In less than 24 hours, Apple Music became the most popular streaming service in the world.
A few months ago, we spoke at length about the duel between Tidal and Spotify, and how the music streaming business is a war of size over sound. Tidal’s C-Suite is currently in disarray, so it’s only fair to declare Spotify the winner of that brutal bout. The main event, however, will prove much more difficult for the Swedish upstart.
Apple Music, launched today worldwide with the iOS 8.4 update, revolutionizes the standard Music app you have come accustomed to. Sit back and tune in because Apple Music just added a new wing to your music library.
Patience is a Virtue
Apple is notorious for carefully studying the market before entering the ring. That is how Apple changed the music industry 15 years ago with iTunes and the iPod. This time was no different as Apple sat back and let the competition duke it out first. They watched as every streaming service under the sun exercised very unique positioning. Pandora touted its industry-leading curation algorithms, while Spotify celebrated its social connectivity. Even Beats Music began as a situational streaming service much like Songza, delivering the right music for the right mood.
Most of the above can be found in Apple Music.
At the outset, Apple Music can be overwhelming. Apple is not holding back any features for this launch, except for an on-demand version of Beats 1 due later this year. All 5 pages hold significance. The most interesting of all is the “For You” page, denoted by a heart. It’s selection menus are wildly creative, asking you to tap bubbles of your favorite genres and artists. It takes the tedium out of the selection process. From there, Apple Music compiles a comprehensive list of both playlists and albums you might enjoy.
The most controversial section, mostly because of Apple’s past failures, is Connect: Apple Music’s social media network. It is ‘Ping’ brought back from the grave; a standalone service that lost traction thanks to Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, not much has changed. There is little opportunity for fans to interact with their favorite artists outside of comments and likes. The exclusive content promised at launch is lacking. Connect may have an uphill battle ahead, while the rest of the service shines.
Return to Spotify?
If I could spotlight one strength Spotify has over Apple Music, it would be the free version of its platform. Few streaming services offer a comparable freemium package that contains incredibly detailed content wrapped in a beautiful UX. It is the reason why many people explored music streaming and continued for years. Spotify’s plugins also remain popular, affording users immediate access to curated playlists from any web property. Spotify has survived by being social, allowing users to connect music to emotions and moments. Apple Music will not be able to contest that reach with Connect and, as a result, has positioned itself as the exemplary music curation and radio service on the market; a less social though higher-quality option.
Applaud Spotify for blazing the trail, for proving that social networks and music streaming can go hand-in-hand. They also pioneered the great industry debate, navigating the major labels and their royalty gripes while Apple sat back and listened. There is no denying Spotify’s tenacity.
With that being said, it is now time for Apple Music to carry the torch, as they have done for most of the 21st Century’s technologic revolution. They have the largest install base (it is included with every new iOS!) and offer the most competitive pricing. Even though Apple Music’s business model is refined based on the successes and pitfalls of others, Apple Music is not perfect. Ultimately, the fight for streaming music dominance will result in a single victor – once Apple Music’s three month trial has ended, we will truly find out which of the two music streaming titans will win.