Apple Music | The Verdict
If you’ve got an iPhone, you now have Apple Music. The Cupertino tech giant’s new music streaming service is already on your phone (if you’ve installed the latest iOS update), and it’s completely free to try for three months. Apple Music offers unlimited streaming (and offline listening) to the entire iTunes catalogue, with no ads, for £9.99 a month once the trial ends.
Aiming to be something more than just another Spotify or Google Play Music, Apple Music has a few features which set it apart from the crowd.
One of the key ideologies behind Apple Music is ‘To deepen the connection between artists and fans.’, and Connect is the platform for that. It’s essentially a lightweight news feed, allowing artists to share photos, video, audio files, links to tracks and written posts. You choose which artists to follow, and you can like and comment on their posts. On one hand, what is essentially another social network might seem a bit unnecessary, with the plethora of other platforms already out there. On the other, I think museos will appreciate having a feed showing only what their favourite musicians are up to. Some reviewers actively dislike Connect, but fortunately for them it’s straight forward to turn it off.
Since Apple pretty much invented the playlist in the early 00’s (I did say ‘pretty much’, no hate mail please) with iTunes and the iPod, people have been curating and sharing their own digital mixtapes. Although Spotify and Google Play Music both come with pre made and constantly updated playlists, Apple are pushing their expertly curated, handpicked playlists. A lot of emphasis has been put on the fact that there are people, rather than algorithms, behind these playlists. Will it make much of a difference? Will people notice? Who knows. I’m a bit stuck in the past (I tend to prefer full albums to playlists), so I’ll let you decide.
I was always a big fan of Spotify’s ‘Discover’ feature, which suggests new artists or albums based on my listening history. Discover has helped me find some of my favourite bands, so Apple Music’s equivalent feature, ‘For You’, has a lot to live up to. I haven’t been using Music long enough or added enough music to my library for Apple to have a good measure of me yet, but so far the recommendations have been pretty good. It gives you a mix of albums and curated playlists, some of which have been put together by artists, and visually it’s a lot more engaging than Discover. I’m interested to see how it develops and what gets thrown up over the next few weeks as Music learns my tastes, but first impressions are good.
So this is the big one. Apple have introduced Beats 1, a fully featured presenters-and-everything radio station, broadcasting 24 hours a day. There’s three main anchors across the world, in London, New York and Los Angeles. They managed to swipe the new music championing Kiwi Zane Lowe from Radio 1, who lived up to his reputation for putting unknown bands in the limelight by making ‘City’ by the relatively unknown Manchester pop-punkers Spring King, the first ever track played on the global radio station. What a nice guy.
If you like your music to fit into one genre, Beats 1 is not for you; I’ve been listening for the last few days and eclectic is word here, but it works. You won’t find much in the way of cheesy pop (although Swifty gets her fair share of airtime), the mix is more geared towards less commercial hip hop, dance and alternative with a broad spread of artists from around the world. As Zane himself said during his first broadcast, their genre is ‘great’. So far, I’m a big Beats 1 fan.
So that’s Apple Music in brief. It seems to have polarised tech journalists over the last few days; some think it has the potential to live up to the hype, some think it needs some serious work and others seem furious that it even exists. There’s some bugs, and if I’m honest it doesn’t seem very thoroughly beta tested, but there’s nothing major and I’m sure they’ll get it all ironed out in the coming weeks. I’m suitably impressed so far, and I have a feeling that I’ll be ending my Spotify subscription in three months time. Give it a try, you’ve got twelve free weeks (just remember to cancel at the end of your trial if you’re not sold, otherwise you’ll auto renew and end up paying £9.99 a month).
As it stands, Apple haven’t announced any official advertising or marketing platforms through Apple Music. This doesn’t mean that the opportunities don’t already exist, though. Connect has the potential to be a fantastic platform for brand partnerships; is there a band or artist that you feel connects with your brand’s audience? Get them using your product or service and talking about it on Connect. The emphasis on playlists could allow for brands to curate playlists aimed at their target markets; it could be a great way to build brand identity and reputation.
No one’s sure if Apple are planning to get some revenue out of the Beats 1 radio station by running ads; they certainly haven’t mentioned it yet if they are. If they do it could be good news for businesses with a big budget, it’s one of the world’s first global broadcasting platforms with a listenership in over 100 countries.
You can take a look at Apple’s advert for their new radio station, beats 1 here