On June 30th, amidst a flurry of both hype and controversy, Apple launched their belated answer to Spotify and other streaming services: Apple Music. Subscribers to the service are given a free three-month trial period, followed by a monthly payment of US$9.99. Available on both PC and portable iOS devices, Apple Music allows users to play music of their choosing via online streaming as well as being able to store their songs for offline enjoyment. The service also includes the popular voice-command application Siri for song requests and other specialized preferences; there’s also a content-sharing blog feature known as Connect, meant as a platform between the artists and their fans.
Of course, one of the biggest questions on everybody’s mind is whether this new service can actually dethrone the ever-popular Spotify for music streaming dominance; however, what’s perhaps more worrisome about Apple Music lies in its features and some of Apple’s practices. Most notably, much of the service seems quite identical to Spotify, right down to the US$9.99 monthly payment and the ability to switch between online streaming and offline playlists. As many reports have already revealed, it seems as though Apple Music hasn’t added enough distinguishing features to separate it from its contemporaries. Connect is a refreshing concept because of how much it supports unsigned artists (similar to how reviewing site Slicethepie emphasizes up-and-comers), and the $15 family package is certainly alluring as it can support up to six individuals, but this doesn’t change the fact that the core functions of the service show how late Apple is to the online streaming game.
On top of this, consumers became alienated when Apple announced they were abstaining from giving artists any pay in royalties during the initial trial period. Despite changing their policy after pop singer Taylor Swift decided to pull her music from the service, Apple suffered quite a blow to their reputation before Apple Music even came out of the gate. All in all, let’s just say that things have been off to a shaky start for this streaming service, especially when considering how crowded digital streaming and distribution already is. Given the company’s reputation as a progressive and revolutionary force in the way consumers receive their music, it’s sad to see such a potential goldmine of a service garner such a mixed reception and have crippling flaws from the very beginning.
That’s not to say Apple Music’s competitors haven’t had their fair share of blunders and controversies. In fact, the issue of unfair royalty policies has also been a problem with Spotify for years, with artists such as David Byrne (Talking Heads), Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Taylor Swift, Patrick Carney (The Black Keys), and Biffy Clyro all speaking out against the service at various points of its lifespan. Thus, despite Apple Music’s initial mistake of attempting to refrain from giving its artists any compensation during the trial period, something that could very well get the service back in people’s good graces is the act of offering better royalties than its competitors do. It would at least be a decent way to make up for such a grave initial misstep.
So what does all of this amount to in the end? Well, I’ve come to a few conclusions. First of all: there are way too many streaming services right now in general. As was the case for the excessive amount of competitors for video game industry dominance back in the early 80s, the music streaming market is incredibly overcrowded as well. I hadn’t yet mentioned that Spotify isn’t even the only other primary competitor to Apple Music, as we’ve also got services such as Amazon Prime, Rdio, Google Play Music, and numerous others. Most individuals have already aligned with their favorite service and company. Most tend to flock to Spotify in the end because of its accessible interface and high abundance of both popular and underground artists to stream (despite the aforementioned issue with royalties).
Based on this information, the second conclusion that I’ve come to is that Apple Music really has no reason to exist. On top of the service being late to the music streaming game, many subscribers have also reported that its layout is both buggy and unnecessarily convoluted as well as being a bit on the slow side. The family package I mentioned earlier is a nice gesture for families in which every member already uses Apple services and products, but for individual potential subscribers, there aren’t many unique features to return to other than Connect and Siri support. As a result, Apple Music has already managed to garner an incredibly mixed reception from the public and hasn’t given many consumers good reasons to abandon their current subscriptions to other services.
Overall, I don’t think Spotify is going anywhere any time soon. There are over 75 million people subscribed to the service, which will make it an incredibly tough competitor for Apple to topple. Apple Music may have had a shaky start, but it always has the potential to become a formidable force in music streaming as long as perhaps more features are implemented over time and its interface improves while people are enjoying their trial period. However, as it stands, Apple’s new streaming service simply doesn’t hold a candle to Spotify’s user-friendly interface and lack of lag. All in all, I’d stick with Spotify.