“Apple, for example, charges apps a percentage of revenue for subscriptions processed through the App Store. Apple Music, meanwhile, will always deliver Apple 100% of the subscription revenue that it receives from subscribers (sans record fees and all that kind of stuff, of course). Apple, too, has a direct integration with its iOS devices and also a huge amount of brand recognition even though Spotify is a massive service.”
Yes, but Apple has an even bigger advantage: they don’t need to make a profit from Apple Music. They make their money selling hardware, and Spotify only has their music streaming activity. This isn’t to say that Apple will lose money on Apple Music, or continue to do so (it’s possible that Apple Music is not yet profitable), but that Apple doesn’t have to worry about its investors getting antsy about profit or loss in what is a small part of their activity. Apple is clearly betting on content being a major profit center, with their focus on creating new video content, but they can well afford to wait this out.
Apple is playing the long game; Spotify only has one game they can play, and that’s profit and loss.
Since Apple Music was launched, people have been saying that Apple Music should have a free tier like Spotify. Michael Simon, writing on Macworld, wrote the following recently:
And if you break it down further, Spotify is eclipsing Apple Music. When Apple Music launched in June 2015, Spotify had just passed 20 million subscribers. That means it’s gained some 50 million users in the same span that Apple Music has gained just 36 million. You don’t need to be an analyst to see which number is bigger. In the face of strong competition from the largest company in the world, Spotify has nearly quadrupled its subscriber base, all without a single piece of dedicated hardware.
The reason is its free tier. Unless you’re counting the three-month trial period, Apple doesn’t offer a non-paid level of Apple Music, but its gains in the U.S. only make me wonder why it doesn’t. Along with 70 million paid subscribers, Spotify has more than 140 million active users who listen to its service with ads between tracks. Those are all potential paid customers, and I’m willing to bet that a large portion of Spotify’s 70 million paid subscribers started out on the free tier.
Nope. You just don’t get it.
The reason Apple Music is going to be successful is because it doesn’t have a free tier. People who want free have options: Spotify with ads, or YouTube, or a couple of other services.
As I’ve written many times, Apple doesn’t need to make a profit on Apple Music. They make a boatload of money on iPhones and other hardware; Apple Music is, to them, an extra. If they attract users to the Apple ecosystem, that’s fine. They have enough potential users that they can play the long game and not devalue music by having a free tier.
In addition, with a free tier, Apple would have the problem of ads. Given Apple’s careful attention to its image, they would not want to have to spend the time to vet ads so they fit well with the way they want Apple Music to be. And they certainly don’t want to spend time and money trying to convert free users to paid users.
As Jimmy Iovine said last year: “The fact is that ‘free’ in music streaming is so technically good and ubiquitous that it’s stunting the growth of paid streaming. […] Artists are getting screwed. Period. I don’t see how anybody stands behind it. It’s all of our responsibility to change it.”
As I wrote yesterday, the long game that Apple is playing is around a combination of music and video. Whether their video offering will be part of Apple Music or not isn’t clear yet, but it’s obvious that Apple is preparing a serious video service, that may or may not compete with the likes of Netflix. There’s much buzz about Apple commissioning original content, but not much about whether some or all of the iTunes Store video catalog will also be available to stream.
Now look at Apple’s quarterly revenue for the holiday quarter 2017: $37 billion for the iPhone; more than $6 billion for the Mac; $8.5 billion for services (which includes the iTunes Store, App Store, Apple Music, iCloud, and more). Are they really worried about Spotify?
No, Apple doesn’t want those freeloaders; it doesn’t need them. Apple wants paying customers. They want customers who will pay them for both music and video, and Spotify only has music.
Apple Music now has 36 million paying subscribers around the world, an increase from well over 30 million reported last September.
Apple confirmed the updated total to The Wall Street Journal, which today reported that Apple Music is growing at a faster pace than Spotify in the United States, and could soon eclipse the service in popularity in the country.
I think it’s only a matter of time. Then as Spotify declines, the major labels will dump the company in an IPO, or sell it to some private equity firm.
What’s worth pointing out is that Apple doesn’t need to make a profit on this. They make money from selling iPhones (and other products); Spotify only has one product. And Apple has ambitions that go beyond Spotify’s, regarding video content, which Spotify may not be able to emulate.
Also note that Apple Music is available in many more countries than Spotify. Spotify has a presence in 62 countries, and Apple Music is present in 117 countries, notably including India and China, where Spotify is absent.
As streaming takes over from buying music, what’s the endgame? If Apple rolls in a major video offering – either as part of the Apple Music service, or as an add-on – then will Spotify be bought out by, say, Netflix? Amazon already has both, and there probably won’t be room for more than two or three players in that market.
The album is an artificial construct, yet it is the main unit of organization for music. As its name suggests, it was originally a collection of separate records, in a sort of book that was similar to a photo album. (Doug Adams and I discussed the creation of the album in the very first episode of our podcast The Next Track.) For at least 70 years, the Album has dominated music sales and listening.
At the same time, the single has long been the gateway medium for discovering new artists, or for getting the latest songs by your favorite artist. This size of this record – 7 inches – was a sign of the more limited content it contained. But it also played faster, in part to fill up the record; a 7" record at 33 rpm would look half empty if it contained just one song per side. The single wasn’t only a 7" record: in Jamaica, 10" singles were common starting in the 1960s, and 12" singles started being released in the US in the early 1970s. (There were also double singles in gatefold sleeves; I recall a live set by The Cure that contained four songs on two 7" discs.)
As Spotify continues to inch towards a public listing, Apple is making a move of its own to step up its game in music services. Sources tell us that the company is close to acquiring Shazam, the popular app that lets people identify any song, TV show, film or advert in seconds, by listening to an audio clip or (in the case of, say, an ad) a visual fragment, and then takes you to content relevant to that search.
The article also says:
It’s not clear what will carry on post acquisition, and which of these might be something that Apple would integrate into its own business (and how), but it’s notable that much of what Shazam does is very synergistic with what Apple is working on already: AR, and more features to attract more users to the Apple Music platform.
My guess is that Shazam has powerful data that Apple currently may not be able to access. While Shazam powers Siri’s music recognition, there may be ways that Apple could leverage this service to get more data that will help them spot trends, and better understand the way people listen to music. Or it could simply be that Apple wants to stop paying Shazam for their service, and since they have boatloads of cash, this allows them to buy it out and control it entirely. And stop sending people to Spotify or other services.
Apple Music offers thousands of music videos, but they’re not easy to find. There’s no tab for videos in the Apple Music section of iTunes. Videos show up in a lot of different places. Here’s where you can find them.
You can start by visiting the Browse tab of Apple Music. If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see Hot Tracks, New Releases, then Videos. Browse what’s on the screen, then click See All to see the most popular new music videos. (I discuss iTunes here, but you’ll find videos in similar locations in the iOS Music app.)
If you scroll down on this page, you’ll see more videos, but you can’t sort these.
If you search for an artist that has videos available, you’ll find a section on the artist’s page with their videos. Scroll down to Top Videos, then click See All.
You can add any videos you want to your library, if you are using iCloud Music Library. Right-click or Control-click on a video and choose Add to Library. Videos you add will display in the iTunes sidebar (see this article for more on organizing the sidebar.
It’s a shame that videos aren’t grouped, for times when you want to watch music rather than simply listen to it. A single Videos page, with links to the top videos, genres, etc., would be useful.
It’s easy to search for Taylor Swift on Apple Music, but try searching for classical music; it’s a disaster. The reason is that Apple Music – and the iTunes Store – only offer single-criteria searches. There’s on search box, and you can type all sorts of terms into it – album names, artists, composers, etc. – but with no specifying which tag you want to search.
iTunes used to have a Power Search feature, which let you search for specific types of media (music, movies, etc.), and with search terms in fields to match specific tags. So you could search for a term in the Album tag in the iTunes Store, or you could find a movie by searching for the director’s name in the Director/Producer tag.
Unfortunately, this makes searching for classical music very difficult. After reading Alex Ross’s article about John Eliot Gardiner and Monteverdi, I went to Apple Music to listen to one of his recordings. The problem is that his ensembles are called The English Baroque Soloists and The Monteverdi Choir. So the number of results that come up when searching for “Gardiner Monteverdi” is stultifying. (Yes, Sir John has recorded a lot of albums.)
Sure, there are two Monteverdi albums in that list, but there is a lot more Bach. To make things worse, this search only returns 21 albums, whereas clicking on the name of the artist on one of these album pages – English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner, & The Monteverdi Choir – returns nearly 100 albums. But none of these searches return all the recordings that he made with this ensemble.
There is a wealth of classical music on Apple Music, and if Apple were to devote some time to providing better search tools and more information, they would dominate the market for classical music streaming. I guess 5% of the market isn’t worth fighting for.
As I browse the For You section of Apple Music, I see a new recording by lutenist Jakob Lindberg, a performer whose work I admire. It’s called A Lute by Sixtus Rauwolf.
Hmm… I’ve never heard of that composer. Who is he? What is this about? There’s plenty of room for descriptions of albums on Apple Music and on the iTunes Store, but this one has nothing. Not a word.
So I go to Google. I find the page on the website of the record label, Bis Records (if you scroll to the very bottom, you’ll see the label name), but the name of the album is slightly different. (A demerit to Bis Records for getting that wrong…)
No matter, there’s a description of the album:
The lute by Sixtus Rauwolf heard on this recording was probably built in the last decade of the sixteenth century. Some hundred years later, in 1715, it was converted to suit the musical tastes and demands of the baroque period. For this disc, Jakob Lindberg has chosen works that could have formed part of the repertory of the presumably German owner of the instrument at around the time of its final conversion.
And there is a track list, with the names of composers, many of whom I have never heard of (Reusner, Dufault, Kellner).
Apple could ask for and display this information. They do display composers, for some albums. And in this case, if I get info for any of the tracks, the composers’ names are visible. Yet they don’t get carried over to the Apple Music display, even though for many classical albums composers’ names are clearly identified.
I know, classical music is just a small percentage of the market. But Apple could try harder. I shouldn’t have to Google an album to find out even the basic information about it, such as the composers it contains. If I’m browsing Apple Music, I’m more inclined to want to listen to an obscure album if I know something about it.
But it’s not hip-hop; there’s no “Feat.” artists, which are carefully detailed for every song which contains such a credit.
This information is available. As for the composers, there’s no excuse; it’s in the tags. Apple messed up; they should be displaying those names. As for the rest, Apple could ask record labels to provide blurbs, texts that they already supply to online vendors of downloads and CDs; texts they include on their websites and in their catalogs. Not just for classical music, but for all music.
Apple isn’t trying.
(By the way; if you like old lute music, do check out this album. Excellent playing by Lindberg, as usual, and great sound.)
New in Apple Music, as part of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, is a feature that Apple calls Personal DJ. This is a sort of Apple Music Radio station that is tailor-made to your musical taste.
Apparently, the only way to invoke this is by asking Siri – on an iOS device or a Mac – to “Play some music,” or a similar phrase. This launches your personal radio station, whose “artwork” you’ll see as that to the left, with your photo or avatar, if you’ve added one to your profile. (Read this article to learn how to set up an Apple Music profile, and how to share your listening history.)
After you have played this once, it will show up in the Recently Played section of For You, or in the Radio section of iTunes or the iOS Music app. So you’ll be able to launch it from there.
The music played by this station seems to include the following:
Music you have purchased from the iTunes Store (if any).
Music you have added to your iCloud Music Library.
Music from Apple Music that you have loved.
Music from Apple Music that you have played.
When I’ve listened to this, it has included some music that I had added to my iCloud Music Library from Apple Music, but that I had since deleted, because I didn’t like it. So that suggests that one of the criteria is music that has been played, even just once.
There’s a problem, though; while I was able to launch this from iTunes a few days ago, now, when I click the graphic for my station, nothing happens. It seems to try to load music, then stops. And on my iPhone this morning, launching this station causes the Music app to freak out a bit. It just cycles through tracks, a few per second, not playing anything at all. (See below.)
This did work fine the other day, and the selection of music was quite good, since it is all music I’ve selected in one way or another. This Personal DJ feature will be interesting, when Apple gets it to work correctly. (Update: it’s working on iOS now, about six hours after I wrote the article. It still doesn’t work in iTunes.)
I got a new iPhone 8 Plus on Friday. I set up the device by transferring data from my backup, and everything worked fine. But there was one feature I wanted to turn on on the new iPhone that I hadn’t used before: iCloud Music Library.
I have a very large music library. And I like listening to my music from my carefully curated and tagged collection. But it’s always been a compromise to sync music to my iPhone. I have such a large library that I can only sync a subset of the music. That’s fine; I don’t listen to that much music on the go. But it’s a lot of work to keep adding and removing music.
While I don’t listen to music away from home that much, I previously had another limit. My phone plan only offered 750 MB of data. I could have paid for more, but I didn’t need it, and plans with more data were fairly expensive from my provider. But a few months ago, my phone provider had an offer: for a few pounds more per month, I could get 8 GB of data.
So I had two choices with the new iPhone. I could either pay for 256 GB storage, or I could settle for the base storage amount of 64 GB (which is finally a fair size). I opted to save the money and use iCloud Music Library.
Note that I haven’t merged my music library with iCloud Music Library; I have a test library that I’ve maintained for many years, starting when iTunes Match was released, on my laptop. So I now can access that library on my iPhone, and my iPad, and I can add and rate music on my iPhone, and listen to music from that library.
So, with the new iPhone, I went to turn on iCloud Music Library. About five minutes later, I saw this:
If you Google this issue, you’ll see lots of “solutions;” most merely suggesting that you keep trying until it works. Well, I tried, and tried, a dozen times; it didn’t work. I called Apple, frustrated, and ended up having three different calls with three advisors, finally reaching a senior advisor. They didn’t know what to do. Since it was a brand new device, it was clear that restoring it wouldn’t help.
While awaiting to hear back from Apple next week, I had a flash of inspiration yesterday. I knew this wasn’t a network problem (the suggestion from Apple advisor #1), or a problem that could be fixed by force restarting the phone (advisor #2), but it had to have something to do with the music database on the device. I’ve seen similar problems in the past that could be resolved by deleting that database; something that you need special software to do.
So I thought I’d try something else. I tried download a purchased album. After the album was on my device, I went back to Settings > Music and tried turning on iCloud Music Library. The process takes several minutes, but I could see that it was happening differently when I went to the Playlists entry in the Music app. There was a progress bar. It was moving slowly, but it did move.
After about ten minutes, I had my iCloud Music Library on my iPhone.
What I think happened is that there was something wonky in the music database, and that downloading an album – even a song might have worked – cleared or fixed it. So, if you can’t enable iCloud Music Library, try downloading a purchased track – if you don’t have any, spend a buck and buy a song – and see if that helps. If it does, please post a comment below so I know if my solution is helping anyone else.