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THE APPLE MUSIC
ERA BEGINS
Some Speculation on What Cupertino Will Be Announcing

Apple machers Cook, Iovine, Reznor, Dre, Cue, Kondrk and team are due to preview the new Apple Music at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). This service, consolidating iTunes and Beats Music with other innovations, will mark the beginning of Cupertino’s first foray into on-demand streaming along the lines of Spotify and YouTube (and apparently a stepped-up challenge to streaming-radio giant Pandora) Will it be a game-changer?

Iovine's relentless campaign to recruit major artists for the rollout has generated much buzz, and given the music-biz legend's track record, it's fair to assume he and his Beats team will be joined in the announcement by a bevy of superstars.

Then there’s the content. Beats curation, overseen largely by Chief Creative Officer Trent Reznor, Head of Content Larry Jackson and former BBC Radio 1 luminary Zane Lowe (with countless contributors), may well prove a strong draw in bridging the gap between active and passive music discovery—possibly via a newly integrated iTunes Radio, which, like the Beats subscription service, is overseen by Ian Rogers. Now come rumors (reported by the New York Post, among others) that Apple is courting Drake and Pharrell, among other artists, to play “guest DJ” for astronomical sums.

 It’s entirely possible that Apple Music will be but one component of a larger Apple media play involving movies, TV, games, books, apps and more, and that this will go hand-in-hand with an expansion of platforms that includes the splashy new Apple Watch, the ever-growing Apple TV and the forthcoming Apple Car. In addition to Spotify and YouTube, one suspects Apple also has Netflix, cable providers and satellite radio in its sights.

In any case, Apple has its ecosystem of iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and the familiar architecture of iTunes on which to build a new content offering that millions of users are likely to explore. The user-friendliness of the platform, a core cultural value at Apple, will reportedly be a key factor in its marketing.

But perhaps even more compellingly for a subscription model, the tech behemoth already has a ridiculously large number of credit card numbers; more than a year ago, reports had that number at 500 million-plus. This already provides a massive advantage over every competitor, even streaming leader Spotify—which is only charging about a quarter of its 60 million users on a monthly basis.

A social element, Apple Connect, will enhance music discovery and drive user commentary.

Naturally all of this will roll out with Apple’s typically stylish and ubiquitous multimedia marketing. Cook and co. are sitting on enough cash to advertise until doomsday.

Still, there are hurdles to surmount.

Despite its advantages, Apple is staring down the same obstacle as everyone else: How to get consumers to transition to a subscription model after years of free streaming. And while Apple was the entity that first made digital music commercially viable, this time it’s joining a marketplace in progress rather than creating one. What’s more, Apple has not yet succeeded in the social sphere, and taking on Facebook and Soundcloud is likely to be even more challenging than doing battle with the forces of Ek.

But the anticipation leading up to the WWDC unveiling is overwhelming, and the entire music industry is poised to see what Jimmy, Dre and company deliver.

Will it be the salvation of the biz and the beginning of a brave new streaming era? We shall see. Whatever happens, we’ll be there to ruin it. 

 

 

 

 

 

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