Apple finally unveiled its new streaming music service on Monday. The presentation was unfortunately sloppy, and the actual service looks unfocused, too. And there’s another issue that makes me worried: Apple didn’t explain why this product deserves to exist.
You might think, “Apple doesn’t need to explain itself here — it made the iPod and the iTunes Store, clearly the company cares about music!” But that doesn’t explain why Apple Music is a three-pronged service: It’s a streaming music platform, a 24/7 global radio station, and a social platform that lets artists post random stuff like photos and song lyrics, which you can then like or comment on. People certainly love streaming music services, but why radio? And why another music social network? Apple didn’t answer or even address these questions.
And that leads to the biggest issue with Apple Music right now: Two of its three “features” are either reminiscent of, or nearly identical to, past Apple projects that ultimately failed.”Connect” is extremely similar to iTunes Ping, Apple’s defunct social network for music artists that debuted in 2010 and died two years later; and the new 24/7 radio station, Beats 1, is similar to iTunes Radio, Apple’s ad-supported radio service introduced in 2013 that let you skip tracks and customise stations like Pandora. The only difference with this new “radio” experience is that it’s curated by human DJs, not computers, and those DJs will read aloud sponsored ads like NPR does instead of playing an interstitial ad between songs.
So, to sum it all up: Apple Music is the combination of two flopped music projects, plus the ability to stream titles from the iTunes Store. And that, to me, doesn’t seem revolutionary, or even all that desirable.
The existence of Apple Music feels forced. Though I’ve yet to try Apple’s new service, Spotify Premium is probably a better option for your money, in my opinion: It’s built in a way that makes you feel as though the company truly cares about a quality music experience. Apple’s new service, meanwhile, looks like a hodgepodge of other music services out there, an attempt to catch up with others’ features, but with no real identity of its own.
Apple has misfired in the past, and this feels like one of those rare instances: It feels like Apple’s desire to become the king of music services again clouded the company’s judgment and focus with this particular project.
The good news for Apple? There’s still time. Apple Music doesn’t officially launch until June 30, so the company can still tighten up its marketing plans for this new service. And it’s also a first-generation product, so it’s bound to improve over time as Apple grows and prunes the features. But I’m still not convinced that Connect and the 24/7 radio station will be enough incentive for people to leave Spotify for Apple Music. It might be ok for casual listeners who’ve yet to try anything like Spotify, but at this point, I highly doubt I’d extend my free trial once it’s over.