Apple has unveiled its new subscription music streaming service, aimed squarely at the likes of Spotify and Rdio, and set for a June 30 release. Apple Music certainly has what it takes to be competitive in the market: hand-curated radio stations, downloadable tunes, streamed music and even social elements similar to what the flailing Tidal offers. There’s just one small problem: it’s not free.
Pricing of the paid Apple Music subscriptions range from standard to generous. The single subscription will enter the market at US$9.99; exactly in line with Spotify and Rdio. The family plan will be $14.99, with the added kicker that it supports up to six people in total. Spotify also has a $14.99 plan in the US, but with a maximum of two people allowed to use it at any one time. Moreover, Spotify does not offer family plans in all regions yet, where Apple made no mention of region-specific restrictions.
Apple seems to have the advantage in pricing and possibly availability, but by the look of the market it’s obvious that there is still large demand for free, ad-supported music; Apple does not offer this. Spotify is the biggest name in streaming with its 60 million users, only one quarter of which are paid subscribers. Going by this figure, Apple risks missing out on signing up 75% of its potential user base by not offering a free option.
Apple is entering an already-saturated market, in which it has already arguably failed once with Beats. Now, not only is Apple competing for users that are already subscribed to other services, but it is asking each and every one of them to pay for access.
Not too different, still Apple
On the surface, Apple Music doesn’t sound unique. 30 million tracks, radio stations, the option to download; all of this is available from established competitors.
Dig a little deeper and there may be reason for Spotify to be worried. Apple’s radio stations are personally curated by music industry personalities like Pharrell, Drake and will.i.am. Its first station, Beats 1, will be anchored by Julie Adenuga, Ebro Darden and Zane Lowe; all notable DJs in their own rights.
Users can tune in whenever they like and skip as many tracks as they want.
A social aspect dubbed Connect will allow artists to post content for their fans and followers, who can in turn like and comment. Drake is set to launch his own next album through Connect in the near future. This is a feature similar to what Tidal attempted to bring to the fray, but Apple is managing it without doubling the subscription fee.
Lastly, Apple Music is likely succeed because it’s made by Apple. That means neater tie-ins with iOS and Mac OSX, as well as the instant love of many an Apple fanboi or girl. There’s even great Siri support on the way. Users can call on their voice assistant to play a specific track by an artist, or even more general queries like “play the most popular song of 1989”.
In a stunning first Apple Music will also boast a native Android app. Google apps have been available on iOS for some time, but this is Apple's official debut on the Android platform.
Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek famously tweeted this morning in response to the announcement “Oh ok.” The tweet has since been deleted, and the streaming giant appears to be taking things a little more seriously.
In an article by The Verge, Spotify’s global head of communications and public policy is reported to have pointed out pre-existing Spotify family plans in Sweden, which allow up to 5 users on a single account for roughly $20.
This may need to become Spotify’s new standard if it’s to compete with Apple’s pricing.
In terms of features, Spotify already has a huge refresh on the way, complete with videos and podcast support.