Apple’s new Music service is almost certainly going to affect the future of the music industry for years to come
There are two very interesting pieces in The Verge I came across today. Both, from different perspectives, make essentially the same point: Apple Music, the new streaming music service that launches on 30th June, is a huge deal, with very significant implications.
Emily Yoshida, writing for The Verge, sees Apple, as a result of this new, all-encompassing service, owning every aspect of users musical consumption:
Apple Music wants to be your one-stop-shop for every level of your musical consumption — whether that’s discovering music via trusted curators (BeatsOne radio), getting it directly from artists you already like (Connect), or through algorithms that figure out what you want to listen to so you don’t have to. Gone are the days when you have to toggle awkwardly between a Spotify playlist and your personal collection of music files. Now, ostensibly, they will all be a part of the same app, and not just any app — an app connected to the most dominant, effortless music store on the planet. The barrier between streaming and purchasing will be lower than ever. If you have an iPhone and are already a paid Spotify user, I can’t think of a single reason why you would stick with the service after June 30th.
Nilay Patel, also writing for The Verge, stresses the significance of music actually being just a fairly small piece in Apple’s ever growing pie. Apple Music is just one more of an ever growing number of features that keep people buying iPhones:
Spotify is in a jam right now: the more money it makes, the more money it loses, because of how its deals with the labels are structured. Spotify needs a free service because that’s how it gets people in the door and convinces them to pay, but the labels hate the free service because it doesn’t pay them enough. Spotify needs to add subscribers at a high rate to cover the revenue gap; the best way to add more subscribers is to aggressively sign people up for the free tier, increasing the revenue gap. The flames climb ever higher into the night.
Apple doesn’t have any of these problems, because it just wants people to buy iPhones. You can pay the $9.99 a month for Apple Music and unlock almost all the songs in the iTunes library, or not. It’ll barely dent Apple’s balance sheet either way; the company is doing a music service because it likes music and sees the writing on the wall as digital downloads collapse in favour of streaming services. Spotify has to invent an entirely new business model, but Apple just has to make listening to music marginally easier.
The entire music industry, turned into just another feature of the iPhone.
There can be no doubt, despite a somewhat haphazard presentation during Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote, that Apple Music is going to be a huge deal.
The mere fact that, come 30th June, around half a billion people will instantly gain access to three months of free access to close to the entire iTunes music library is going to have phenomenal ramifications for the future of music.
If just 5 percent of those users sign up to the monthly subscription of $9.99, that’s 25 million subscribers, instantly dwarfing Spotify’s 15 million paying subscribers.
Whether this is good for everyone is another story. Though Apple’s offerings seem undoubtedly to be good for consumers, music labels, and Apple themselves, is it good for all the artists? I have good friends close to the music industry who remain disappointed. They would like to see Apple really throw the cat amongst the pigeons and, essentially, become a label themselves, offering artists a direct route to consumers.
I don’t see that happening though. If only because that would mean there’s no way the other labels would let Apple offer music they own. And it’s doubtful whether Apple would want to get that involved.
But that leaves the artists — the source of the music — as the ones who benefit the least. That has long been my concern with streaming. That Apple won’t offer a free tier is better and, assuming significant take up of their new service, will ensure some more money does start to flow to artists. It remains to be seen how much though and whether this really does much to help the small, upcoming artists.
While the ultimate outcome of Apple Music will be remains unknown, there can be no doubt that the 30th June is a landmark date that will almost certainly affect the music industry for years to come.