Today Apple raised the curtain on its long-rumored subscription music service — named simply Apple Music — along with a significant redesign and repackaging of its broader music offering.
Apple Music consists of three main parts: a music recommendation engine, a live radio station, and a social media platform where artists can connect with fans.
The service costs $9.99 per month after a 3-month free trial. There’s also a family plan, where 6 people can get access for $14.99 per month. The first three months of that will also be free.
At the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, Apple’s Eddy Cue said there will soon also be new versions of iTunes for iOS and OS X, as well as versions for Windows and Android.
The Apple Music streaming service relies heavily on streams curated by music megastars like Pharrell and Drake (Drake was on hand at WWDC to announce the new service).
The new Apple Music app features your recent purchases and the music that’s played recently. You can add your own art to your playlists.
A suggestion engine called “For You” uses a combination of algorithms and human choice to present relevant music stream. At the start, the app asks you what kinds of genres of music you like, then what specific artists. It then combines that information with data on the iTunes purchases you’ve made in the past to create a tailored music stream. For You can also surface playlists from top artists, top songs, and top videos.
Beats One radio
In radio, Apple presents a new radio station called Beats One, which will feature radio personality Zane Love. The live broadcast will originate from three cities — New York, Los Angeles, and London — in what will sound something like a Sirius station.
A new “Connect” service provides a social platform where artists like Drake or Pharrell can post not only music but pictures, lyrics, video, and commentary.
New artists, even unsigned artists, can post their songs on Connect.
You can use Siri to ask for songs in Apple Music. She can also play top 10 lists.
The new Apple Music service borrows heavily from Dr. Dre’s and Jimmy Iovine’s Beats Music, which Apple acquired in 2013. Since then, Iovine and his inner circle of industry friends (such as Trent Reznor, who is said to have led the design of the Apple Music mobile app) have taken control of much of Apple’s music offering.
Apple’s download music business has been suffering as consumers download fewer songs from iTunes and listen to more streaming music from services like Spotify and Google Play Music. Apple would prefer to retain some of those would-be defectors with its own streaming service.
Services like Spotify allow listeners to create their own music streams, with varying amounts of control over the specific songs that are played. Most have both a free tier and a premium tier, the free tier being ad-supported and offering less control over song selection, the paid tier having no ads and offering the ability to play songs on demand.
A couple of key factors may help Apple win subscription streaming customers.
- It already has millions of iTunes user credit card numbers on file, so signing up for the service would be relatively friction-free.
- And Apple will likely end up having more music to offer than its streaming music rivals. Apple is expected to offer content from all the major label groups, although reports say those deals haven’t yet been signed.
Apple likely try to buy content exclusives from megastars like Pharrell, in the same way it has already done with the latest U2 record.
Some observers believe that an arms race is brewing in which Spotify, Google, Apple, and others will try to outbid each other for exclusive record releases. If, for example, the next Pharrell record is available only from Apple Music, some consumers may be compelled to sign up and will use Spotify or Google less.