Apple’s history when it comes to social networks is not the brightest. The company launched the infamous Ping social networking tool back in 2010, only to shut it down two years later. This year, alongside the announcement of the highly anticipated Apple Music streaming service, the company launched Connect, a different take on a social network based entirely around music. Connect is much different from traditional social networks like Twitter and Facebook, though.
To unveil Connect, Apple brought out popular hip-hop artists Drake, who gave the service a ringing endorsement, as well as Trent Reznor. Drake touted that the service would provide a revolutionary way for artists to interact with their fans, but 8 months after the launch of Connect, it has yet to catch on with artists and listeners alike. Likewise, the feature hasn’t really received any updates or improvements from Apple in that time period either and there are certainly things that could be improved. Read on to find out some ways in which Apple Music could be enhanced…
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This seems like something that should be incredibly obvious to Apple, given its tendency to live stream its Apple Music Festival (formally iTunes Music Festival) each year. If Apple could integrate Connect with live streams of popular interviews, concerts, and shows, it would give the everyday user more of a reason to use the service.
Look at Kanye West, for instance. Tomorrow, the popular rapper will premiere his new album The Life of Pablo (as of this post) and his new line of clothing during a special event at Madison Square Garden in New York City. West announced today, though, that he’s partnering with competing streaming music service Tidal to offer a live stream of the event, as well. If Tidal is able to secure deals like this, Apple can too.
To me, there isn’t any logical reason as to why Apple is working more diligently to offer live streams of concerts. The stream could be presented in the Connect tab of Apple Music, include exclusive behind-the-scenes content from artists and offer a live stream of the show. If Apple did something like this even once a month, you’d have to assume that use of Connect would skyrocket. Logistically, it’s challenging to live stream concerts, but getting more eyes and ears on Apple Music and Connect should be Apple’s end goal. And live streaming concerts from the world’s top artists would undoubtedly do that.
Better Integration with Beats 1 shows
One notable thing about Connect is that it doesn’t allow users to make full posts. It only allows them to comment on posts of artists and personalities. I like this. It prevents the service from becoming cluttered and useless, focusing on the music and content shared by artists instead. With that said, however, users could play a much bigger role in Beats 1 with the use of Connect.
Take Zane Lowe’s show, for instance. Every day he holds interviews with prominent musicians. Zane is certainly a great interviewer on his own, but fans would be much more inclined to tune-in if they had the ability to ask a question to the artist.
Apple Music hosts should make a post on Connect in which it encourages users to comment a question they have for whatever artist they might be interviewing. Then, during the interview, the Beats 1 host, whether it be Zane, Julie, Ebro, or whoever, should go and ask a few of the fan-submitted questions. Better integrating the fan into shows would be a huge way for Apple to grow Beats 1 and Connect at the same time.
Somewhat building upon the first two ideas I suggested, Apple Music Connect should support the ability to receive notifications when someone you follow makes a post on the service. For instance, I should be able to go to Coldplay’s Connect page and turn on the ability to receive a push notification whenever they make a post to the service, whether it be an image, a song, lyrics, or something different.
Apple should allow users to enable the ability to receive a notification whenever a particular Beats 1 show starts. The notification could say what show was starting, who was going to be the guests, and take the listener directly to a Connect page on which they could listen to the stream and submit a question if an interview was going to take place.
Building upon that idea, Apple could take it to the next step and analyze the artists that a user follows and send them a notification when they are going to be guests on a particular Beats 1 show. For example, if I’m following G-Eazy on Connect and he’s going to be a guest on Zane Lowe’s show, I should receive a push notification informing me of that appearance so I can tune in and listen.
Improve the interface
I’m not a fan of the current user interface that Apple Music Connect offers. On the iPhone, it’s just a single stream of all your content sorted by how long ago it was posted. There’s no way to filter content by videos, images, or text posts. There’s also a somewhat obnoxious banner image for every single post, meaning that you have to scroll quite a bit to see multiple posts.
As to changes Apple should make to the Connect interface, I think they should put a heavier focus on comments and interaction between artists and fans. There’s no need for a generic banner image to be associated with every post on Connect. Instead, that space should be dedicated to showing a preview of the comments and making it more clear that users can in fact comment and interact with artists and that’s it’s not just a one-way communication platform.
On the Mac, there are loads of ways the Connect interface could be improved. In iTunes, you get essentially the same interface as you do on the iPhone, expect that it’s split into two columns. Connect does not do a good job at all of taking advantage of the added screen real-estate that a Mac offers compared to an iPhone.
More unique content
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the idea of Apple offering live streams of events via Connect, but at the same time, there’s a lot more that can be done in terms of content. Right now, Connect is dominated by artists simply sharing the same content on it that they share on Twitter and Facebook. If Apple truly wants to create a music-centric social network, this can’t be the case.
Imagine a version of Connect where your favorite artists are sharing unique and exclusive content that they don’t share on Twitter and Facebook. Things such as behind-the-scenes pictures, snippets of unreleased songs, and much more. Apple has the pull to get artists to do this, but right now it seems like it is just not putting forth the effort.
Apple could also partner with artists to share exclusive content on Connect. The company already does this to a small degree, but there’s much more room for improvement. Offering daily or weekly exclusive content would give the average user an incentive to finally tap the Connect tab in Music.
To do this, Apple needs to offer better incentives to awards to get them to use Connect. Right now, artists are hesitant to adopt the platform because there’s just not a big enough audience using it to make it worth their while. Whether Apple decides to offer more prominent placement in Apple Music or iTunes, or more airtime on Beats 1, it needs to do something to incentivize the use of Apple Music Connect for artists.
Apple TV support
Apple Music Connect is nowhere to be found on the Apple TV, even on the newest fourth-generation model. While social networking has never been a huge success on televisions, Connect tends to offer a quality of content that’s higher than your average social network since it’s just artists sharing content, not every user.
On Apple TV, Connect would allow users to casually scroll through images and videos that have been shared on the service. Right now, users can’t view any Connect content unless they’ve saved it to their Apple Music library. Apple could also show Connect content when a user is listening to a certain artist or band, allowing the user to see what the artist has been sharing and encouraging them to user Connect on a more regular basis.
Right now the comments on Apple Music Connect are a mess. They’re about as useful as Instagram comments. The comment system implemented with Connect really only works when you have individuals posting content, not popular artists that can draw in massive amounts of comments (although that’s currently not always the case on Connect, but it could be eventually).
Personally, I would love for a Reddit-style commenting system to be implemented. This would weed out the mediocre or spam comments and give users a chance to up vote/down vote based on the quality of the comment. While giving users the ability to reply to comments would get messy, I do think that Apple should allow for artists to be able to reply to comments. Doing this would open the door for Reddit-like “Ask Me Anything” posts from bands and artists on Connect, which would drive massive amounts of comments and interaction to the service.
If Apple doesn’t start to improve Connect and give users reasons to use it over other offerings like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, the company could very well be looking down the barrel of another Ping situation. Right now, the reasons to use Connect are few and far between compared to other social networks.
The two biggest things Apple needs to do is improve fan interaction with artists on Connect, by implementing ideas like a better commenting system, and offer more unique content. If Apple were to offer exclusive live concert streams, Reddit-esque “Ask Me Anything” threads, and improve integration with Beats 1, users would have a variety of reasons to actually tap that “Connect” tab in their Music app. Right now, they don’t. And so far, Apple hasn’t given any indication that it is working towards improving the experience.
How often do you find yourself using Connect in its current state? Let us know in the poll below and elaborate on your choice in the comments!