides details on plays, radio spins, song purchases and album purchases.

It also lets you look into trends around your music, control how your artist profile looks, and get insights into how and where your music gets discovered. Separately, it also provides various widgets you can use to promote your Apple Music tracks elsewhere, as well a guidelines on best practices.

But there is still a lot of ground to cover for Apple when it comes to music, both in terms of what it can provide artists as tools to improve their experience on there; and also in terms of how consumers discover and use music on the service. Both of these are potential areas that you might see getting developed over time.

Theakanath and Chen had both worked at Apple previously. PitchBook lists SkyDeck, an accelerator based at UC Berkeley, as its only investor. Meanwhile, Crunchbase lists The House Fund as its only investor, with no details on the amount raised.

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