Apple Music and Beats 1 Radio went live today, launching with mostly positive reactions (there were complaints about it being buggy and Beats 1 was down for about 30 minutes) about the new streaming via iOS 8.4, subscription service and iOS Music app (version 12.2 of iTunes). It’s a big bet for Apple, as one of the biggest bransd in digital music is jostling for position in a crowded field that already includes Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Google Play and Amazon Prime Music.
With the launch of Apple Music, the streaming Beats 1 Radio also went live, broadcasting worldwide 24/7 and hosted by DJs based in Los Angeles, where Zane Lowe kicked things off, New York and London, rather than spinning generated by computer algorithms.
“The service is an amalgam of Apple’s own iTunes and Beats Music, which Apple spent $3 billion to acquire last year,” notes USA Today. “If you still prefer the iTunes model of plunking down $1.29 a pop to buy music, the iTunes store remains.” As users discovered today:
• You can use Siri to navigate, finding tracks by date, such as the top ten songs on the day you were born, or scan your existing music library for matches up to 25,000 in the iTunes catalog which appear cross-device in the iCloud Music Library, available wherever you are. One downfall that fans discovered: it censors explicit content.
• Netflix-style hyper-customization means the first step for new users is to tap on circles of musical genres—tap once on a genre you like, twice on one you love. Same for favorite artists. Apple uses previous choices to recommend playlists and albums that show up in a “For You” section. Another tap adds a song or playlist to your My Music library.
• Curation aims to make finding music easier. The service’s “New” tab offers “Hot Tracks,” “Recent Releases” and “Top Songs,” as well as playlists from Apple Music Editors.
• Connect, Apple Music’s artist-centric social network offers a Twitter-like feed for artists to connect with fans with exclusive content.
— Marshall Mathers (@Eminem) June 30, 2015
• Beats 1 Radio also got mostly solid reviews today, with Lowe DJing at launch, plus shows by Dr. Dre, Elton John, Pharrell Williams, Drake, Q-Tip, St. Vincent, Ellie Goulding, Jaden Smith and others. Non-celeb-curated shows like Lowe’s The World Record, where he picks one song everyone must listen to that day, or Gratitude, highlighting musician’s influenced by others are joined by Chart with worldwide release dates.
Lowe kicked off Beats 1 Radio (which takes listener song requests) with a quick introduction, a program guide on Tumblr and a little bit of hype for the first song: City by Spring King. The punkish debut recalled the launch of MTV, also known for its VJs as human curators and tastemakers. It is not clear if those tastemakers will be screaming “worldwide!” and “here we go!” over the rest of the tracks, but here we are.
— Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) June 30, 2015
Apple Music launched with exclusive rights to Pharrell’s new single Freedom (previewed at Glastonbury), Dr. Dre’s album Chronic and pop artist Taylor Swift’s best-selling album 1989, landing on Apple Music before any other streaming service following her pre-launch showdown with Apple execs.
— Apple Music (@AppleMusic) June 30, 2015
The verdict from Rolling Stone: “With its vast selection of music and smartly curated playlists and radio, Apple Music is robust enough to compete with, and possibly supplant, Spotify and Pandora as the go-to service for music fans. At the same time, users will need to play around with it a bit and dig to move past some of the less immediately intuitive facets (i.e., just how deep the “New” tab goes) for it to hook them.”
— Beats 1 (@Beats1) June 30, 2015
While Apple is clearly hoping to score with the first streaming service that lures millions of people, the trick is how many will stick around after the three-month trial is over (assuming they turn off the auto-renewal). It depends in part on how quickly Apple Music scales – and of course, on users’ reactions and subscriptions.
“My first impression of Apple Music is that it’s the most full-featured streaming music app I’ve seen — and heard — and the first I’d consider paying for,” notes Re/code‘s Walt Mossberg. “But it may overwhelm some users, and I’ll need to live with it more before I can reach final conclusions… My biggest disappointment with Apple Music is that, unlike apps like SoundHound, it has no lyrics. Apple says it’s working on adding that feature.”
It was also a bit buggy, with the download causing some users’ desktops to crash. But how boring would it have been if everything went smoothly?
— Zane Lowe (@zanelowe) June 30, 2015