The announcement of Apple Music yesterday during WWDC 2015 was a fairly important one. Apple, the iTunes pioneer, recognizes that people are shifting away from the popular “pay-per-song” model that worked so well for the Cupertino-based company in the early 2000’s; now people are migrating towards music streaming applications, many of which feature millions of songs for a small fee each month, and some even offer streaming for free every month.
One of the oldest and most popular streaming music services is Spotify. According to Spotify’s website, the service hosts over 30 million songs, 15 million subscriptions, over 60 million active users, and is currently available in 58 different countries. These are impressive numbers to be sure, and as a subscriber of Spotify for a number of years, I can’t say I’m surprised. The music streaming model is one of the most convenient services in my life right now, and Spotify has typically done a good job of making theirs a smooth experience.
However, Spotify isn’t the only music streaming service available. There are other fairly popular options out there like Google Play Music, Tidal, Rdio, and now Apple Music. With Apple Music being the latest to join the growing list of music streaming services, there’s a lot of speculation on just how well it will do.
Overall, Apple is late to the party. This isn’t surprising as it seems to be typical Apple fashion to be late to the party and then steal the spotlight. With that in mind, when that happens it’s typically with things that are struggling to take off. Nobody cared about tablets before Apple released the iPad; the smartphone was never so popular until Apple came along; also, nobody seemed to take mobile payments seriously until Apple Pay was released. With Apple Music, though, they’re throwing their card in the hat for a service that’s already extremely popular, which means that they’ll have to offer unique features in order to smash the competition.
From what I can tell, however, there’s nothing really noteworthy about Apple Music over the competition, so I’m not sure I can get on board with the thought that Apple Music will be any more than another stock app that may or may not get noticed.
Apple Music will launch on June 30th for iOS devices, but will also surprisingly be available for Android sometime in the fall. Although there is no word on whether it will come to BlackBerry or Windows 10 Mobile, the fact that Apple is providing anything for any other platform is a step in a… foreign direction, to say the least. When people hear “Apple” they don’t typically think about how generous the company is when it comes to sharing apps, so it was shocking to say the least, but certainly not a bad thing. In fact, I would say it’s necessary in order for this particular service to gain any traction at this point.
Then you have the pricing model, which is $9.99/month - pretty much the standard. You get a free 3-month subscription, but after that you can choose between the $9.99/month for one user or $14.99/month for the family plan, which includes up to 6 users. This is actually probably the best part about Apple Music, as their family plan actually works for a whole family. For the same price, you can have a Spotify “family” plan, but for just two people. Big bonus going with Apple Music if you have a big family, or friends you would consider family.
Despite Apple Music being included in the iOS 8.4 update, I’m not convinced that all iOS users will be making the switch right away, and I have one simple reason why I don’t think it will happen: nobody wants to re-do their entire playlist, especially if they’ve been at this for a while. Especially in the case of single subscriptions, the $9.99 price that many of these services cost means that there’s really not a big reason to switch. The 3-month trial is nice, but if you have a huge playlist number it might not be all that convenient in the long run. I could definitely be wrong – people love free things – but I know I was not exactly thrilled with the idea of having to rebuild my playlists again from scratch.
To make a long story even longer, I don’t think Apple Music is an anything killer. It’s a good addition for iOS, and it’s uncharacteristically nice of them to provide this service for interested Android users as well, but aside from the awesome family plan pricing I don’t think this will make a big enough splash to make the projected 100 million users join Apple Music – at least not in its current state. Throw in 10 free song downloads (as in, you keep the music) a month and you can sign me up, but given the outcry that streaming music already sparks from artists I’m not sure that would ever happen.
It’s nice, but it’s not revolutionary.