10 Apple Music Facts - WMNews Ep. 35

10 Apple Music Facts - WMNews Ep. 35

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Sean Harris

Apple has tried their hand within almost every field of modern day media and technology - and, as of June 2015, they've stepped foot into a new one. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we're counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about Apple Music.

10 Apple Music Facts - WMNews Ep. 35

#10: What’s the Difference Between Apple Music & iTunes?
The Distinction

On January 9th, 2001, Apple revolutionized the ‘music listening experience’ with the release of iTunes 1.0; On June 30th, 2015, they shook things up for a second time with the release of Apple Music. But iTunes and Apple Music are not simply two versions of the same thing: iTunes was (and is) all about digitalizing music, making the traditional CD collection an eternally and easily accessible thing. iTunes’ digital downloads enabled users to keep hundreds and thousands of tracks within one small practical device - and it will continue to offer that exact same service. However, Apple Music is concerned with online streaming, and with charging users a monthly subscription rate to do so - rather than the individual download charges of iTunes. Whereas with iTunes, users only have access to the tracks and albums that they have digitally bought and own, Apple Music subscribers have access to over 30 million tunes, despite never explicitly owning a single one of them.

#9: How Much Does Apple Music Cost?
The Library

Apple Music offers two basic subscription packages. A single subscription will cost the user $9.99/month, while a family/group plan (of up to six people) will cost $14.99/month. Apple is also offering a three-month trial period for free, after which users choose whether to opt out of the service, or to allow the monthly fees to be charged. Subscription grants users exclusive access to a music library of over 30 million songs. However, there are some elements of Apple Music that are available to non-subscribers as well: the radio services, including the flagship twenty-four hour station ‘Beats 1’, are accessible to anyone with a device that supports the Apple Music app, regardless of whether or not you’ve actually signed up.

#8: How Will Artists Be Paid?
The Royalties

Apple has pledged to share 71.5% of Apple Music revenue with music owners in the United States, with that figure set to rise to around 73% outside of the US. That’s a slightly higher percentage than those given by similar music streaming services, because the initial idea was that an increased general payout would compensate for Apple’s plan to pay zero royalties during the opening three-month trial period. However, since the unveiling of Apple Music, the trial period concept has generated enough controversy for Apple to make a U-Turn in favor of the record companies and rights holders - a ‘pay-per-stream’ royalty will now be handed out during those first three months.

#7: What Are the Main Features of Apple Music?
The Connect Tab

Apple keeps up with its competitors by offering standard streaming features, such as offline playback and the ability to share your own playlists with other users. However, it hopes to rise above the competition with its more unique elements. The Connect tab is one such feature, generating significant interest both pre and post launch. Providing a social media platform through which artists can interact with their followers, it provides a casual link between both parties, allowing even lesser-known acts to establish an Apple Music fan base. The aforementioned ‘Beats 1’ radio station is also operating as a major pull, boasting internationally famous DJs such as station-opener Zane Lowe (formerly of the BBC). ‘Beats 1’ rolls with the tagline ‘Worldwide. Always on.’, which, as Apple Music attempts to provide an all-encompassing music experience, could become an early slogan for the entire product.

#6: What Makes Apple Music Special?
The Human Curation

With this streaming service, Apple has stepped away from a recent industry tendency to rely solely on computer algorithms and mechanically sorted content in favor of adding human curation to the mix. The company has employees working within every country, and within every genre, to ensure that Apple Music suggestions and playlists are accurate, and up to date. There are suggestions that these ‘human editors’ could become the DJs of the future, inviting users to try out new music based on their existing tastes. While the reliance on human curation might be seen as one of Apple Music’s biggest gambles, the company is more than confident with their approach. The Apple website reads, ‘Curation is the soul of every playlist created on Apple Music’, explaining that, ‘Apple has hired the most talented music experts from around the world, dedicated to creating the perfect playlists based on your preferences’. Additionally, if direct human curation isn’t quite enough, users can also ask Siri to swiftly sift through content.

#5: What Was the Controversy Surrounding Apple Music?
The T-Swift Letter

Apple Music made headlines in June 2015 - for the wrong reasons - after the service came under fire for its initial plans to withhold royalties during the opening three-month trial period. A financial hit navigable enough for global superstar acts, it could’ve severely hurt smaller, less established performers. UK independent record label Beggars Group criticized the plans, pointing out the struggle ‘to see why rights owners and artists should bear this aspect of Apple’s customer acquisition costs’, before the situation came to a head thanks to Taylor Swift. The “Bad Blood” singer took to Tumblr, writing an open letter to Apple, criticizing their latest call. Swift began by underlining her respect for Apple, referring to ‘the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries’, before imploring them to rethink their free trial policy; ‘We don’t ask you for free iPhones,’ she wrote, ‘Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation’. Apple Executive Eddy Cue was quick to respond to Swift, assuring the singer, and everybody else, that royalties would, in fact, be paid during the trial period. ‘We hear you’, Cue tweeted before drawing a line under the matter and declaring that all artists will get paid.

#4: Who Is Apple Music’s Top Competitor?
The Challengers

The biggest rival to Apple Music has to be Spotify. Launched in October 2008, Spotify is a firmly established music streaming service, with over 75 million active users as of June 2015, 20 million of whom are paying subscribers. Perhaps the biggest challenge that Apple faces is convincing those Spotify users to migrate over to Apple Music - a process that will take a lot of time and effort for those especially invested in the former product. It isn’t just Spotify that Apple must contend with, however: Google Play offers its ‘All Access’ streaming service running alongside an iTunes-esque online music store, while the likes of Pandora, Rdio and Amazon Prime Music all chip at least a little bit away from the overall market.

#3: Are There Free Alternatives to Apple Music?
The Piracy

As with almost all forms of media within the digital age, there are ‘free’ alternatives to Apple Music. Historically, Napster, and then Limewire, led the way for music piracy, before Swedish company The Pirate Bay took the wheel throughout the 2000s. There remain opportunities to download music illegally online for those who look hard enough, but the practice is less common now than it was ten years ago. Apple Music enters into the market at a time when the primary focus centers around the idea of streaming, and how to do so while maintaining the balance between industry fairness and user affordability. Spotify itself offers a free shuffle service - broken up but paid for by ads.

#2: What Are the Reviews of Apple Music?
The Mixed Response

Early reviews of the service have been less triumphant and more tentative, with the overall feeling being that the extent of Apple Music’s success will be felt after its first few months. A ‘Mashable’ review remembers Apple’s previous attempt to combine social media and music, musing ‘It was called Ping and it was an unmitigated failure’, in reference to the company’s 2010 attempt at music-oriented social networking which ended up a spam-laden disaster. ‘Business Insider UK’ concludes that ‘Apple is [not] necessarily a major threat to Spotify’ but refuses to rule out the possibility that it will become so. The general response is mixed, but not in the sense that people either love Apple Music or hate it. Rather, there are questions over whether the service was entirely needed, given the similar products already in existence. Features such as the Connect Tab and Beats 1 are what Apple Music is hoping will set it apart, but questions remain as to whether they raise the bar enough.

#1: Will Apple Music Succeed?
The Future

A relative latecomer to the music streaming party, Apple has proven time and again that their ventures can (and often do) succeed. The company has sold over half a billion iPhones, iPads and iPods worldwide, onto which Apple Music appears automatically with devices who get the iOS 8.4 update, and they have around 800 million iTunes accounts on file already, all of which can be synced alongside the users’ new Apple Music library. The foundations have been laid exceptionally firmly to ensure Apple’s latest app succeeds. Regardless of the controversial circumstances involved, Apple has already made direct, constructive contact with the musicians upon which the entire product relies, via Taylor Swift. Early signs indicate that Apple Music is pleasing all parties (eventually); it just remains to be seen whether that happiness will become a long-term arrangement, or just a new and novel short-term fling.

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