Apple will finally launch their music streaming service on Tuesday (June 30). The product, which had been rumoured for months, if not years, was announced at the start of June at Apple’s WWDC conference. It will go up against established rivals in the market like Spotify, Rdio and Jay Z’s Tidal. At the big reveal, Apple boss Tim Cook heralded it as “the next chapter” in music. “I know you are going to love it,” he said, “it will change the way you experience music forever.”
Then came Taylor Swift. The US pop megastar wrote an open letter to the corporation criticising their policy on not paying artists royalties during their three-month free trial period. A speedy u-turn from Apple followed as they reversed their policy. Now, they hope, it’s back to the product. It was 12 years ago Apple launched iTunes and revolutionised the mainstream consumption of music forever – will Apple Music have a similar impact? NME’s seen it, and these are its key features, the things you need to know and our first impressions.
How do I get it?
You’re going to need Apple’s latest update – IOS 8.4, released on June 30 – if you want Apple Music. So, if you’re using an older device you’ll probably need to delete those videos of you dancing to Lionel Richie at Glastonbury in order to make room for the update.
What does it look like?
It’s Apple. It’s clean, it’s simple, it’s intuitive to use. In terms of look and feel the platform isn’t too different from your iTunes library right now with a new tabs bar running across the bottom. Apple geeks: they have a new logo. Say goodbye to the red background on the music icon, it’s now white.
What music have they got?
Swift fans breath easy. After their public tussle, Swift’s ‘1989’ album will be available on the service, along with a mind-boggling 30 million other tracks. Assuming their back and forth with independent labels group Beggars is also now resolved, you will hear music from the likes of Adele and Jungle on there, too. You’ll also be able to port over your existing library.
How’s it going to recommend new music?
Log on to any streaming service and you can listen to (almost) anything you can imagine in a space of a few seconds. Apple knows this is a blessing and a curse.
When you first sign up to Apple Music a host of genres appear in big pink bubbles. It asks you to select your preferences. You can also knock off anything you don’t like, to ensure for example, you don’t get any David Guetta mixing with your Mac Demarco album. Along with those preferences, as you go along, the service will also learn more about the music you like to serve you content in line with your taste. It’s called the ‘For You’ section.
Add to that, Apple have brought in their own team of editors for the project – people, they say, are experts in their genre-based fields. They’ll be running Apple’s own playlists for things like rock, pop, R&B, and loads more.
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There’s also a simple ‘new’ section – this isn’t genre-specific or personalised – which simply exhibits the biggest, latest new music in one place.
Finally, there are also a handful of international launch curators on board. So, if for example you want to know what NME are recommending – we’ll be on there making playlists – you’ll want to follow us.
Where’s Zane Lowe in all this?
Part of Apple Music’s launch is their online radio station – Beats 1. It will go live at the same time that Apple Music launches. After switch-on it’ll be broadcasting to more than 100 countries 24/7 around the world. No pressure then, Zane Lowe. The former BBC Radio 1 DJ is the blockbuster name signed up to lead it’s on-air team. We know Eminem will appear as Lowe’s first big musical guest at some point in the first week. What will be the first song ever played on Beats 1? Well, Lowe’s final song on Radio 1 was Queens Of The Stone Age’s ‘A Song For The Dead’ so we’ll see.
Other presenters include Ebro Darden (in New York), and ex-Rinse FM DJ Julie Adenuga (in London). When they’re not broadcasting, it’ll be a mixture of chart shows, features and guest spots. Pharrell, Elton John and Drake have already confirmed to do guest DJ spots.
By the way, you don’t have to sign up to Apple Music in order to listen to Beats 1. It’s free.
Another feature in Apple Music is ‘Connect’. Basically, it’s like a Twitter stream where artists and curators can post content – say a new video, tour dates or notice. Visually this looks a bit like Tumblr on mobile. You can ‘like’, ‘comment’ and ‘share’. You don’t have to be signed up to Apple Music to, er, connect to Connect.
How much is it going to cost?
Sign up and you get a three month free trial. After that, it’ll cost you £9.99 in the UK ($9.99 in the US). There’s also going to be a family-plan which, if you pay a bit more (£14.99 in the UK), will give you multiple access points. Unlike other streaming services, there is no free tier.