In the early 00s, people bought music on CDs, or pirated it through sites like Napster and Limewire. Then iTunes disrupted the entire industry by making it possible to buy music online, and to build a digital library. Since then, streaming apps like Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud, and most recently Tidal have made it easier than ever before to find new music from artists you love. Then of course there are Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, which provide behind-the-scenes glimpses of these performers’ lives.
Apple Music, announced as ‘One More Thing…’ this week at WWDC15, is a single online ecosystem which brings together the e-commerce of iTunes, the subscription model of Spotify, and the engagement of social networks like Instagram. It is powered by Beats, and Tim Cook believes it “will change the way you experience music forever.”
Beyond simply connecting fans with new songs, Apple Music’s purpose is to “grow, nurture and sustain careers,” says Beats CCO and rock icon Trent Reznor. “Not just the top tier artists, but the kids in their bedrooms too.” This emphasis on helping up-and-comers was reinforced during a brief onstage appearance by Drake, who spoke about how when he was younger, he wondered if there could ever be a rap superstar from Toronto. Apple Music helps bridge that gap. “It’s right from where you are, in your city, in front of your computer,” he says. “This is something that simplifies everything for the modern musician, like myself, and the modern music consumer, like you.”
Apple Music includes a ‘Connect’ section, where artists can share all kinds of content with fans, including photos, videos, remixes and lyrics. There is also a ‘For You’ page, which recommends playlists and albums specific to your taste, and ‘New’, which introduces you to new releases each week. What makes these features unique is that they’re not based in algorithms, but include recommendations made by real people who love music.
But the star in Apple Music’s crown is Beats1, a 24/7 global radio station anchored by Zane Lowe. “The truth is, internet radio isn’t really radio, it’s just a playlist of songs,” says Apple’s Eddy Cue. The vision for Beats1 was “a station that has only one master; music itself.” And it is 100% live. “We can move culture the same way that art moves culture,” says Beats co-founder and music producer Jimmy Iovine. “Technology and art can work together.”
Subscriptions for Apple Music are $9.99 per month, or $14.99 for up to six users on one account, each with their own personalised libraries. However, for the first three months, Apple Music will be completely free to all users. It will launch at the end of June, and is expected to come to Android in the autumn.