This week we saw the launch of Apple Music, which effectively completes the transition from ‘ownership’ to ‘access’ of music. I’ve been using it for 3 days. First impressions?
- I never used Beats before Apple, but there’s a strong emphasis on human curation — entirely at odds with the ‘Silicon Valley’ method (I’m a fan of this).
- The surprising highlight is Beats1, a global radio station fronted by Zane Lowe, playing a broad mix of hits and back-catalogue. It’s my favorite Music Discovery tool of the moment — though it’s a hard game to keep up.
- Being able to hear a song and immediately add it to your collection is very powerful.
- The streaming service is good, as anticipated-the search box is the main discovery tool, there’s definitely room for a more ‘tree’ style method of finding artists you already knew about.
- Where is Prince?
It would appear that the Purple one has removed his music from every service except for Tidal and Google Play.
Prince reportedly bought the rights to his catalogue back from Warner Music last year, and now completely owns control of all his music right back to 1978— this is the ideal situation if you are an artist (and can afford it), it means he can decide whether or not he is available on the streaming services.
Whilst this bothers me as a Prince fan, I would assume that there is a dialogue between his representatives and Spotify, Apple etc for a special rights deal — something which I imagine Taylor Swift was also able to negotiate.
Now, there was a lot of talk when Taylor Swift’s catalogue miraculously appeared on Apple Music. A lot of people suspected that perhaps this had been choreographed ever since Swift removed her music from Spotify last year. I’ve no special information, but I’m doubtful. Why? Rightsholders were being sent contracts with an indication that they wouldn’t get paid for the trial as recently as two-weeks ago. Eddy Cue can make decisions like this with relative ease, it’s not a huge cost to Apple to cover the extra 3 months and finally, why would they bother.
If Apple can combine the promotional power of music discovery through Apple Music and Beats1, it will have powerful leverage in the future with artists, perhaps even to the extent where it will be able to renegotiate some of its rights costs.
Whatever your view, you have to hand it to Apple. The launch of Music has been a lesson in PR, thoroughly serving it to the competition - in that regard.