Apple Music: Everything You Need to Know
Nearly 15 years ago, Apple positioned itself on the digital-music vanguard with iTunes and the iPod, sending the music industry into a tizzy to quickly adapt. Now, with today’s launch of the company’s new streaming service, Apple Music — amid stiff competition from established streaming leaders Spotify, Pandora, Tidal and Rhapsody — it feels late to the game. While the service offers many great features, its true test lies in the months ahead, when music fans get the opportunity to sample it for three months and decide whether or not to ditch the services it’s grown accustomed to as Apple slowly dipped its toes in the water.
Apple Music, which arrives as part of iOS 8.4 and will be available for $9.99 a month after the trial period, contains many features that streaming-music fans will expect (playlists galore, algorithmically guessed genre spotlights) in addition to an emphasis on music recommendations by real-life humans. The heart of the service is Beats 1, the Trent Reznor-conceived radio station that will be free to everyone and feature programs by Dr. Dre, Elton John, St. Vincent, Zane Lowe and others. It also contains a section curated based on users’ individual musical tastes with playlists and other features, another offering new music, a quasi-social network called “Connect” and, of course, a place to play a user’s iTunes collection. (Editor’s note: Rolling Stone erroneously reported that there would be an ad-supported free version of Apple Music. It’s Apple Radio that will be ad-supported in the U.S. The text has been corrected.)
On the surface, the service offers Apple-fied takes on its competitors’ best features – Spotify-inspired personalized recommendations and playlists, Songza-like situational playlists, easy-to-curate Pandora-esque radio stations. But digging deeper reveals a platform designed, for the most part, to present these elements in as user-friendly a way as possible. It’s like a Venn diagram of streaming music’s best offerings.
But whether it’s intuitive or not, will Apple Music become the standout, one-stop shop for music fans that the company hopes it will be, converting devout Spotify users and proselytizing the MP3 faithful? The company offered Rolling Stone a demo of the service to find out. Here are six of Apple Music’s most notable features, reviewed.
1. The service offers Netflix-style hyper-customization.
As soon as you log in to Apple Music and go to the “For You” tab, you will see an array of bubbles offering genres and, on a separate screen, artists, so you can select which artists and genres you prefer (one finger tap for “like”; two for “love”). The service will also scan your music library to see your preferred artists. Much like Netflix, this feature tells the company what music you like and what artists you are indifferent to, so as you listen, you can continue to tap on hearts to tell the company your tastes – defining your personal algorithm – so that it can make educated guesses on playlists and other content.
For instance, when Rolling Stone selected rap, indie-rock and metal as favorite genres in the demo – and subsequently Pixies and the grindcore/death-metal group Carcass – Apple offered an “Intro to Carcass” playlist amid selections of indie hits, Melvins deep cuts and an Apple Music-curated playlist offering to help get “parents to like noise.” (A valiant, decades-old quest.) Although none of the suggestions Rolling Stone received were wildly subversive, none were terribly off-base.