Apple Music – What is it and what do you need to know?

Apple Music

Music and Apple. There’s a relationship that has been a strong for most of the companies life. Jobs once spoke about how the creativity of musicians and Apple’s are similar and complimentary.

In 2001 Apple introduced iTunes and in 2003, brought the iTunes store. That means, in 12 years, Apple have managed to change the music industry. So doing it again was always going to be difficult and that’s why they bought Beats.

The company that make expensive headphones, also had a streaming music service that had been built round human music curation and deals with record companies that others found hard to match. These are some of the reasons Apple paid $3 Billion for the company last year.

All of this came together last month at the WWDC where Apple announced Apple Music with iOS 8.4. That software update became available on the 30th of June.

So what is Apple Music and what does it mean for you? Well, In Apple’s own words:

We are profoundly passionate about music. It’s a force that’s driven and inspired us from day one. So we’ve set out to make it better. To bring you more music than ever with access to over 30 million songs for just $9.99 a month, or $14.99 for your family. To give you personal recommendations from people who know and love music. To deepen the connection between artists and fans. To reimagine radio with a 24/7, global station. 
This is Apple Music.

Just as the iPhone was a Widescreen iPod, Phone and Revolutionary internet device, Apple Music is a fully featured streaming service, a way for artists to speak to fans and a 24/7 Global radio station.

Apple Music – The Streaming Service

30 Million songs in your pocket. That’s one of the things Apple is offering for £9.99 a month. It’s an impressive and daunting number.

We all have songs that we like and albums that we love, so to go through 30 million more to find things you’ll like is a bit of a ‘false economy of effort’.  This is where Beats comes in. Human curation of music that fills the ‘For You’ section.

Apple Music, has editors who go though all of the potential matches based on the options you pick for genres and for artists. These come together in playlists and are always being refreshed from the tracks that you like (by tapping the little heart). It also learns from the music that you add to ‘My Music’ which is done by tapping the tick.

You can do the ‘standard streaming’ thing such as searching for and playing tracks and albums. You can add them to your music collection and if you’re paying for the service, play those tracks without an internet connection.

So Apple’s take on streaming isn’t much different from the existing models. You pick and save songs and albums, they sync across your devices. You can start ‘stations’ which are like automatically generated play lists from any song.

The key differences being the human curation and the size of the library available.

Apple Music – Artist to Fans (Connect)

Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Youtube, Vevo etc.. With all of these massive social networks for musicians, it’s a shame there’s not a social network for musicians.

Those with a long memory will remember Ping. The sort lived social network baked in to iTunes. It may have been before it’s time, but it was more the fact that it wasn’t well thought through or executed (hence why we apple observers get a little worried when Apple announce a new online service) and died almost before it was born.

Connect isn’t Ping. It’s also not for me. It’s for a massive fan of bands and artists as well as their music. The people that want to know everything about their favourite people. They also want to see things first and be closer to their idols. So, it’s not for me. But that’s not to say it’s not for you.

As it goes, your mileage may vary with your experiences with Connect and how active the artists (or in most cases, their record companies) are on the service to give it value.

Where Connect may really come alive is during the iTunes Festivals, those could really give it a shot in the arm that makes it almost like Periscope in the hands of rock stars.

Apple Music – Beats 1

The idea behind Beats 1 is simple; A 24 hour 7 day a week radio station. The music they play has one rule; It has to be great.

That last line is a quote from Zane Lowe, the former BBC Radio 1 DJ, who was snapped up by Apple at the beginning of the year. At the time, it wasn’t clear what he’d be up too, but it’s clear, given the above pitch, it would have been a ‘no brainer’ decision.

Beats 1 is the main radio station at the core of Apple Music. It’s always on, has no adverts and has shows that are broadcast from London, New York and Los Angeles. There are three fixed DJs doing their shows through the day and then shows recorded by people such as Dr Dre and Elton John, played in-between these shows.

The whole thing is time synced. So Zane Lowe’s LA show is breakfast listening in LA, but an afternoon show in the uk. Other shows are played during key listening times and the special shows all fit round the schedule and get twice the air time, to make sure it’s on a the right kind of times, depending on your time zone.

Beats 1 is a big deal. It’s a big deal for a number of reasons, all of which will lead it to be a success:

  1. It’s free. Even outside of the free trial, you get Beats 1
  2. The relationships the people making the shows have with artists keeps it the station genuine
  3. The money Apple are throwing at this make it a marketing tool for Apple’s products and services to over half a billion devices
  4. It’s coming to Android, as well as the streaming

I’ve seen some other people mention something about Beats 1 and I have to agree. Sometimes, it’s nice to have someone else pick the music. On the launch afternoon for Apple Music, I drove home listening to Beats 1. The sound quality was great, the music was great too. It felt like passionate people sharing somethings they love. It’s got heart that’s different from Apples, and that, is what will keep it alive and strong.

Round up

In the last two days with Apple Music, it’s already made me comfortable about ditching my other streaming service, Deezer. I’ve found my self going for Beats 1 in the car and I’ve discovered some new music I really like. Not bad for 48 hours of a product being about. Apple Music has a way to go with optimising the way it works and some of the UI bugs, but given that this is available toady and iOS 9 is still 2.5 months away, it’s fair to say that the three month free trial, is Apple’s way of saying, ‘hey, we need you to beta test something, but we don’t want to call it a beta test’.

What You Need to Know

To make life simple, this section is in a good old bullet point list:

  • Apple Music is free for 3 month – You can stop it automatically charging you by doing the following:
    • Tap on the Account icon in the top-left corner of any tab in Apple Music.
    • Tap on “View Apple ID” and sign into your iTunes Store account.
    • Tap on “Manage” under the “Subscriptions” menu.
    • Tap on your Apple Music Membership, which should currently be “Active.”
    • Toggle off “Automatic Renewal” under the “Renewal Options” menu. Confirm the action.
  • Apple Music is only available on iOS devices that can run iOS 8 and Macs that can run OS X 10.7. Apple TV and Android compatibility will becoming in the September to November period.
  • Apple Music works like a regular streaming service. (That’s the paid for bit)
  • Apple Music has their 24/7 radio channel Beats 1. (That’s the free bit)
  • There are two tiers of payment – One person, £9.99 a month and the Family Pack for £14.99 where people with linked Apple IDs can share access to the music for one price.
  • Apple Music now also contains iTunes Match. If you have iTunes Match and activate Apple Music, your library is already moved in and ready for use. If you’re paying for Apple Music, you won’t need to pay for iTunes Match. The Match song limit will increase from 25,000 songs to 100,000 songs this year.

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