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Matt Dorey

A bird is sitting on the grass with a kite

Why Apple Music Feels Like a Fail

First off. I'm an avid Apple fan. Virtually all my computing hardware is Apple. I've owned iPod after iPod after iPod. I only have a smart phone because it's a better iPod (and camera) than a phone, or else I'd've stuck to my trusty Nokia.

I also love music. And of course, I also really like Spotify. I was initially against the whole music subscription business (as was Steve Jobs) but first iTunes Match and then Spotify have gradually converted me. This process has left me with more money: I now spend £10 a month on music versus the £40 odd a month I'd drop on new music in the golden age of Fopp. However I'm also on my way to being locked in to a music service. If I move from Spotify to another service I have to worry about whether it will provide the same music. As for moving playlists, that could also be tricky.

So on to Apple Music. For me it feels like a dud. I feel this way partly because of the way Apple presented it today and partly because no matter how Apple spins it, Apple Music doesn't really feel like anything new.

The presentation then. It started well. The announcement of the service, though telegraphed ahead of today, was ideal for a "one more thing" type of introduction. Unfortunately, they wheeled out too many people to present it. There was Zane Lowe in a video being Zane Lowe. There was Trent Reznor doing his best Jony Ive impression. Jimmy Iovine seemed largely in contempt of proceedings in the way that only someone who got billions of dollars for doing naff all could be. Eddy Cue gave a stilted tech demo (though at first it felt like Apple flung him on just to get Iovine off the stage) that was clearly aimed at another audience altogether (more on this in a sec). Things rallied a bit when Drake came on – he actually seemed a bit invested in what was going on. Worst of all Eddy Cue had to come back on and do a bit more afterwards. And more videos. All I needed to complete my bingo card was for Tim Cook to say "Brap Brap" or something.

The reason "One More Thing" has served Apple so well in the past is that it introduced a product that made so much sense to everyone who would need one that a longer pitch was unnecessary. Think of Steve Jobs pulling the iPhone out of his pocket. Bam. The product does the job. (Actually looking back at some of the "one more thing" announcements on YouTube, some of them seem quite banal now.)

Apple Music needed its own event. Part of the problem was that it took a scatter-gun approach at the audiences Apple is aiming for: people who really like cutting edge music, massive nerds with large music collections they wish were bigger, and people who don't already use a music subscription service. For all three messages to crash against each other in such a tin-eared fashion was remarkable. For Apple it's unprecedented.

And then there is my second point: Apple Music is barely novel. It's a cat-in-the-afternoon-sun lazy stretch from iTunes Radio (or less politely, a Spotify rip-off), it's those undead chaps from the "Hardhome" episode of "Game of Thrones" as played by the unloved iTunes Ping, it's the radio feature of iTunes that no one uses but with the addition of annoying presenters. Even the family pack nonsense is a relic from the days when they charged for OS X updates. The only novel idea presented was Apple using its considerable reach to offer everyone 3 months free but even that's not that amazing: if you want to try Spotify you can get 60 days free and you can start now.

So for now you can place me quite clearly in the Apple Music skeptics camp. Like many other people I may give the free trial a go but I may also decide to rationalise my approach to music subscriptions altogether. Ultimately if Apple Music dies like Ping did, it's unlikely that it will go down in flames – it'll just be quietly put to one side while Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Watches continue to sell in droves. Funny old business isn't it?


Featured image is My Morning Drugs by Flickr user रोशनी कार्यशाला, creative commons license.

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