Wednesday 13 December 2017

Apple makes its latest play to control how we listen to music. But will it work?

Apple executive Eddy Cue high-fives singer Drake during the Apple Music introduction at the Apple WWDC in San Francisco, California
Apple executive Eddy Cue high-fives singer Drake during the Apple Music introduction at the Apple WWDC in San Francisco, California
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Is Apple's new 'Music' streaming service going to take over the world in the same way that iTunes did 15 years ago?

For those who missed it, Apple has launched a new music-streaming service that will be soon on almost everyone's iPhone, whether you want it or not.

'Music' will put 35 million songs within reach of anyone who pays its €10 per month subscription fee. It comes as sales of iTunes and iPods are falling fast, with people moving away from music ownership to music access over internet devices.

But does Apple's new app, which is available from the end of the month, stack up to rivals such as Spotify? And which will be more attractive to streaming newbies?


In terms of the basics, both Apple's Music and Spotify are similar. Both give access to around 30 million songs and both can be used on phones (both iPhone and Android) and tablets. The full version of each service costs the same, too: €10 per month.

But Spotify has a free version of its product, one that you can even use on a smartphone. You can make playlists or pick songs without paying, although there are a few restrictions and adverts.

Apple will have no similar free version. Instead, it is emphasising 'human curation' of playlists, culminating in a dedicated live radio station hosted by celebrity DJs (including former BBC presenter Zane Lowe) in London, New York and Los Angeles.

One of Apple's selling points is a 'family' price of €15 per month for six separate people (meaning six separate devices). This could probably be shared among six friends, too, although it's a single billing point.

Spotify currently has the same allowance for the same monthly tariff, albeit structured in a different way. A single premium Spotify account can be used on three separate devices. Adding a second premium account costs €5, meaning you get six separate devices for €15 per month. Some may see Spotify having an advantage here, because you can divide the cost between two people.

Spotify has some other advantages. It leans heavily on Facebook integration. It is also currently integrated into some 'bundled' services, such as certain Vodafone plans.

On the other hand, Apple will probably have a slightly better music selection. Apple's catalogue might be a little deeper thanks to deals it has with some ultra-premium artists. For example, iTunes currently has Beatles tracks while Spotify doesn't. And while not quite in that league, Taylor Swift has indicated her tracks will be on Apple Music but not on Spotify.

Perhaps Apple's biggest advantage is that the Music app will automatically load onto everyone's iPhone when the device's software is upgraded. That means that up to 500 million people worldwide will soon see the little app symbol on their phone. That is a huge home advantage for Apple and will make it that bit simpler to attract new users.

Irish Independent

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