It’s been a long time coming but Apple Music has now officially been launched, and yet the focus of its service is in some ways fairly hard to define. While it’s a brand new entrant into what’s already a very crowded group of music streaming services, including Spotify, Deezer, Rdio and Pandora, Apple Music is still so much more than this.
By allowing the integration of a user’s entire iTunes library with a vast and yet fresh repetoire of updated music, Apple Music, unlike any of its rivals, can target existing Apple-based users that are looking for a high-quality streaming service and do it with their own ‘personal DJ’ to help them discover yet more new content.
No surprises then to see that Apple new Music’s dashboard is pretty sleek, clean and offers a depth of menus and options that prompts users with rich pictures and profiles. Conversely, there seems to be almost no instructions or introduction about how to navigate all of these features. Instead, users are sort of left to fend for themselves and encouraged to spend time exploring the application. But this is, in my view, a very small oversight in what otherwise seems, on first review, a great new music streaming service. Maybe the reliance on Apple intuitiveness is an assumption too far on this occasion! I”m not sure if Apple really intended to craft this sort of ‘orientation’ process, so be forewarned when I say that Apple Music will take some time to get used to.
The hidden gem in Apple Music may lay in that the service truly capitalises on a selling point that current rival, Pandora, once made when it first gained popularity — offering smart DJ-like “stations” to help guide its users. Though when founded in 2000, Pandora had several ups and downs before it experienced a surge in popularity later on in the noughties.
As a result, Pandora was able to grow, partly because it marketed itself largely as a free recommendation service where users would be led to new music that matched their tastes — and all defined by pre-set “stations” that included either artist names or genres.
Moving forward, Apple Music, certainly hopes that in 2015 it has created the best music discovery tool available today. By combining search and recommendation algorithms based on user preferences, along with 300 ‘human’ editors who can also provide their own playlists, album and song suggestions, Apple Music is already a serious player in the music streaming business. These ‘human’ editors, by the way, are primarily Apple employees. However, it is widely understood that they also include additions made by music publications such as Rolling Stone magazine. Nevertheless, in both instances, these recommendations are influenced by pre-set preferences and the data that is collected as a person continues to use Apple Music. When push comes to shove, the idea is that these recommendations are multi-dimensional and probably smarter than what a service such as Spotify and certainly Pandora currently utilises.
A TechCrunch review described Apple Music as being “more for casual listeners who need help with discovery,” and said that Spotify was “for more experienced music fans who don’t need as much handholding by artists.” And the more I explore Apple’s newest music product, the more I agree with them!
When all is said and done, Apple Music’s biggest benefit and USP is that it incorporates Apple’s full music ecosystem, thereby attracting previous iTunes, iTunes Match and Beats customers; something that the likes of Spotify may struggle against. But most importantly, this should be the case for as long as the majority of the market’s leading music streaming services offer their products for approximately the same price.