After months of speculation, Apple officially announced their long-in-the-works subscription streaming music service Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. Dubbed “Apple Music,” the service is both an update to the company’s iTunes Store as well as Apple’s response to Spotify’s industry-leading streaming service and Jay Z’s fledgling, all-star Tidal. Apple Music’s plan includes a “revolutionary music service curated by the leading music experts we helped handpick,” a 24/7 worldwide radio station and “Connect,” an “ecosystem” that allows for artists to communicate directly with fans.
“History has had a very rich history of change, some of which we have a part in,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said before introducing a video touching on the history of music distribution from 1888 to Apple Music, “the next chapter in music.” Beats founder Jimmy Iovine then detailed the service and how “it’s all the ways you love music, all in one place.”
Iovine called the current state of music a multi-medium “fragmented mess.” “For fans, we’ve tried to create a complete experience,” Iovine said. In addition to boasting every track in the iTunes Music Store, Apple Music also allows users to watch “tens of thousands of music videos with no ads” and promised to deliver playlists tailored to fans’ taste curated by humans and not algorithms. “There needs to be a place where music can be treated less like digital bits but more like the art it is, with a sense of respect and discovery,” Beats’ Chief Creative Officer Trent Reznor said in the Apple Music video.
Apple also introduced their 24/7 worldwide radio station, Apple Music Beats 1, compiled by former BBC tastemaker Zane Lowe, Hot 97 DJ Ebro Darden and London DJ Julie Adenuga. “We have real music fans running this place, incredible DJs,” Lowe said in a video introducing the service. “The only place that could pull off an imaginative idea like this: Apple.”
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Drake then appeared onstage to discuss Connect, a medium that lets artists share videos, lyrics and more via the Apple Music app. Drake shared an anecdote about growing up wondering if anyone from his native Toronto could attain superstar status. The rapper recognized that, without Apple or iTunes, it’s unlikely he would have achieved his level of success, and Connect allows everyone, even unsigned artists, to pursue a similar path. Drake then hinted that Connect would play an important role in the release of his follow-up to If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.
Apple Music will debut on most platforms on June 30th and cost subscribers $9.99 a month. Like its predecessor Beats Music, Apple Music will not offer a “freemium” mode, but the service will offer the first three months for free; a six-person family plan will cost $14.99. The Apple Music presentation also showed a pre-recorded Lowe introducing Pharrell’s new song “Freedom.”
— Beats1 (@beats1) June 8, 2015
The Weeknd then ended the performance by debuting his new song “Can’t Feel My Face.”
Not everyone was enthralled by the presentation. After Apple unveiled Apple Music, underwhelmed Spotify founder Daniel Ek tweeted, “Oh ok.”
Apple’s announcement of a curation-heavy subscription service comes four months after the company hired Lowe for an unspecified post at Apple. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Drake had been tapped as a guest DJ on the service, and that Pharrell Williams was also recruited to contribute to the service.
Apple Music is the electronics giant’s second attempt to gain a firm stake in the burgeoning streaming market after the launch of Beats Music, which Apple acquired as part of their $3 billion purchase of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s Beats Electronics in August 2014. Despite boasting Reznor in the role of chief creative officer, the app – which did not feature a “freemium” option like competitors Spotify and Pandora – struggled to keep up with the competition, sparking shutdown rumors in September 2014.
However, Apple and Beats promised to retool their app with Reznor playing a “major role” in rebuilding the service from scratch. Apple reportedly hoped to leverage its music industry clout to work out a deal with record labels that would allow the company to introduce a streaming service that had a price tag of $8 a month, $2 less than Spotify and $12 less monthly than Tidal’s high-quality audio option. However, Apple and Beats were rebuffed in their attempts by the record labels who – like Spotify-ditching artists like Taylor Swift and Thom Yorke – feel they’re already receiving too small a share of streaming revenues.
Despite its late start to the streaming game – Spotify already has 60 million users, 15 million paid subscribers and an $8.4 billion valuation – Apple does have one distinct advantage, however: According to the New York Times, the company has sold 700 million iPhones, including 61 million iPhones in the last quarter alone, the Associated Press notes.