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APPLE MUSIC: FRIDAY THOUGHTS
Addressing a Few Frequently Noted Issues Surrounding the Rollout

The flood of ink surrounding Apple’s forthcoming streaming service (tune in Monday for slavish coverage) has emphasized a few primary points that bear further examination.

One hobbyhorse of digital commentators has been to reiterate the underwhelming impact of iTunes Radio, suggesting the new Apple Music might somehow suffer the same fate. True, iTunes Radio has in no way threatened the primacy of Pandora. But Apple clearly didn’t throw the kind of marketing might behind iTunes Radio that it invested in its download store or various gizmos. Do you recall a splashy TV spot for the Radio service?

You can also bet that the rollout will gorgeously showcase the elegance and ease of use consumers have come to expect from Apple offerings. As a civilian friend commented to me recently, "They just make it so easy."

Another point hammered endlessly: Apple is entering a “crowded field” of on-demand streaming services, rather than pioneering the format. True, but:

(a)  How crowded is it, really? Spotify claims some 60 million users, and Pandora says it has 79m+ active listeners, but even those impressive numbers don’t approach Apple’s reach. And according to Edison, 47% of Americans listened to online radio in the last month. So there's another 53% up for grabs. We’re still talking virgin territory; when we talk about streaming subscribers, as opposed to users of free services, even more so.

(b)  Being first in the digital space hardly guarantees being on top. Other companies sold digital music downloads and the machines that played them before Apple did. Guess who won?

(c)  The biz wants a competitive field; having one company control an entire platform isn’t the healthiest outcome. The growth of Apple Music may turn out to be good for Spotify and other competitors, and vice versa. As Deezer CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht said at MIDEM, "There’s going to be serious competition. But competition is good because it makes us run faster. And when a big company like Apple moves into a business like streaming, it proves that it’s the business model of the future."

"Competition is good because it makes us run faster. And when a big company like Apple moves into a business like streaming, it proves that it’s the business model of the future."—Deezer CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht 

Expect a major, multimedia push for the new streaming platform, powered by the music-marketing savvy of Jimmy Iovine and the content insight of the team spearheaded by Trent Reznor. (A new Apple Insider report says Apple will be asking users who sign up to indicate their favorite genres.)

Lastly, at the risk of repeating ourselves, Apple has a vastly successful hardware-software-cloud ecosystem that nobody else has. They’re also sitting on a mountain of cash that would make history’s richest emperors weep with envy. So, yes, they could somehow fall short with Apple Music. We just kinda doubt they will.

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