Apple finally announced its new streaming music service at the Worldwide Developers Conference yesterday. ?We?ve had a long relationship with music,? said Apple CEO Tim Cook. ?And music has had a rich history of change, some of which we?ve played a part in.?
Apple Music will consist of a streaming on-demand service; curated, activity-driven playlists; and a worldwide 24/7 Apple radio station, Beats 1. Another piece of Apple Music is Connect, a platform where artists can share behind-the-scenes photos and videos with fans.
The launch date is set for June 30th. The service will cost $9.99 a month with the first three months offered for free. For $14.99, up to six family members will be able to share the account. Subscribers will get access to all features, including the ability to download playlists for off-line listening. Non-subscribers will be able to listen to Apple Music radio stations, including its new flagship station, Beats 1.
Apple believes its secret sauce is human involvement. Apple is playing up its decision to prominently feature people in putting together the music. In particular, the new Apple radio station, Beats 1, will broadcast from 3 different cities, and it will feature on-air DJs, an idea credited to Trent Reznor. Beats 1 will also include exclusive interviews and guest DJs from time to time. Listeners will be able to ?heart? songs that they like on Beats 1 so they can add them to their own playlists.
But Apple Music hasn?t abandoned the technological and algorithmic aspects of digital music services. It includes a recommendation engine called, For You, that will suggest songs, artists, playlists and albums that you might like, based on your current listening habits. The playlists may be curated by humans, but the recommendations will be accomplished through algorithms. Also, Apple?s new beefed up Siri service will add powerful voice-activated search and recommendation features.
Apple has a lot of competition in this space: Spotify, Rdio, Deezer, Google and others have been in it for years. The late Steve Jobs reportedly refused to consider it, believing that streaming services would never succeed. But, as The Business Insider pointed out, a recent Bank of America analysis showed that decreasing music downloads may have forced Apple?s hand. In another sign that streaming is becoming the new normal for music, downloads, as a percentage of Apple?s iTunes revenue has dropped from 88% to 62% in a little over 2 years.
So, what?s a win for Apple? Does it need to knock its competitors out, or will fighting to a draw be enough? We?ll get a better picture (or, a better listen) soon. Owners of Apple iOS devices will get to try it out in 3 weeks. But the new Apple Music will be available to Android users and Apple TV owners in the fall.