Apple announced its streaming music service at WWDC this week after months of much anticipation. The service includes many of the features that our own Mark Gurman reported on months in advance. Earlier this year, I broke down my own thoughts on what features the service needed to have in order to convince me to switch from Spotify. Those requested features included excellent support for my previously acquired music; well-designed, cross-platform apps; exclusive content; competitive pricing; and a killer radio functionality.
No competitor to Apple Music has anything that even remotely resembles Beats 1.
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Spotify has playlists curated by artists and DJs, but not a 24/7 hand-picked radio show hosted by three of the most respected DJs. Tidal claims to have exclusive content from many artists, but again, no live radio. Rdio and Google Play Music are in the same boat, as well.
With the addition of Zane Lowe, Apple has opened its Music service up to a whole slew of artists. While at BBC Radio 1, Lowe established connections with some of the most popular and influential artists in the world. Apple obviously realized that when it hired him, but up until yesterday, we did not know that Lowe would be hosting a radio show for Apple. With Lowe’s new position, he can continue doing what made BBC Radio 1 so successful and offer his help in curating content for Apple Music.
While a DJ in London, Lowe hosted a variety of interviews that went on to go viral with artists. Zane has interviewed artists such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Chris Martin, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Eminem, and producer Rick Rubin. With Apple’s new Beats 1 station, Lowe can continue hosting these revealing and often controversial interviews. Lowe was also respected for discovering up and coming artists before they made it big.
As I mentioned earlier this year, Apple Music needs truly exclusive content to be successful and Zane Lowe coupled Beats 1 provides that. Beats 1 is something that can’t be replicated by any other streaming music services. More than likely, no other streaming service could even afford to higher a trio like Lowe, Darden, and Adenuga.
One thing many people seem to forget is that artists love to develop relationships with DJs and radio stations. Lowe, Darden, and Adenuga have all developed relationships with artists that will greatly benefit Apple Music. When an artist develops a relationship with a DJ, they are more likely to give interviews and be more revealing in those interviews. Legendary producer Rick Rubin doesn’t give many interviews, nor does he let many people tour his Shangri La studios, but he let Zane Lowe do both. Another example is Coldplay singer Chris Martin giving Lowe an exclusive interview and play-through of his band’s newest record before it was released last year.
There are still some questions remaining about Beats 1 and how it will function. Will there be a schedule of content? Will there even be specific ‘shows’? Can users receive push notifications for the shows in which they are interested? Right now, Beats 1 only plays a prerecorded clip of Zane Lowe introducing the service, so perhaps even Apple doesn’t have all of those answers yet.
There’s another aspect to this, however, If Beats 1 does not live up to the hype, then what else sets Apple Music apart? If you take away the live radio station functionality, Apple Music is a lot like all of the other services with which users already have accounts and libraries. Beats 1 is the feature that could make it worth it for users to drop their current subscriptions and libraries with services like Spotify and Rdio. That’s why Apple needs to work to ensure that what is broadcast on Beats 1 is liked by listeners, and also interesting and relevant enough to keep them listening.
Regarding my other wishes for Apple Music, Apple also announced that Apple Music would be directly integrated into the new Music app on iOS, which I went hands-on with earlier this year. This means that Apple Music content is directly intermingled with the content that you have already purhcased via iTunes and have stored in iTunes Match. With the integration of Apple Music, the new Music app will only get better.
Apple also announced revealed that Apple Music will be priced at $9.99 for a single user, which is inline with what competitors charge. The service, however, will cost just $14.99 for a family plan with up to six different users, which is a considerably better deal than any other streaming service.
Beats 1 is more important to the success of Apple Music than any number of millions of songs Apple could brag about having because it is something, again, that is not easily replicated by any competitors. There is only one Zane Lowe, one Ebro Darden, and one Julie Adenuga. Offering a 24/7 live radio station is what sets Apple Music apart from the competition and what will ultimately lend most to its success or failure.