This week, Apple announced its most audacious reworking of its music services, called, appropriately enough, Music. It’s no exaggeration to say Apple’s iTunes radically changed the way most people acquire and store music, and there is a generation of listeners now in their teenage years who cannot relate to digital audio as anything apart from an online resource, in part as a result of iTunes. However, by the start of the second decade of the 21st Century, alternatives to the iTunes model began appearing, with the likes of Mog and Spotify. In the same way that iTunes stopped many people buying music on CD, these streaming services stopped many people from buying music altogether. Why ‘own’ one album when you can ‘lease’ an entire music library for a similar monthly fee? It’s a compelling argument, and one that Apple bought into several years ago in the purchase of Beats Electronics (which purchased, and subsequently closed, Mog in favour of its own Beats Music service). Apple Music is the company’s first music streaming service.
Like most of its rivals, Apple Music is presenting a lossy compressed service for 9.99 (pounds, euros, dollars) per month, with a three-month free trial, or a 14.99 (pounds, euros, dollars) per month ‘family’ service for six users. Users can use this Music service on their desktop, laptop, or iThing with alacrity. This rolled out to 100 countries around the world on June 30.
Apple is running iTunes and Music concurrently, and it’s way too early to say whether Music will prove a success, and whether it will sabotage its own iTunes download sales, but the likelihood is probably ‘yes’ to both. Apple’s iTunes Store worked as a destination for music purchase because it was the lazy way to get music into your iPod, then iPhone, and iPad. Other avenues are open to users, but iTunes represented the path of least resistance for Apple and iDevice users, and Music continues in that vein. With more than 37million tracks in the iTunes library to hand, Music begins with a good selection for the user. Whether Music will pull listeners away from existing services like Spotify is another matter though, and I suspect the number of crossover listeners and long-term converts will be considerably smaller.