One year after Apple purchased Beats Music for 3 billion dollars, the tech giant released Apple Music, the tech company's major leap into the music streaming business. Since its inception, iTunes epitomized the way people consumed music, but the successful streaming models presenting by Spotify and Pandora engendered a radical re-conception of Apple's approach to music delivery.
On a larger scale, the transition began with Apple's iCloud service, which laid the foundation for cross-platform integration, OS X and iOS. Introducing iTunes Match and iTunes Radio in 2011, Apple customers began moving their music into the cloud, laying the seed for Apple's giant leap into streaming music industry. The three month trial period for new Apple Music subscribers functions as an open door that will become for many of us an endless sea of musical opportunities, with no return to analog recordings in sight. What is most impressive is the design, the way Apple manages to present a multitude of content across multiple platforms in a consistent and visually appealing manner (see diagrams below). Let's take a look at Apple Music.
APPLE MUSIC FEATURED ON THE MAC, IPAD, AND IPHONE
The Continuous Experience
Apple's iCloud service provides a central locus for how we access - well, everything! Everything we own, applications and music, supplemented by anonymous data collection and Siri integration, can now be accessed and synchronized across all Mac computers and iOS devices. The seamlessness of this integration is what led to the evolution of Apple Music. Whether you are on a Mac computer or iOS device, the Apple Music experience is continuous, codified by five major sections: My Music, Playlists, Connect, Radio, New, and For You.
My Music is literally your music, a concept that has been greatly expanded with the full integration of streaming music. The foundation for this development was established with iTunes Match, which enabled users to upload CD content and other digital files right into the cloud to be integrated with songs purchased through iTunes. The "actual" possession of digital files reinforced the idea of a certain proprietary sense of ownership, but with music now stored in the cloud, the emphasis is placed less on ownership and more on services. Our personal collections, formerly located in a folder on our hard drives, is now a ubiquitous collection of music in the cloud. Once you invest in Apple Music's streaming service, access to music is endless; ownership takes on an entirely new meaning.
Once you have invested in the streaming music model, every song you discover in iTunes is yours for the taking. New Music, for example, is where you can access new releases by leading artists today. Future, by DS2, is one album you may discover in this section. If you happen to be drawn to Where Ya At, featuring Drake, tap on the three dots and select "Add to My Music" and, viola, the song is yours. It's that simple. You are no longer required to pay $10.99 for the complete album or $0.99 for a single. Ownership and possession of music takes on a whole new meaning in the streaming business, and Apple is ideally situated to deliver this kind of service. If you still prefer products over services, the iTunes store is still available for those who want to physically own the digital file. The dichotomy between streaming and file ownership is blurred. For example, with every streaming song you add to your music library, you have the option to "Make Available Offline." This option is equivalent to downloading or "owning" the actual file. For example, I discovered "Yesterday" by The Black Eye Peas and added the song to "My Music." On my Mac, I control-clicked on the file and selected the option to view offline. I control-clicked once again and discovered the option to "show in finder," evidence that the actual file was now in my possession.
And you thought radio was dead. With Beats One, Apple may have single handedly revived the radio business. Beats One is Apple's greatly expanded initiative that took iTunes radio and made it live. A twenty-four hour radio service, Apple features qualified radio hosts who are scheduled to appear live throughout the day. Surprisingly, a beautiful display of the Beats One schedule can be found on Tumblr, where you can find the leading radio hosts, Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden, and Julie Adenuga who top Apple Music's line up. Check them out! You will be surprisingly impressed. In addition, the radio section also provides a wide menu of radio stations classified by various music genres (Country, Hip-Hip, dance, Pop, Electronic, Rock and Blues, and Alternative), to list some examples. Radio stations can also be created from any song that is found in iTunes, a feature that was first introduced in iTunes Radio. Are you lamenting your stations formerly set up with iTunes Radio? No worries. They are still available under "Recently Played."
Connect is Apple's way of integrating social media into the music listening experience. Apple's first attempt to get social was introduced with Ping in September 1, 2010, a feature built into iTunes but which never took off. After two years, Apple cancelled the service and replaced it with Facebook and Twitter integration. Connect is a built difficult to grasp, but this initiative has a lot more promise than it's earlier initiative. The future success of "Connect" will derive its impetus from the overall effectiveness of Apple Music as a whole, creating a wholistic experience. Connect is a collection of playlists designed by Apple DJs, classified as Apple Music Dance, Apple Music Hip-Hop, and Apple Music Electronic, to name a few. These playlists are distinct from your playlists, functioning primarily as a way to highlight Apple's own initiative in this area. Listeners can choose to select the heart symbol to show their support, leave comments, or share on social media.
For You is Apple's way of customizing your listening experience. Those of you who are used to the iTunes experience, customized songs and playlists have long been a part of the Genius option. For every song that was purchased through iTunes, Apple would offer recommendations of other songs that matched your song choice. With the advent of Apple Music, songs that are recommended For You acquire a much stronger degree of personalization, a process that begins under your profile. In the top left corner of iTunes, you will fine a portrait icon. Click on this icon and select "Choose Artists For You." Under the heading "Tell us what you're into," you will be greeted with an array of floating red bubbles with the names of artists, genres, and pictorial icons, Press once if you like them, press twice if you love them, or press and hold if you don't like them. The size of the bubbles will reflect your music preferences. Your selections are revealed under the heading "For You," in the form of additional playlists that more closely align with music you have in your library. For example, I have a strong collection of hard bop and progressive jazz albums, which resulted in numerous playlists that feature my favorite musicians, including john Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Eric Dolphy. I used to enjoy the genius feature in iTunes, but this feature is infinitely better.
Apple Music is an impressive music service with tons of musical resources at your disposal. At first, you may feel confused or overwhelmed. This is to be expected. Apple has simply exceeded our expectations, providing a complex array of features that would typically be rolled out over time. So often, Apple is criticized for how long it takes to introduce new features. With Apple Music, the criticism is just the opposite, taking too many steps forward. In my estimation, Apple should receive credit where credit is due. Apple Music is an ambitious attempt to take the music industry by storm, and with Apple's first break through into the streaming business, they knocked it out of the park.