Apple introduced its new streaming music service on Monday. And it was, uncharacteristically, easily one of the sloppiest debuts for any new product or service from the company.
Roughly 90 minutes in to Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple CEO Tim Cook said he had “one more thing” before he wrapped up the event.
“We’ve had a long relationship with music, and music has had a rich history of change, some of which we’ve played a part in,” Cook said.
And so, Cook played a video showing a semi-complete history of modern music in America, showing how music players, and the people that listen to music, have changed over the years.
When the video ended, Cook summoned Jimmy Iovine, the cofounder of Beats Music who came to Apple during the $US3 billion purchase of his company last May. Though Iovine has a lot of charisma, it was clear he went off-script on a few occasions, and had trouble summarizing why Apple, and only Apple, could provide this new music experience — whatever it is, exactly.
Iovine eventually went back on script after a gaffe or two and mentioned the three major components of Apple Music: It’s a “revolutionary” music service, a 24/7 global radio, and a platform for fans to connect with artists, and the other way around. Here’s a brief summary on how those three features work:
- The “revolutionary” music service lets you add to your iTunes library by accessing every song and album from the iTunes Store and stream those titles to any Apple device. It’s also curated, so you can get recommendations for albums and playlists from “experts,” making it easy to discover new artists and albums.
- The 24/7 global radio station will broadcast nonstop to over 100 countries around the world: It will have music, interviews, news, guest hosts, and “culture,” whatever that is. It will also be curated by some of the best DJs in the world, according to Apple.
- The “Connect” platform lets artists connect with fans by posting behind-the-scenes content — photos, videos, song lyrics, remixes, etc. — and people can “love” or comment on those posts.
Singer/rapper Drake took the stage to discuss the Connect feature of Apple Music, but it also sounded like Drake went off-book, and it sounded like he was ill-prepared for the presentation. He didn’t explain the new service very well at all, and I had a hard time believing he would be updating his fans through the Connect feature if he weren’t being allegedly paid by Apple to do so.
Once Drake left the stage, probably puzzled by the words that came out of his own mouth, Apple VP Eddy Cue took the stage again to give a demo of Apple Music. But there were so many features, and very little of it felt cohesive. When you click on any given song, for instance, you get nine different options, including the ability to store the song offline, create a radio station from that song, play that song next, and more. It looked very cluttered and not very intuitive, at least not from an audience’s perspective.
Cue played some songs, and danced uncomfortably.
He also asked Siri to play him a song from the movie “Selma.” The voice assistant misheard him and played “Selene” by Imagine Dragons. He eventually got it right, but the damage was done by that point.
Then finally, Cue showed off music videos on Apple Music, which have no ads. It felt like a nice, albeit unnecessary feature. Apple didn’t make it clear as to why this feature was added, but I’ll guess it was an attempt to sway people away from visiting YouTube for those same music videos.
By the time the Apple Music presentation was over and Cook had brought up The Weeknd to play some overly sexual tunes for the developer crowd (interesting choice there), I still had no idea what Apple Music was supposed to be. None of the features felt innovative or original, and while I might go check out the 24/7 radio service, I doubt I’ll listen to it regularly. For the most part, I already get what Apple is offering via Spotify Premium.
This felt like Apple’s attempt to take the best features from every big music service out there, and synthesise those favourable facets into one application. It wants to be something for everybody — but that doesn’t make it revolutionary, or personal, or even something I’d be willing to pay for. (By the way, it costs $US10 a month and $US15 a month for families of up to six people.)
I recently switched from iTunes to Spotify, and I was watching Monday’s presentation to see if Apple could sway me to “come home,” so to speak. But Apple’s new streaming service, like the presentation that introduced it, feels sloppy and busy to the point of incoherent. I’m looking forward to trying Apple Music for myself when it becomes available on iOS devices June 30, and it’s super nice that the first three months are free. But based on how Apple introduced this service, I’m not sure if I’ll stick with Apple Music once the free trial ends.