Apple has well and truly brought the online music fight right to the front door Spotify, Tidal, Pandora and others. We had a rare chance to get our hands on the Apple Music app just after it was launched at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.
If you haven’t heard, overnight, Apple has launched more than just another gadget or operating system, but a service.
Called “Apple Music”, it is Apple’s take on what a streaming media platform could be, bringing access to unlimited music and radio to one banner and letting you listen to pretty much anything you want. It will be made available for Apple devices at first, but the company is even thinking beyond iPhone and iPad, and will eventually be bringing the service to Android too.
But what is Apple Music?
First off, Apple Music is a combination of services, and is designed to bring together the various sources that people go to find their music online.
To shop and buy music, there’s the iTunes store.
For listening to curated ‘playlists’ across different genres of music, there’s Apple Radio.
For browsing your collection of music already purchased from the iTunes store and copied from CD, there’s the ‘My Music’ library.
However, what’s new is now you can access Apple’s iTunes collection of about 30 million songs, and listen to any track or album for a subscription fee.
There’s also a new Apple radio station, called Beats 1, which is a global, live, 24/7 music service. Lastly, for artists and fans, Apple’s Connect is a place where artists can post just about anything on their page, and share with their fan base, or for new artists to be discovered.
When opening the newly-designed Music app, you’ll first be guided through an ‘induction’ process where it learns about you musical tastes and activity. It will analyse the music already in your library, including what you play the most, the genres in your collection, and even the music copied from CD.
Next, you’re asked questions about the genres of music that you listen to, followed by which artists you like. You can tap double tap on a selection to say that you really love it, and hold down on a selection for a couple of seconds if you want to say that you really don’t like it. Once finished, your musical profile will be applied to suggestions from Apple’s team of musical curators.
Curators are people, not machines
We met a music curator, named Brandon, who explained that it’s his job to learn as much as he can about his assigned musical genre by attending gigs, talking to artists and fans, analysing playback data and trends, along with tracking top tracks.
It’s these ‘human’ curators that then decide based on your profile what music to suggest.
This appears in a neatly organised list of songs found in the ‘For You’ menu, which is one of 5 sections that make up Apple’s Music app. Simply scroll down to a selection that interests you and it plays right on the page.
Next, in the ‘New’ menu you can view a country wide list of curated selections that are trending and popular.
This is essentially for musical promotion and discovery, and there’s all sorts of recommendations, chart lists and info here, which selections provided by a local team of curators. This section focuses on main-stream music and doesn’t adapt to show only classical choices, if you were into just classical music, for example.
Beats 1 now broadcasting to the world
The Radio menu is where you’ll find Apple’s new Beats 1 station, along with other genre-specific and customised radio stations.
The key point here is that Beats 1 is a radio station, like the others, that you can tap into and listen to live. Beats will feature mainstream music, but will reflect the three different locals where it is broadcast from including London, LA and New York.
Apple has signed on a trio of well known DJs including New Zealand’s own Zane Lowe, based in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga in London. They will work together to provide a 24/7 live service, broadcasted to Apple devices around the world.
We didn’t get to hear any content during the demo, as it won’t begin until the end of the month.
Given the launch of Beats 1, and the possibility of a future Apple TV Streaming service, it’s interesting to consider Apple’s incredible potential as a content distributor, publisher and broadcaster that can simply reach into the pockets and purses of millions of people in 100 countries and create probably the world’s largest smartphone based listening audience, just like that.
Connecting with fans
The idea behind Apple’s Connect service is somewhat reminiscent of MySpace, where an artist can set up a dedicated page or stream to share whatever they want with their fan base.
Connect is a neatly organised, and can feature any combination of audio samples, photos, video or whatever an artist wants to put out there. Fans can like, comment and even share things from a artist’s Connect stream with their friends.
Lastly, the Your Music menu is where you’ll find you music purchases, along with Apple’s online library if you subscribe to the streaming service.
For those that don’t want to pay for the streaming music service, they won’t get the ‘For You’ page of curated suggestions or have access to Apple’s online library but will still see music recommendations via the ‘New’ menu and access Apple Radio stations, however these will have ads in them, while subscribers to Apple Music will have ad-free stations.
Lastly, the My Music section will still be used to organise their collection. For those with iTunes Match, this will be integrated into the Apple Music service as it will match copied music with what’s in the online iTunes library automatically.
Overall, Apple’s Music is a very exciting prospect and will definitely have an impact on established players. For one, it simply puts everything in one place, rather than relying on Spotify for an online library, and Pandora for a radio service, for example. While it doesn’t have the high-fidenlty options of music steraming service Tidal, Apple Music does offer perfectly reasonable 256-bit audio quality.
Apple Music launches on June 30 to 100 countries including Australia. Australians will have a local content curation team, and the music library will draw from the local Aussie music scene, just like the current iTunes Australia store.
No Australian pricing has been announced yet, however the service is available in the US for $US9.99 per month. For families of up to 6 members, there’s also a Family subscription price of $US14.99. Compared to Spotify Premium in Australia, which is $11.99, we’d expect Apple Music to come in around the same price, or perhaps just a little more.
Apple is also offering a free 3 month trial, which will give it a huge customer base, right from the start.
Overall, the attraction of a massive musical library at your fingertips, a 24/7 global music station, customised music suggestions, access to artist’s content and a single neat and organised place to search and store your music, is a combination that will be very hard to beat.
Valens Quinn was flown to Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) where this was announced as a guest of Apple.