When it launches on June 30, Apple Music will get mixed reviews. People will like it but say it’s not much different than other streaming services. That’s how it will start, but give it time.
It will grow thanks to a few factors:
First, subscription music services are the future. This trend will benefit Apple Music along with its competitors.
I only recently came to appreciate these services (which offer recommendations within a vast music library for a monthly fee) when I signed up for a trial on Beats Music — the old Apple streaming service that will be replaced at the end of the month.
Beats Music has me enjoying music more than I have in years. I’m discovering new music left and right and learning more about the music I like. I trust it to provide the playlist for any occasion, and I like being able to listen to almost anything I want. It’s so much better than relying on the music files I’ve been lugging around and slowly adding to since college. Paying $10 a month for this service is an easy choice (and Apple Music will cost the same).
My colleagues have written similarly glowing accounts of switching to Spotify and Tidal.
Yet most people are stuck in the past: Only 5% of Americans over the age of 13 currently pay for a subscription music streaming service.
“We’re not even at early days yet,” Russ Crupnick, the managing partner of MusicWatch, told Business Insider, referring to paid subscriptions to streaming services. “We haven’t even hit the early adopters.”
As more and more people start paying for these services, you can bet Apple Music —which will be preinstalled and closely integrated into every Apple product — will capture a lot of the market.
Second, Apple Music could be the best music service.
Apple has always made a big deal out of having humans creating playlists and recommending music while other services relied on algorithms. This was true for Beats Music and it will be the same for Apple Music.
As Apple CEO Tim Cook told Charlie Rose last fall: “So one night I’m sitting playing with [Beats] versus some others, and all of a sudden it dawns on me that when I listen to theirs for a while, I feel completely different. And the reason is that they recognized that human curation was important in the subscription service.”
That’s a major reason why Apple bought Beats last year for $3 billion.
“We love the subscription service that [Beats] built — we think it’s the first subscription service that really got it right,” Cook told the Wall Street Journal.
Does human curation really make a difference? I’ll say I appreciate the thought that goes into playlists like “Lounge Rap,” “J Dilla: Posthumous Productions,” and “Rappers Who Love To Sing.” Those are all recommendations for me, though you can also sort by mood and activity.
“Where Spotify ‘suggests’ artists or meekly offers that ‘You may like’ an album, Beats confidently states that this is ‘Just for you,'” writes Jeff Miller at audio blog Crutchfield. “This manages to do two things — assures me that I’m hearing from a reliable, authoritative source who doesn’t second guess or hedge, but also really knows me! … While the ‘Just For You’ screen may be a psychological trick, it only truly works because Beats seems to get it right more often than not.”
Count on something similar from Apple Music.
And that’s just the streaming part. Apple Music will also hold other advantages over its rivals including cutting-edge design, deep integration into iOS and Siri, and access to iTunes, providing a way to listen to all your old albums as well as buy new ones. It’s also got Connect, a tool for artists to interact with fans — and while that almost certainly won’t live up to the hype, it can only help. And that’s not all …
Third, Beats1 will be a global phenomenon.
Apple’s live Beats1 channel will be available for free to all users.
Done right, the first global music channel could have more listeners than any radio station in history. It could define pop music around the world and create an unprecedented convergence through music, accelerating trends that have been happening for decades.
I know I plan on trying it out. Just as curated playlists are more exciting than algorithmic playlists, live selections by human DJs can be that much more exciting.
While Beats1 won’t directly drive memberships (being free), it will be a powerful branding opportunity, getting the Beats name out there and generating goodwill. You can bet Apple is counting on it driving a lot of sales for Beats headphones and speakers, which already featured prominently in all Apple Music ads.
As for those Apple Music competitors, they’ll launch their own global radio stations soon enough, though they probably won’t be as cool.
I’ve got only one worry about Apple Music. It’s a problem that won’t affect many people, though it is typical of Apple’s competitive tactics.
Apple Music won’t initially be compatible with Sonos speakers, despite Sonos working with all other platforms and the wireless speaker company saying it wants to work with Apple. Since I happen to own Sonos speakers, this problem may be enough to make me sign up for Spotify!
The truth is that subscription services from Spotify and others will keep getting better and have a lot of room to grow. Still, as with many other categories, Apple’s late entry into subscription music is poised to become dominant.