Apple has formally unveiled its music streaming service at WWDC 2015. The ambitious Apple Music will arrive at the end of the month and will bring together three main features into one app: a “revolutionary streaming service, live worldwide radio and an exciting way for fans to connect with artists.”
Two hours into a marathon keynote, Apple CEO Tim Cook took a leaf out of the late Steve Jobs presentational handbook (though this is an act recreated so many times it could now comfortably sit within Cook’s own playbook) by announcing there would be “just one more thing.” He then introduced music producer and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine to the stage to talk about Apple Music.
Let’s take a look at the three aspects of Apple Music in a bit more detail.
Iovine says that in 2015, Music is a fragmented mess, with too many disparate apps used for related functions. Streaming music or music videos, keeping up with your favorite artists – there are so many ways to do these things, but not from a single app. He asks if Apple can “build a bigger and better ecosystem” that does everything related to music. In practice, what this means is one app with a whole load of features.
The single app, which is really just a huge update to the existing Music app every iOS user already has, will contain five main tabs: For You, New, Radio, Connect and My Music. Apple are looking to unite all these features into a “revolutionary music service”.
Apple Music will start with the music you already own, whether from ripped CDs or the iTunes Store, and integrate it with the full iTunes music catalog of over 30 million songs.
Users will be able to search and stream direct from the app, in an interface that will be familiar to existing iTunes fans. The app will recommend content curated by professional playlist-builders, and will use a smart algorithm to determine which albums and playlists to recommend to you.
Beats 1 Radio
Apple are planning to launch the first worldwide 24/7 live radio station, called Beats 1. It seems to be the only aspect of the Beats Music branding that will remain after their takeover last year, and promises music that’s not based on a specific genre, beat or research – only “music that’s great and feels great.” However, it was not revealed how “great” music would be determined.
The radio station will be broadcast from centers in Los Angeles, New York and London. It will be headed up by “influential DJs” Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden and Julie Adenuga, and unlike most conventional internet radio stations, will be a fully programmed station with interviews, hosts, news and opinion as well as music.
Although Apple Music will be a paid subscription service, an ad-supported version of Beats 1 radio will be available to all iTunes users for free. So this is why Apple have been poaching staff and DJs from BBC Radio 1.
Eddie Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, explained the third part of the Apple Music behemoth, a new social media stream called Apple Music Connect. Sat in its very own tab in the Music app, Connect will give users a way to follow their favorite artists.
Each registered artist will have full access to their own channel, with the ability to share exclusive “lyrics, backstage photos, videos” or even previews of their latest songs, directly from an iPhone. This kind of feature will live or die based on the active interest shown by popular artists – but will it end up just replicating your favorite band’s Facebook page, or a pop star’s Instagram feed?
Cue then invited rapper and producer Drake to the stage to talk about his experience in the music industry and how excited he is to be able to connect with fans. We also got mention of the “prolific” Pharrell, and of course Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor was on board to help narrate an emotional video about the history of music.
One thing not mentioned is whether Apple Music will allow users to connect with each other – no mention of public playlists a la Spotify, or a social aspect allowing you to see what your friends are listening to.
Price and availability
Apple Music is set to launch as part of iOS 8.4 on June 30, in over 100 countries. The service will be available on pretty much every Apple device, plus PC and Android.
In line with nearly every other music streaming service, the subscription cost is set to be $9.99/month, although Apple will also offer a premium $14.99/month version for “families of up to six people”.
To entice people to try the service, Cook announced that Apple Music will be completely free for the first three months. A bold move, but whether it will have the killer features to keep people hooked beyond that timeframe remains to be seen.