Ecosystems, strained vocal (a)musings and an awkward dance by a Senior Vice President all make an appearance at this year’s fifteenth annual Apple keynote speech.
Earlier this week Apple introduced its users to a series of new features for the mac and iPhone that include, iOS 9, OS X El Capitan and Apple Music – a brand new and ‘revolutionary’ music service that encompasses both technology and art together in one application.
Ending the keynote speech with a slogan reading one more thing… audience members let out a series of yelps and yahoos before a brief video introduced various technological achievements of musical innovation throughout the ages.
After sitting through a series of sometimes uncomfortable and awkward speeches, plus a small dance from Apple’s Eddie Cue, viewers were left with a hefty amount of information to devour as the ringing from The Weekend’s strained vocal performance reverberated around the room.
Available on the 30th of June 2015, Apple Music promises to revolutionise the way that we see and listen to music.
Apple Music will be available for iTunes, OS X and Windows, iOS and Android late in the year. The service will enable users to stream the music from their iTunes library, and will offer playlists as well as song and playlist recommendations. Another plus to the service ensures that unsigned artists are able to share their own music; an excellent and innovative idea. The Connect feature enables users to ‘connect’ with their favourite musicians. They can post photos and upload video content – much like a social networking site. The Music app has had a slight redesign too; a new MiniPlayer appears above the tabs at the bottom of the app.
Apple has confirmed that their Apple Music’s streaming bit rate will be 256kbps, below the quality of Spotify, Google Play Music and Tidal. How this will affect the service is unclear. Audiophiles may bemoan these shortcomings but the habitual listener might shrug this off as something small and inconsequential – just how many teenagers are going to complain about the bit rate of that new One Direction song anyway?
The social media connection mentioned previously highlights some interesting questions too. Which age group is this service primarily aimed at? With Spotify there was some focus on the social side with links to Facebook, but they seemed to primarily target music content and pricing over connectivity. With Apple Music Connected, more of a social skeleton has been built, by cross-pollinating sections of social media, pricing and music, Apple have ingeniously grouped together all of this into one application.
Apple Music Connect is definitely one of the most interesting features of this new music service. Although the ins and outs of how it exactly works were quite vague during the keynote speech, it sounds like a great platform enabling new and unsigned artists to promote their music to a wider audience. Artists can share their lyrics, upload photos and video content, and release their newest musical creations to the masses directly from their iPhone or iPad. Fans are able to post messages through social sites such as Twitter and Facebook, creating a direct partnership like no other. This feature permits new musical innovators and forward thinkers to share their ideas without the constraints of major label dictation and big budget marketing campaigns. Perhaps this is a new evolutionary dawn that Apple has created, proving once again that they are true innovators when it comes to wading inside the already fragmented music industry pool.
Along with this service comes another ground breaker – Beats 1. Beats 1 is a personalised music service and Apple’s first ever that is dedicated entirely to music and musical culture. The station will broadcast live to over 100 countries 24 hours a day 7 days a week. There are three main locations where DJ’s broadcast from: Zane Lowe in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga in London. Whether this will have any major implications on the big boys of radio such as the BBC remains unclear, but this does again prove that Apple has its forward thinking hat on when it comes to innovation and technological prowess. Programs on Beats 1 will offer exclusive interviews, guest hosts and the best of what’s going on in the world of music. This again does seem aimed at the youth market but with stations varying at a genre range that includes indie rock, classical, folk and funk, a wider listenership may yet emerge. Nothing much was said about the unsigned artists and whether the music that they produce will be incorporated onto the playlists of Beats 1 but this would be a great incentive to get more musicians to sign up to the Apple Music service. I guess that it was only a matter of time before a 24/7 live radio station became a reality.
The pricing of the service is quite reasonable; after a three month free trial users will only need to fork out about £6.50 a month. One other option you can sign up for is the ‘Family Plan’ – not a sexual health session – just a slightly more expensive way of signing up for the service that enables brothers, sisters and your auntie to all listen to independently.
Eliminating free streaming will of course remove all of those annoying adverts that appear on other music services such as Spotify. With membership, you can skip as many songs as you like. Apple’s claim that they have ‘the largest and most diverse collection of music on the planet’, is just one other reason to skip past that U2 album that got lodged inside your music library.
It’s uncertain what the future holds for Apple Music but it’ll be interesting to see how this new service will fair.
‘For artists, we’ve built an ecosystem we hope can start to provide the tools to grow nurture and sustain careers. One place, one complete thought around music.’ It’s an exciting time for Apple and an exciting time for music in general.