Apple Music – an Indie-musicians’ point of view…

Apple Music – an Indie-musicians’ point of view…

posted in: Blog, News | 2

You’ve no doubt heard about the new Apple Music service – and maybe wondering “what’s the big deal?”. Well, even if you don’t own an Apple device, let me help you understand why – as an indie musician – I feel this is such an important moment in music.

Important Backstory:

Everyone knows Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world. We quickly forget, however, as recently as the late 1990’s many had doubts Apple could survive! It wasn’t until 2001 when Steve Jobs introduced iTunes and the iPod that everything changed. Music. It was MUSIC that saved Apple! (I’d argue creativity and music are part of Apple’s ‘DNA’).

Fast forward to today

Internet ‘streaming’ services have become widely popular. Why? The ability to access MILLIONS of music tracks from the ‘cloud’.  For a modest monthly fee (or free with ads), services like Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Last.FM, iHeartradio, Slacker, GooglePlay (and many others) let you listen to just about anything you desire. You don’t OWN the music, you’re essentially renting the use of it. The artists are paid a very-very small fee each time the music is streamed (I will comment on this at the end of the article!).

And this brings us back to Apple…

Own or Rent?

Apple’s iTunes had become a great system for storing and organizing the music you OWNED (purchased, ripped, or downloaded), but you’d have to manage your music library on a storage device (computer or external hard drive). Well, now with expensive and limited-space SSD’s and the plethora of photos/video clogging up storage – who wants to store their entire music library? A cloud-managed music solution becomes even more appealing…

Cue: “Trumpet Fanfare

So, now we have Apple Music – which is BIG news. Apple has announced availability for Windows and Android devices (coming this Fall) – which tells me they are serious about this as a SERVICE. They don’t want to just sell more devices, they want Apple Music to be a place where people ON ANY DEVICE or PLATFORM go to enjoy and explore music. Apple Music is coming. The new service has magically combined renting and owning – you really CAN have your cake and eat it too…

Signup Process

You can find complete details of the signup process here.  In a nutshell: there’s a free 90-day trial period. After that, there are two plans – $9.99 per month for an individual plan, and $14.99 per month for the “family” plan which includes up to 6 devices.

“Tiny Bubbles…”

Next, the application will present you with a series of ‘bubbles’ for genres and artists of music you enjoy. Tap the ones you like… those bubbles grow…tap them again if you LOVE them. Be careful – the app is analyzing your tastes to provide you music tailored to your tastes. This was a feature in the “Beats” app (Beats was aquired by Apple) which has migrated to Apple Music. It’s amazing and the more time and attention you pay to this step – the better the recommendations for you.

The Elements

Apple Music boils down to FOUR key elements:

1. Streaming Music Service (music you “rent”)
2. Your Music Library (music you “own”)
3. 24-7 LIVE Radio (replaces iTunes Radio and “terrestrial” radio)
4. “Connect” – Social Interaction with Musicians

Here’s why I think each are unique and powerful, and where Apple may need to improve.

1. Streaming Music Service (music you “rent”)

You have access to over 30 MILLION songs! Type an artist, album, song title into the search field, and be listening in seconds. Even better – use Siri and say something like “play that Italian song from the Godfather movie”. Or, “play that new album from Taylor Swift”. Or how about “Play the top songs from 1985”. It’s truly amazing. There’s a “New” tab where you’ll find all sorts of links to genres, playlists, recent releases and top-charts. If you took time with music preferences in the setup process, you’ll find uncanny (in a good way) suggestions in the tab “For You” (I had Foo Fighters, some rare E.S.T and even a Diana Krall album I had never heard before). While listening to a track, you can hit a little “heart” icon to show your love for the track – this additionally improves the “For You” suggestions. It’s easy to share tracks and stations via email or post to social media.

2. Your Music Library (music you “own”)

Found in the “My Music” tab in the app you’ll find all the music you’ve either paid/downloaded, or ripped from your audio CD’s. The music can be organized by “artist”, “album”, “songs”, “genres”, “composers”, or “compilations”. You also have access to your custom playlists. All this music is synced with your “music library” in iTunes.

3. 24-7 LIVE Radio (replaces iTunes Radio and “terrestrial” radio)

This is so cool. Beats 1 Radio is a 24-7 LIVE radio program which is broadcast from different studios around the world (New York, Los Angeles and London). On top of this, Apple has recruited World-Class DJ’s to run the programs. There are no commercials, but there is dialogue regarding the music selections. In fact, just this morning I’m listening to THE Elton John – who has a program called “Elton John’s Rocket Hour”. To my surprise, I’ve also been enjoying the wonderfully-eclectic music program of award-winning DJ Zane Lowe (although he seems to be known across the planet, I had never heard of him before!). If you prefer, you can scroll through and play previously broadcast shows. I really think this has great potential – especially anticipating any global or geopolitical crisis where music has always played a vital role. In my opinion, Apple’s Beats1 has totally redefined “Radio”. “Stay Tuned” – is perfectly appropriate!

4. Connect (Social interaction with Musicians)

Ok, so this is the feature I had most hope for – but in which I am ultimately most disapointed. “Connect” is designed to be a social media platform where musicians can share posts and interact with their fans. You can choose to “follow” or “unfollow” artists. A stream of posts by the musicians/bands shows video and audio snippets, photos and updates. By default the app has you auto-follow the artists in your library, so this can get overwhelming fast. I can’t help but feel this is “Ping” (a failed Apple social media platform) all over again. I would love to interact with listeners, but I think people are already overwhelmed with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and all the others… There’s a setting where you can turn off the “Connect” tab and turn that into your “Playlist” tab. I believe many people will be doing that, but time will tell.

 

A Note about DRM (Digital Rights Management):

Apple Music uses DRM to keep tracks from being illegally copied and downloaded. However, your iTunes Library does NOT have DRM. Right now, when you sync your iTunes library with Apple Music, your purchased tracks are not recognized. I hope Apple fixes this small glitch – when your library is initially synced with Apple Music, they should analyze and remove DRM from any tracks you have already purchased. This seems like an easy solution, and one I hope Apple fixes very soon.

Artist Royalties:

This is a major bone of contention for artists around the world (including yours truly). I was happy to see Taylor Swift successfully argue for paid royalties during the 90-day trial period (a good recap here). However, I feel the industry needs a STANDARD ROYALTY RATE for all streaming and music services. I’m a member of ASCAP – a performance rights organization who’s role is to make sure I’m properly compensated when my music is played. ASCAP is promoting the “Songwriter Equity Act“. This is a step forward in improving royalties paid to music creators. If you feel strongly about supporting artists, please visit this page, read more about the proposed legislation, and if you agree, there is a link to contact your political leaders to support the cause.

Conclusion:

As an independent musician, I have high hopes for Apple Music. I really believe it delivers an awesome music experience. I’m enjoying exploring new music, listening to long-time favorites, and pleasantly surprised by the Beats1 Radio programming. There is huge potential here, and I think Apple is fully committed to taking a leadership role. This tells me Apple Music will soon surpass the other streaming services and will become THE music platform of choice. Oops did I just make a prediction?

 

Please, help me be a part of your Apple Music experience – add “Gary Girouard Radio” as one of your radio programs – and be sure to click the “heart” icon when you’re inspired by what you hear – this helps your favorite artists reach a wider audience.

2 Responses

  1. Бауыржан
    | Reply

    Спасибо, за красивую музыку!

    • pianoxcape
      | Reply

      “thank you for the beautiful music”
      You’re welcome! Thanks for stopping by…

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