A lot of yesterday’s keynote focused on one thing: Apple Music. It truly represents a fundamental change in how Apple is going to distribute music from now on. Since the early days of the iPod and iTunes, it’s been all about the iTunes Store and purchasing music. Apple Music is a new subscription service that is going to change all of that.
The Apple Music service will cost $9.99 per month or $14.99 for up to six family members. Launching on June 30 for Apple devices and for Windows, the service will also expand to Apple TV this fall as well as Android devices. A free three-month trial will be offered to entice subscribers.
Apple executive Jimmy Iovine touted Apple Music as a “revolutionary music service” and one of the primary components of the service is human-curated playlists. To date, playlists are generated by algorithms that just plain fail much of the time at choosing the music that we want to listen to. Now they’ll be put together by musicians and music experts who are focused on a particular genre.
One of the most exciting announcements had to do with “Beats One,” a 24/7 worldwide radio station created in part by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor. Beats One will stream within the Apple Music app and features DJs broadcasting from LA, NYC, and London. And here’s a nice gift — you don’t even need an Apple Music subscription to listen to Beats One.
Apple added a social component to the Apple Music app called “Connect.” It’s similar to the often-ridiculed “Ping” service that used to be part of iTunes, and allows artists to connect to their fans. Rapper Drake seemed to be happy with Connect, noting during his part of the keynote that he was sharing lyrics and music with fans as he works on a new album.
The app also has a “For You” tab that suggests content to listeners based on the music they like — once again, these recommendations are made by real live humans, not soulless algorithms. A “New” tab features artists and albums that are new to the music scene, and listeners will also get a look at the top charts.
The new Apple Music app displays content in two primary panes — “My Music,” where locally stored content and items owned by the user are located, and “All”, where an artist’s entire library on iTunes can be found.
When you create your own playlist, you can share it with others. You may even have your own playlist spotlighted in the For You tab along with those created by Apple employees and recording artists.
There’s also better Siri integration available in the iOS version of Apple Music. iTunes chief Eddy Cue demonstrated how Siri can be used to play the top song from a specific date — “Play me the top song from September 22, 1997” — or find a popular tune from a movie with a request like “Play that song from ‘Titanic'”.
So, what happens if you’re already a subscriber to Beats Music? Apple Music will replace that service. When you launch the Beats Music app on your iOS device, you’ll be prompted to move to Apple Music. Once the account is moved, your Beats Music subscription is cancelled. Any playlists created or subscribed to as a Beats Music listener, as well as albums saved in your personal Beats library, are available in Apple Music. You will be able to keep your Beats Music user name, something that I’m sure a lot of people will love to hear.
We don’t have to wait long for Apple Music. It launches with iOS 8.4 and a new version of iTunes for Mac on June 30 — just three weeks away. This fall, the streaming service will be introduced to Android devices and iTunes for Windows will be updated.