At Apple’s (News - Alert) annual WWDC event yesterday, the company announced what practically everyone knew was coming – its new streaming service, Apple Music. Many see this as Apple’s scrambling attempt to get onboard with the music streaming movement led by competitors like Spotify (News - Alert) and other attempts to dominate like Jay-Z’s Tidal.
Streaming services, which give users access to large databases of music from which they can stream music, make playlists, etc. from their phones or computer desktops, has taken the music industry by storm. Spotify, which has been a frontrunner in the business since around 2008, has a free option, made possible by ads as well as a premium option costing $9.99 per month. Tidal, is a newer option, but thanks to endorsements from other heavyweight artists (many that take issue with the free subscriptions that services such as Spotify offer), it is an option with growing traction. It also costs $9.99 per month or $19.99 for the premium option.
Never one to be left behind in the technological rat race, Apple will now also be offering its own music streaming service at the end of the month.
As consumers are turning increasingly to music streaming rather than music downloading, this seems like a logical step for Apple to take. The only concern seems to be that when competitors have such strong footholds in the industry, how can Apple differentiate itself enough to attract users? I would argue that with its branding and added features, Apple has accomplished this already.
To start, Apple has made a push for a more humanized and personal experiences with its music streaming. The company claims that while algorithms are necessary for the technology, it is human curation that makes better playlists for Apple Music users. Not to mention that the more you use the service, the more it adapts to learn your tastes and preferences. And Siri has even been incorporated. Users simply speak, “Play the best of…”, and apparently Siri and Apple Music will answer.
Apple has also tried to differentiate itself by creating Beats 1, a live, 24/7 radio station, carefully overseen by three DJs from around the world. Essentially a reboot of Apple’s acquired Beats Radio; the station will use music exclusives, guests and news to attract listeners. While I can’t quite imagine this as a huge incentive or experience altering feature for myself, I can see how this would interest more hardcore music fans with its promotion of music culture and personnel. Perhaps more down the everyday person’s alley is Apple Music Radio, the redesigned iTunes Radio, which is similar to radio services like Pandora (News - Alert) or even SiriusXM. This will appeal to a broader audience due to its ability to give listeners both a semi-controlled radio experience and a way to explore new music that matches their taste.
In an effort to appeal to music artists, Apple has also come up with Apple Music Connect, a service that aims to give artists control over their content and to help them connect with fans if they so wish. Artists (both signed and unsigned) can share anything from videos to lyrics that fans can then share via social media or even comment on. Connect is what will probably give Tidal the biggest challenge, because it seeks to put artists in power of their content when it comes to music streaming. Tidal promises exclusive content from artists, but Connect seeks to provide a personal platform between artists and fans that may give Tidal a run for its money. Many artists feel angered by the financial side of music streaming, and also by the lack of control that seems to come with it (Taylor Swift (News - Alert) pulling her music from Spotify as an example.) Apple Music Connect is taking steps to alleviate this.
Finally, Apple Music is an Apple product. The company boasts many loyalists who will be eager to try Apple Music on the basis that they use other Apple products and are happy with them. A key point in Apple’s pitch is that Apple Music will be easy to use across their devices, and that it will be in keeping with iTunes and the iTunes store. This is extremely appealing, especially to an iTunes fan such as myself. Having spent years cultivating my music collection and creating playlists for every occasion, I have been hesitant to ditch this for a streaming service, only to have to start all over again from the overwhelming database of songs these services provide. I’m embarrassed to admit that I still purchase songs from the iTunes store on principal that I like to own them and have unlimited access to them. However, I would be more willing to try a service like Apple Music because it works in conjunction with my already established iTunes vault. And while some might lament that there is no free subscription, I would say Apple Music is pretty competitive at $9.99 per month after a 3 month free trial. It remains to be seen if others agree.