Monday 5 December 2016

Apple Music one year on: Why I'm not going back to Spotify

It crashes, it has numerous bugs and a litany of critics but Apple's dedicated streaming music service has found its footing as it nears its first birthday.

Published 11/06/2016 | 10:40

Apple CEO Tim Cook with U2
Apple CEO Tim Cook with U2

Prior to joining Apple Music I was a devout Spotify user. To me it was literally the most impressive online service money could buy. Unlimited music for €10 a month, what else could you ask for?

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When Spotify came onto the scene in 2008 it took just three weeks of use for me to decide to delete my entire iTunes library. That library was manicured with correct album artwork and track IDs, but it just couldn't compare to the mighty Spotify.

Looking back that was a decision I regretted. While Spotify's service was excellent I couldn't fight the feeling that the music wasn't mine. Granted there was a host of algorithms generating playlists to suit my every need but I had lost the feeling of reward you get when you discover new music for yourself.

To this day that's still a difficult feeling to shake. Music identification apps like Shazam have certainly made it easier but in the world of streaming you can't deny the notion of being corralled into the same type of music as everyone else.

Everything sounds the same because the algorithms have been designed to find music that is similar. As these lines of code develop they will only improve, leaving us with better and better results.

In the meantime however it's back into the pen with the rest of us.

That's why when rumours of Apple's new service started to emerge I got a little excited. News had come out they had poached BBC Radio One legend Zane Lowe to come work in California on a special project.

At the time this could have meant anything. He could have been lined up to be a special tester for Beats for all we know.

Luckily for us this wasn't the case. Zane was tapped up to be used for exactly what he is brilliant at, finding new music and bringing to the rest of the world.

This is where Apple Music began to stand out. The company has said on a number of occasions about developing a hybrid of music curated by a mix of humans and robots.

The result has been a delight. If someone told me a year ago that radio would be at the heart of a change in streaming I would have laughed. But for me that's been the case. With shows from Zane in California to the brilliant Julie Adenuga in London, Beats One has been a very welcome addition to the wonderful world of streaming music.

Don't get me wrong, good music radio is nothing new. But having a radio station right in the middle of your music streaming app is. Having it there gives you a welcome break from going to find something to play yourself. It's so easy to use and it really gives a pay out to the consumer in the form of off beat music.

They also roll out the big names on the station too from the likes of Disclosure to Elton John they're open to trying a lot with a developing audience.

The station isn't always brilliant either. Sometimes there's songs on that make your really think: "Do people actually listen to this?" But for the most part it's all good.

It's in this station wherein lies Apple Music's unique selling point. Having humans in amongst the waves and waves of categorised music is a welcome break and a throwback to how music used to be listened to.

I joined Apple Music when it launched almost a year ago. I took the first free month with every intention of cutting it loose after, but for some reason I decided to throw caution to the wind and rid myself of my Spotify playlists and start all over.

It's not for everyone, but if you appreciate its charm and the excellent presenting it really is a joy to use. Never say never, but Spotify is going to have to bring something big for me to make another switch.

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