Among the slew of product announcements on the opening day of its 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Apple officially unveiled Apple Music—a combination of curation, community and commerce designed to woo music lovers to subscribe to access streaming music, playlists and a radio service.
“We’ve had a long relationship with music at Apple and music has had a very rich history of change, some of which we’ve played a part in,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook onstage at WWDC 2015. He described Apple Music—which today quickly gained hundreds of thousands of likes on Facebook and more than 7 million followers on Twitter—as “the next chapter in music” that also includes Beats 1, a 24-hour streaming radio station, at its heart.
In rebooting iTunes Radio, Apple is working with artists including Dr. Dre, will.i.am, Pharrell and Drake (who took the stage to talk up the service) as curators and guest DJs alongside staff DJs. In an interesting twist, even if you’re not a paying Apple Music member you can still use it to follow your favorite artists and listen to Beats 1 for free.
Jimmy Iovine, the co-founder of the Beats, took the WWDC stage with this launch. After all, Apple acquired Beats for $3 billion last year and ingests the Beats Music streaming platform, in addition to using the Beats name for its radio channel and popping Beats headphones on DJs and a young fan in the launch videos below.
Iovine detailed his conversations going back to the launch of iTunes with Steve Jobs, and said the advantage of Apple Music is that it’s an ecosystem that’s programmed and curated by humans, not an algorithm, and so elevates the artistry and supremacy of the music between artists, professional or amateur, “music experts” and fans.
“We love music, and the new Apple Music service puts an incredible experience at every fan’s fingertips,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “All the ways people love enjoying music come together in one app—a revolutionary streaming service, live worldwide radio and an exciting way for fans to connect with artists.”
Moving the Needle
“Apple Music is really going to move the needle for fans and artists,” said Iovine, arguing that the music experience today is fragmented and fans need to use a lot of different services to listen to and connect with their favorite artists. “Online music has become a complicated mess of apps, services and websites. Apple Music brings the best features together for an experience every music lover will appreciate.”
Apple Music, which competes with Spotify and Pandora and recalls MySpace and Apple’s failed Ping social network, isn’t as much of a revolution as an evolution, comments Forbes contributor Melinda Newman—despite its own description as “a revolutionary music service, a 24/7 global radio, and a new way to connect with artists.”
And with Jay Z’s Tidal Music already snapping up artists, Apple’s biggest challenge has been signing labels for an all-you-can-eat streaming subscription and rallying the support of the musicians who are the cornerstone of the service, humanizing and personalizing Apple Music to create a dynamic community and content for fans.
“There needs to be a place where music can be treated less like digital bits but more like the art it is, with a sense of respect and discovery,” said musician Trent Reznor, creative head for Apple Music, in the launch video.
Pay to Play
Apple Music is coming to virtually every Apple device (except the iPod nano and shuffle): iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and as an update to iTunes on Mac on June 30 in over 100 countries.
The cost to join: $9.99/month with the first three months free or $14.99/month for a family subscription for up to six people (with unique log-ins and libraries, a la Netflix, based on iCloud family sharing) will be available for $14.99/month.
Apple Music will launch on Apple TV, Android and Windows in the fall. For the first time, having come late to the streaming music game, Apple has a chance to challenge Spotify—if it can persuade consumers to sign up for a free trial and membership.
Curation, Content and Community
• YOUR MUSIC: With Apple Music, you still have your iTunes library of purchased tracks and ripped-from-CDs music. And a lot more: Tens of millions of tracks in the iTunes library are available for you to stream or save for offline listening. You can even share playlists, albums, and videos.
• FOR YOU: Curation is another cornerstone of Apple Music. Get recommendations for albums and playlists you’ll love from experts — real people who know and love music. Discover new artists and albums every week and get playlists for every activity, and from every genre.
In addition to human curation by Apple Music editors and DJs, Apple will share playlists from musicians and media (Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, The Fader, Decibel, DJ Mag and more) to give users the opportunity to discover and subscribe to playlists by theme and genre, new music suggestions and other content from music industry experts.
Finally, Siri has been going to DJ school and is another resident curator, dedicated to helping users find and enjoy great music and have fun with Apple Music. Ask Siri to, “Play me the best songs from 1994,” “Play the best FKA twigs song,” or “What was the number one song in February 2011?” in a mix of objective and subjective search that’s sure to spark debate.
• BEATS 1 RADIO: Beats 1, which incorporates the Beats logo, is a groundbreaking 24/7 global radio station, broadcasting nonstop to over 100 countries from LA, New York and London.
Music, interviews, guest hosts, news, and culture—no matter where you are, you can hear the same programming as every other listener.
Apple has also redesigned radio with human curation taking the lead. Apple Music Radio gives you stations created by some of the world’s finest radio DJs. A trio of DJs will provide around-the-clock programming in three timezones: London (Julie Adenuga), LA (BBC Radio alum Zane Lowe) and New York (Ebro Darden).
The new stations range in genres from indie rock and pop to classical and folk to alternative and funk, with each one expertly curated. With membership, you can skip as many songs as you like, so you can change the tune without changing the dial.
• CONNECT: Apple Music provides all artists, even the kids in their bedrooms, a way to engage with their audience. The Connect community hub lets artists can post their latest tracks, behind-the-scenes photos, in-progress lyrics, or a new remix, publishing from Apple Music to all their social channels and even their own websites. Fans can love or comment on their favorites, while unsigned artists can share their music on Apple Music so music lovers and the entire music industry can hear it.
• IMPROVED ITUNES: As demonstrated by Eddy Cue, iTunes can now be more easily reordered to choose the next song in an album or playlist, or skip the next track altogether. Discovery and personalization are also enhanced: Tell Apple Music what you like and you’ll get handpicked music based on your tastes. Apple Music includes tens of thousands of music videos with no ads. And as mentioned above, Siri has been brushing up on music, so users can call up tracks by asking questions, such as “Play Alternative Music Top 10,” or “Play the greatest hits from January 1984.”
The announcement hit rival Pandora’s stock price, prompted Spotify to confirm it will match the service’s family subscription plan pricing and inspired Rdio to mimic Apple’s famous “Welcome, IBM. Seriously” ad with its own open letter that opens with, “Welcome, Apple. Seriously.”
New York magazine addressed their fears today in an article titled, “Why Spotify Should Be Very Afraid of Apple Music.” In addition to its deep pockets to market, underprice and shore up its music platform, it’s the Apple ecosystem and brand that gives it an advantage over competitors “by virtue of its existing hardware and software, meaning the iPhone, iPod, iTunes, and the Apple Watch. This is where it might appeal to consumers already inundated with similar on-demand streaming and free radio products. Say that Apple Music gave you a single place to control all the music that you own, plus your cloud-based playlists, plus your curated radio stations. Say it always worked seamlessly as your products updated. Say it came already installed on your new phone, with a free trial offer. You’d be likely to at least try it, is my guess, and Apple’s too.”
On the eve of WWDC, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek tweeted his service’s royalty payouts to musicians:
Spotify Royalties Grew to $300 Million in First Quarter Alone. Now totalling over $3bn. http://t.co/KiV7SGuZVu
— Daniel Ek (@eldsjal) June 4, 2015
And once the “one more thing” of Apple Music was revealed Monday by Cook and Co., Ek posted a two-word response on Twitter (which he quickly deleted):