Magazine B: #55 APPLE MUSIC
In this edition, we spotlight Apple Music, the music streaming service launched by Apple in June 2015. It’s a fascinating endeavor – on a micro level a streaming service, and on a macro level a vast ecosystem, depending on how the user views it. And as is clear from its name, Apple Music is about more than harnessing the technology of streaming. Longtime users of Apple’s hardware and services, from the iPod (Apple’s take on portable music players) to iTunes (the company’s platform for purchasing and collecting digital music), will no doubt notice this. On the Apple website, Apple Music is grouped under the “Music” tab of the main menu, along with iTunes and the iPod, as well as music accessories like headphones. On the iPhone, which comes with Apple Music installed as a default application, Apple Music’s display icon is a single musical note rather than the Apple Music logo, and it’s labeled “Music.” And this attention to music runs deeper. According to the numerous books that have been written on Apple, founder Steve Jobs often sought inspiration for the creative process from musicians like the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Such inspiration has infused Apple’s products, services and advertising. If the Apple brand is the company’s hardware, music is its soul.
From a purely functional perspective, it’s not apparent what qualities set Apple Music – a latecomer to the streaming market – apart from its more established competitors. For library size and user interface, Apple Music gets ranked at roughly similar, if not lower, levels. Taken as an ecosystem, however, rather than a product, Apple Music looks markedly different. Like most of Apple’s products, both tangible and intangible, Apple Music is not a one-way service that simply delivers a product to users. In Apple Music, the company has created a system where the flow goes in both directions, with benefits for both the creators and consumers of music. This dynamic is clearly evident in the 24-hour radio station Beats 1, which includes programs DJed by popular musicians like Pharrell Williams and Drake, and even experimental artists like pianist Chilly Gonzales. These shows become platforms for musicians to provide exclusive interviews about their latest albums, introduce the new artists they’ve discovered within their respective music scenes, and also share the music they personally consider important. The musicians can also go a step further, partnering with the editors at Apple Music to create original video and even stage performances. Apple’s insistence on offering Apple Music as a paid service is also something for musicians to smile about. For creators, the Apple Music ecosystem is a playground of possibility, and for all the things they are encouraged to do within it, they receive appropriate returns. This, not a sophisticated algorithm, is probably Apple Music’s major strength.
We often say that those who ultimately come out on top are those who genuinely enjoy what they do. Apple, despite its diverse product lineup, isn’t seen merely as a purveyor of electronics devices, concerned only with selling consumers something new every season. The reason is enjoyment. The people at Apple are all about taking the things they genuinely enjoy and giving them expression in the purest of ways. This is how their products are birthed. Apple Music is the latest such product. It is also the start of something new, and we can only imagine how it will come to shape the Apple of the future.