Apple Music: Everything You Need to Know
2. Beats 1 radio will bring familiar voices to music fans in interesting ways.
Trent Reznor’s baby is the most interesting aspect of Apple Music, since it offers radio shows more akin to Sirius XM or college radio than any of its competitors. In addition to ringmaster Zane Lowe’s sure-to-be-bonkers broadcasts, Beats 1 offers unique shows by Dr. Dre, Elton John, Pharrell Williams, Drake, Q-Tip, St. Vincent, Ellie Goulding, Jaden Smith and others.
It will also run non-celeb-curated shows, including Lowe’s The World Record, in which the DJ picks the one song he feels everyone must listen to that day, Monday through Thursday. Gratitude will highlight an artist talking about another musician that influenced them (First up: Nas on Eric B. and Rakim’s Paid in Full and Miranda Lambert on a to-be-announced Allison Moorer LP.) There’s also a Chart show which, when the worldwide release day takes effect for the music business (shifting from Tuesday to Friday), will reflect what music, movies and TV are coming out in the week ahead. It also offers non-Beats channels like Pure Pop (which, when Rolling Stone hit play, began with Taylor Swift’s “Style”), Soundsystem (a cross-genre mix of alternative, pop and dance aimed at millennials) and The Mixtape (classic alternative, from rock to hip-hop).
But even the artists have taken steps to make their music shows interesting. Most notable, perhaps, is St. Vincent, whose Mixtape Delivery Service finds her listening to notes from fans and dedicating an hour-long selection of songs catered to them. In one show, an 11-year-old girl made a recording noting her St. Vincent fandom and how she holds her own singing parties at night. The singer played Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” New Order’s “Blue Monday” and Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart” and even chatted with the fan.
Meanwhile, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme’s Alligator Hour spins Grinderman and Roky Erickson amid his ruminations on the relationships between those artists’ music and human aspirations. Dr. Dre’s The Pharmacy will highlight his mixes that reflect his eclectic interests as he explains what the songs mean to him now and throughout his life, along with commentary from DJ Pooh. And Elton John’s Rocket Hour will show the singer-songwriter’s surprisingly diverse and current taste.
The downside to Beats 1 radio, at least for now, is that it really is radio in that these artist-curated programs will not be accessible after the fact as a podcast or on demand. Moreover, when the app launches, only a handful of shows will be listed on the Beats 1 homepage as part of a schedule, rather than something complete (though an Apple rep said the day would start with Chart, move to Lowe and then on to shows from London, New York and Los Angeles, before moving to artist programming at night). An Apple rep told Rolling Stone that the company wants people to tune in, ostensibly to build buzz as listeners attempt to figure out just what they’re listening to. He did say, however, that on-demand programming will be available in the future.
3. Apple Music makes finding new music a little easier.
Discovering new music can be an arduous task for a casual music listener and an ongoing quest for the most dedicated fan, so Apple Music’s editorial customization comes in handy for the service’s “New” tab. The default screen shows the newest of the new from all genres each week, as picked by Apple’s editors. It also offers “Hot Tracks,” “Recent Releases” and “Top Songs,” across all styles of music, but by selecting a particular genre offers a narrowed-down selection of everything from reggae to children’s music.
The “New” tab is also where you can peruse playlists made by Apple Music Editors by genre, ones curated to activities (“BBQing,” “Breaking Up,” “Studying,” “Partying,” etc.) and by expert curators (ahem, yours truly, Rolling Stone). The major drawback to these curated lists is the unnecessary step of clicking into each one to see the brief description of what’s ahead. Under “Classic Rock,” for example, what is “Feelin’ Fine”? Apparently it’s recent music from rock “icons,” ranging from Robert Plant to Spoon. Another negative aspect of this feature is the inability to drill down into subgenres and micro-genres. So if you’ve got a sudden hankering for exploring late-Nineties Venezuelan IDM, you’re not going to find it easily.
4. The “For You” tab consistently yields interesting results.
After you’ve plugged in all of your favorite genres and artists, the most reasonable first stop on a tour of Apple Music would be the “For You” tab on the far left. This is where the service suggests playlists based on your taste – introductions to bands, lists of deep cuts, refreshing takes on familiar artists (e.g., “Inspired by R.E.M.”) – as well as full albums you might like. If you don’t like what you see, pull down on the screen for a whole new list. In one instance, the metal, indie and blues–centric choices Rolling Stone made early on yielded a collage of records by Thelonious Monk, Ozzy Osbourne, Nick Cave, the Velvet Underground, the Who and Sonny Boy Williamson. Not bad. It’s the sort of thing that Spotify approximates, but often comes off a bit stilted and robotic.
The one music discovery downside – outside of the “For You” tab – is that when you do look up an artist, connections to other musicians are not readily apparent. If you look up Trent Reznor, there is no clear link to Nine Inch Nails or How to Destroy Angels. And with David Bowie, there’s no easy way to find – if you really, really wanted to – Tin Machine. (Though it’s worth noting that the “You May Also Like” option in the Best of David Bowie album, did offer records by the Stones, Mott the Hoople and James Gang, which make sense tangentially.)