Apple Music has just finished its first year. After a shambolic launch at the 2015 WWDC, Apple now boasts 15 million users. That’s no mean feat, given the inertia that generally prevents people from switching subscription services. But it’s entirely possible that Apple hasn’t poached many paying users from Spotify. That company claims 30 million paying users, out of 80 million total (the rest use the free, ad-supported version of the service), up from 20 million last year. So the overall streaming market is growing.
To be fair, Apple’s clout suggested they would get more users. With a three-month free trial, and a discounted family plan (that Spotify has had to meet), and presence in many more countries, Apple Music is attractive to many people. But perhaps not attractive enough.
Apple is also celebrating one year of Beats 1 Radio. They’ve made a video – I won’t post it here, but you can see it on The Loop – that highlights one of the problems I see with Apple Music: its focus on a limited number of genres. Beats 1 is essentially pop, rock, and hip-hop, as if there were no other types of music in the world. That Beats 1 video does not talk to me, to my musical tastes.
There have been suggestions that Apple would launch other radio stations (Beats 2, Beats 3, etc.), and I hope they do, covering genres which, while not generating a lot of money either in sales or streaming revenue, are part of the varied types of music that animate our world. They need a jazz station (and not a smooth jazz station, please), a classical station, a world music station, and, perhaps, something eclectic, that embraces all types of music without focusing too much on one genre. Why not bring in an experimental station; Apple Music’s Experimental genre, which ranges from new EDM to older avant-garde classical music, is edgy and interesting.
Apple Music has other problems, though. The interface of both iTunes and the iOS Music app really weren’t up to snuff for this type of service. This is changing, but not, perhaps, before the fall when the new versions of Apple’s operating systems are released.
There are two problems for Apple now that Apple Music has settled down. First, they need to make it grow. For this, they need to convince a lot more people to pay a monthly tithe to the music industry. Because $10 (or 10 or £10) is a lot of money, and most people won’t pay that for music; they don’t care enough about music .
Second, they need to ensure that the service doesn’t end up like many of Apple’s marquee features that get a lot of attention at launch, then just fade away. They need to be innovative, but it’s very hard to innovate by simply offering à la carte streaming and radio stations. Exclusive releases have been a draw for now, but people will get tired of these. Apple needs to reinvent music streaming, or be just another streaming service among many.