“Artists and fans now have an incredible way to connect with one another directly in Apple Music with Connect. Through Connect, artists can share lyrics, backstage photos, videos or even release their latest song directly to fans directly from their iPhone. Fans can comment on or like anything an artist has posted, and share it via Messages, Facebook, Twitter and email. And when you comment, the artist can respond directly to you.”
Sounds a lot like MySpace doesn’t it? That’s Connect – one of three components that will make up the forthcoming streaming music announced by Apple at their WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference) in California a few hours ago.
The first fruits of Apple’s US$3bn acquisition of Beats in 2014, Apple Music has today launched with claims of revolution from whoever pens CEO Tim Cooks product announcement speeches. It is anything but. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek responded via Twitter with suitable indifference.
At the WWDC event, celebrity endorsers did what only celebrity endorsers can do when there’s nothing new to talk about: go long with the empty rhetoric. Jimmy Iovine, Drake and Trent Reznor each made heavy reference to the ongoing need to respect music’s value so that ALL artists can see proper remuneration, not just the top tier. Funny how Jay-Z and pals continue to feel the backlash from taking a similar stance with Tidal and yet Tim Cook and his millionaire celebrity endorsers (thus far) get a free pass.
Apple Music’s allows for streaming of anything in the iTunes store(s), playlists curated by humans, not algorithms (echoes of Tidal there) and ad-free music videos, presumably an attempt to put one over Google’s reported domination in the free supply of music via YouTube, albeit of more questionable quality and variable provenance. One might reasonably expect Apple’s catalogue to be the largest to so far come to market but I note no explicit mention of song numbers. Perhaps this data morsel is set to come down the pike once the hooplah subsides?
Then there’s Beats 1: a ‘global’ radio station to be helmed by ex-BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Low in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in NYC and Julie Adenunga in London. It will stream to 100 countries, twenty four hours a day.
Of course, Spotify already meets the majority of global music streaming demand, internet radio is far from a new concept and those with more leftfield tastes have been mining the artist-direct music sales model for years already with bandcamp. Apple is simply looking to grow the music streaming pie so it can plate up its own bigger slice. Or it could be that Apple simply needs to stop the revenue stream rot caused by dwindling iTunes music download sales.
Cook is presumably banking on the enormity of Apple’s financial muscle and iTunes store subscription base to push Apple Music uptake over the top. However, without the ad-supported free tier enjoyed by the vast majority of Spotify users, the Cupertino company has its work cut out. Apple’s streaming service will be charged out at US$9.99/month once the 3 month free trial expires. There’ll also be a US$14.99/month option to accommodate “up to six family members” on the one subscription. Neat.
For audiophiles, there’s nothing to hear here. Apple isn’t offering lossless streaming. We can only hope that Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz continue make a financial fist of running a lossless service alongside a half-price lossy alternative. The Apple launch event made zero mention of the codec or bitrate* at which Apple intend to stream and why should it? This new service isn’t for people who care about such things.
For people who do care about sound quality Apple Music simply reflects the dominance of the majority that doesn’t; and that’s a little depressing. You and I demand quality first and foremost through an absence of lossy compression. The man in the street cares not for such luxuries. He just wants the bare minimum for the lowest possible price. Right now that isn’t Apple Music.
Personally, I hope that Apple’s presence in this sector and/or their back-channelled communication with Spotify will convince the latter to drop its free tier. Music supply should not come without a fee. And yet that’s precisely what millennials have grown up – free music. They turn the data tap and it flows. When you already have Spotify streaming for free, where’s the motivation to move to something that’s not?
Oh – one more thing: remember iTunes Ping?
Apple Music will launch on June 30th with clients of Windows, OS X and iOS. Android users will need to wait a little longer.
Further information: Apple Music
*Techcrunch is reporting 256kbps