Why? What happened? Are not all of Apple’s products monstrous profit makers? Yes. But time waits for no one. Apple TV is going nowhere. Watch has a personality disorder. Apple’s $3-billion or so purchase of Beats Music to shore up an aging iTunes Music Store business raised more than eyebrows. It raised alarms. The end result just launched and it’s called Apple Music. It’s way cool and, uh, um, well; confusing.
The Lights Out Laser
Apple keynote presentations of the past, when the company launched new products, were textbook examples of a company with laser focus. Alas, those days are gone. The Apple Music announcement early in June was greeted with, ‘What?’
Apple Music is a subscription service to stream and listen to more than 20-million songs. Unlike Spotify, a small competitor to Apple’s iTunes business, there’s no advertiser supported free tier. Pay $9.99 a month, listen to all you want to listen to for the month ($14.99 for up to six family members).
There’s more to Apple Music than just a giant list of songs and a monthly fee. That’s because Apple needed to up the ante, leap frog the competition, most of whom have had streaming subscription services for years.
How does Apple Music stack up? Good. Music integrated well with my iTunes library, and music playlists can be mixed between the two; owned and subscription. One item I like is the option to download and store music on my iPhone or Mac so they can be played back when there’s no internet connection.
Another unique feature to Apple Music is the human curated playlists from hundreds of people who do such things, including Apple employees, and other music-based publications. That’s what Beats did well. I won’t claim to understand the criteria curators use, but it’s music to my ears.
Wait. There’s more. And it gets confusing as Apple tries to add value to the service.
The Apple Music app for iPhone and iPad has multiple sections, five total. One is Radio with plays a list of streaming radio stations, including Beats 1 which just went live. Connect is a social network for music artists where they can post photos, videos, and blog-like information online, and fans can comment. What could go wrong with that? More curation is in order.
Both Radio and Connect are available for free, even without a subscription to Apple Music. The For You section is a sweet spot of curated playlists and music choices to match your tastes (ostensibly based on what you listen to and what’s in your iTunes library). Finally, there’s New, also full of content, but more confusing. It could just as easily be called Misc.
Now, a few words about Siri. It works. Or, rather, ‘she’ works. Use voice commands to have Siri start a playlist, or play such and such song after this one, or play something by whatever artist you want.
Finally, the ultimate question. Will I pay $9.99 a month (or, $14.99 a month for six family members). The answer is yes, but not to the former, instead to the latter. That’s the deal maker for me.