Apple, which revolutionised the music industry with the launch of iPod and iTunes, has launched a major push to steal listeners from rival streaming services and, for the first time, land on Android phones.
Apple Music is the company's vision for its next chapter in music and, it turns out, a vision that relies heavily on the Beats Music service, which Apple acquired in 2014. Beats co-founder and music industry mainstay Jimmy Iovine unveiled the service at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, saying that the modern music industry is a "fragmented mess" that the service will bring together.
A central part of Apple Music will be a streaming radio station called "Beats One." The station will be anchored by DJs in London, New York and Los Angeles who will select the music for around-the-clock broadcasts to more than 100 countries. It's helmed by Zane Lowe, a DJ and music tastemaker who left his show at BBC Radio 1 earlier this year to go work at Apple.
That's not an innovation for most broadcast radio listeners, but users of apps like Spotify are accustomed to song selection done by computers. That typically results in a playlist of songs that are tightly similar. Beats One promises a wider variety of music. Apple Music will also feature human-curated playlists, which was one of the marquee features of Beats Music.
When users first sign up for Apple Music, the service will prompt them to provide information about their musical tastes. Using an interface cribbed from Beats Music, people can pick out their favorite genres and artists, which will then be set to provide them with personalized music recommendations.
There's also a service called "Connect," which is intended to be a place where fans can follow updates from the artists they love, through status updates, music clips and videos. The feature mirrors the type of updates artists post on social media services and follows the current trend of letting artists connect directly with their fans. It's the second time Apple has taken a swing at a music-based social network after the failure of Ping, a service that let users and artists share postings about what they're listening to.
Apple Music won't be free. A monthly subscription will cost $9.99 with a six-member family subscription running $14.99 per month. The service will launch in over 100 countries on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and PC from June 30 and come to Apple TV and Android phones in the fall. Apple will make the service's first three months available to everyone for free to try and get people hooked on the selection.
Apple's move to Android is the first time its main music software has been available on the Google-owned operating system. At present, iTunes is available on both Apple Mac and PCs, but Android users have had to funnel Apple music collections into other software apps. Apple Music will provide direct access. It's not entirely unexpected, since Beats Music already works across mobile platforms including Android and Windows Phone.
Apple Music will also include familiar features from iTunes, including a my music window that includes a user's music library and suggestions for new songs users might like.
The one constituency Apple's announcement did not fully address was the community of artists creating music, and how much they will be paid when listeners choose to consume their work via the new streaming service instead of paying for downloads or buying CDs. It remains to be seen if smaller acts will be able to eke a living out of having their music played via Apple Music.
Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org