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Spotify launches its promised fundraising feature for artists – TechCrunch

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Last month, Spotify announced that as part of its coronavirus relief efforts it would soon add new fundraising features for artists on its platform. Today, the company is following through with the launch of “Artist Fundraising Pick,” a feature that allows artists to fundraise for themselves, their crews, or one of the verified music relief initiatives Spotify has already vetted through the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief project.

At launch, Spotify is working with a small group of fundraising partners to make the donation process easier, including Cash App, GoFundMe, and PayPal.me.

Cash App is currently Spotify’s preferred method, as it has also established a $1 million relief effort for artists. When Spotify artists choose their “$cashtag” as their Artist Fundraising Pick and secure at least one donation of any size, they’ll receive an additional $100 in their account from Cash App up until a collective total of $1 million has been contributed. This works for artists in the U.S. and U.K., but Spotify users worldwide can donate through Cash App.

To use the new fundraising tools, artists (or Spotify for Artists admin users) will go to their Artist dashboard and click “Get started” on the banner at the top to submit their Fundraising Pick. This is a similar process as to how artists choose which track they want to display on their profile.

Once live, fans can donate to the cause through the artist’s profile. In addition to Cash App, PayPal is broadly available and GoFundMe is available in 19 markets.

If the artist chooses to raise for a music relief organization, they can select from those associated with Spotify’s existing charity project, which launched last month in partnership with MusiCares, PRS Foundation, and Help Musicians. It has now expanded to include a wider range of participating organizations, including several local options, and is continuing to grow.

At launch, a handful of artists already have the new feature live, including Tyrese Pope and Boy Scouts who are fundraising through Cash App; Marshmello who is fundraising for MusiCares; and Benjamin Ingrosso who is fundraising for Musikerforbundet.

Spotify says it moved to quickly launch this feature because it believed it was in a unique position to help artists raise money from a global network of fans. However, it cautions that it’s never built a fundraising feature like this before, and considers this a “first version.” Over time, the feature will likely evolve and update based on artist feedback.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for many Spotify users and people around the world — and there are many worthy causes to support at this time,” the company wrote in an announcement. “With this feature, we simply hope to enable those who have the interest and means to support artists in this time of great need, and to create another opportunity for our COVID-19 Music Relief partners to find the financial support they need to continue working in music and lift our industry,” it said.

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‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3 will premiere on March 1 • TechCrunch

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Disney announced today The Mandalorian’s long-awaited third season will debut on March 1st on Disney+. The company had previously said that the third season would debut in February, so fans will have to wait a little longer than expected to see the upcoming season.

The third season will take place following the events of “The Book of Boba Fett,” in which Din Djarin reunited with Grogu. A teaser for the upcoming season shows Mando fighting armed warriors on Mandalore.

The second season “The Mandalorian” premiered back in October 2020, so fans have had to wait quite some time to see their favorites together again. Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito and Katee Sackhoff will all be returning in the third season of the show.

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YouTube launches its first-ever official trends podcast, ‘Like & Describe,’ with content creator MatPat • TechCrunch

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YouTube launched its first-ever official trends podcast today, the company announced. Hosted by popular content creator MatPat and produced by YouTube’s Culture & Trends team, the “Like & Describe” podcast will tackle lesser-known stories behind the biggest YouTube trends.

Episodes will release monthly on YouTube’s main channel for viewers to watch as well as all on major podcast platforms for listeners, including Spotify, Apple, Amazon and Google. Episode one debuted on December 1 with a second episode set to premiere on January 1.

The announcement comes a few months after YouTube introduced a dedicated podcast homepage. It’s likely the company launched “Like & Describe” to further cash in on the ever-growing podcast industry. Plus, MatPat could draw in millions of listeners since the creator has over 34 million subscribers in total across his four channels–The Game Theorists, The Film Theorists, The Food Theorists and his gaming channel, GTLive.

In the first episode, titled “The Rise of the VTubers,” MatPat explores Virtual YouTubers (aka VTubers), animated characters voiced by humans that garner a collective total of 1.5 billion views every month, according to YouTube.

MatPat meets with VTubers like Gawr Gura, a 9,000-year-old half shark/half girl, and Mori Calliope, a Grim reaper that raps in motion-capture music videos, among others. He also speaks with Earnest Pettie, Trends & Insights Lead of YouTube’s Culture & Trends team, content creator Dave Cherry and other experts.

Unlike most video podcasts where hosts sit in front of a camera and speak into a mic, “Like & Describe” has viewers follow along with graphics as MatPat narrates—similar to his video style for his YouTube channels.

The second episode will have MatPat meet with more special guests from the Culture & Trends team as they provide commentary on the biggest videos and creators of 2022.

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Netflix is letting more subscribers preview its films and TV shows, report says • TechCrunch

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Content is king for streaming services, and Netflix may be going the extra mile to ensure its content is up to par with subscribers. According to the Wall Street Journal, Netflix’s prerelease screening program will soon enlist tens of thousands of subscribers to preview new movies and shows and provide their feedback.

Netflix declined to comment to TechCrunch on the Wall Street Journal’s report.

Similar to how major Hollywood studios have test screenings for new films, the “Netflix Preview Club” has over 2,000 previewers that review Netflix titles before they release to the streaming platform, the Wall Street Journal wrote. The program will reportedly increase by 400% in early 2023, should the report prove accurate.

The program has existed since May 2021, Variety previously reported. Netflix confirmed to Variety that it runs subscriber-feedback panels in the U.S. only.

According to Reddit users who claim to be in the program, the Netflix Preview Club is invite-only. Subscribers are required to sign an NDA before watching the film and then answer a series of survey questions one person wrote. “You get a special Netflix account, and they email when they have a movie in there for you to watch. Usually, you have to watch and review within a week,” the Reddit user added.

Amazon and Hulu have similar programs, the “Amazon Preview” program and the “Hulu Brain Trust,” where subscribers offer feedback on content.

WSJ points out that “Don’t Look Up” was apparently too serious for the Netflix Preview Club, and creators took this feedback and added more humor before it was released. Although “Don’t Look Up” was poorly reviewed by critics and has a 56% Tomatometer score and 78% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, it had four Oscars nominations and broke a Netflix record with 152.29 million weekly viewing hours.

Netflix intends to spend $17 billion on content next year, so it’s imperative that it’s smart about what it invests in. And in order to avoid repeating the disaster of Netflix’s first and second quarters of 2022, the company needs to keep subscribers engaged to limit churn.

Netflix rebounded in Q3 2022, jumping to 223 million global subscribers, so if expanding its preview program proves to be successful, its content could grow its subscriber base even more.

The streamer has seen success with its drama shows like “Stranger Things,” “Bridgerton,” “Squid Game,” and Tim Burton’s newest series “Wednesday,” which just topped 340 million hours viewed. However, Netflix needs more than that if it wants to fill in the gaps. Hopefully, the program will help give the streamer a better idea of what viewers want.

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