IF YOU WANT to understand how important Apple Music is to Apple, you need to know two things. One, that it was a “one more thing” announcement, the last of which was the big-deal Apple Watch. The other is that Drake, one of the hottest artists in the world, showed up.
Apple Music is coming June 30th, for $10 a month. There will also be a family plan that can include up to six people for $15 a month. It’ll be available on Mac, iOS, Apple TV, and in another sign of how important this is to Apple, it’s coming to PC and Android too (later this year). If you’re a Beats Music subscriber, you’ll eventually be part of the Apple Music ecosystem too, though Apple hasn’t talked about the mechanics or timing of that transition.
Music is one app, but it’s actually three distinct things. And it’s the combination of the three that Apple is betting represents the future of the music industry, the “one complete thought around music” that Cupertino thinks the world has been waiting for.
First, it’s iTunes. iTunes on-demand and in the cloud, where you can search for and stream any song available in the library. (It’s a huge, huge library.) It’ll combine music you’ve purchased and music you haven’t, and there’s a powerful search engine to help you find stuff. Siri’s a big part of the interface: You can ask her to play her favorite Bruce Springsteen song, or that song from that movie that one time, or the best songs from 1988. You can see music videos, artist pages, and lots and lots of recommendations of new stuff you might want to listen to.
Second, it’s a radio station. It’s called Beats 1, has DJs in New York, LA, and London, and will be broadcasting to more than a hundred countries around the world. It’s anchored by Zane Lowe, the former BBC DJ that Apple hired earlier this year. Apple’s Jimmy Iovine, who announced the product on stage today, called it the first truly global radio station, and it will include music, interviews and more.
Third, Apple Music is a sort of social network. It’s a little like MySpace, or what Apple always wanted Ping to be before it failed so miserably. It’s called Connect, and it gives artists a page where they can share music, behind-the-scenes photos and video, and basically anything else they want. It’s for artists new and old, and is an attempt to basically wrap Instagram, MySpace, and every other social network artists use into a single place.
The app itself looks great, at least on the iPhone demo we saw during the keynote. It’s full of images and video, with lots of information on every page—and social buttons just about everywhere you look. Apple’s whole goal is to show you music you’ll want to hear, chosen by people, and to connect you with everyone from DJs to artists.
Now, let’s be clear: Apple has a terrible record in building compelling social networks. But Apple loves music, and it’s the most important player in the industry. When Apple talks music, everybody listens. And over booming speakers inside the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Apple just puts its stake in the ground. The future of music costs $10 a month, and it promises to be everything you’d ever want to listen to in one place.