With live radio and unlimited play, Apple Music steps up to Spotify

Transforming Apple’s iTunes into a new-look streaming music service with Beats at its core has been an arduous process, but today at WWDC 2015, the company finally unveiled Apple Music. The all-encompassing subscription music service will launch “later this month” in 100 countries on Apple mobile devices, Mac and PC, and later this year on Android devices for a price of $10 per month. As expected, Apple also announced subscribers will be able to try the service for free for 3 months, but a $15 per month family plan for up to 6 members came as a pleasant surprise.

The event stage had plenty of stars on hand, including Beats co-founder, now Apple co-conspirator, Jimmy Iovine. Addressing the crowd, Iovine called Apple Music a “bigger and better ecosystem with the elegance and simplicity that only Apple can do.” Other members of Apple’s music division on hand to show off the service included Drake, Trent Reznor via video, and Apple’s Senior VP of Internet Software Services, Eddy Cue.

The new service will be based around two main branches, including an on-demand streaming portion to combat Spotify which will incorporate everything in the iTunes library, as well as any of your “purchased music” in iTunes (though it isn’t clear if that includes tracks that you “acquired” elsewhere), alongside a new 24/7 Internet Radio service called Beats One.

Apple Music

Helmed by Apple’s new star DJ, Zane Lowe — whom the company courted away from the BBC — Beats One is designed to be more like traditional radio, offering an”always on” station playing tunes chosen by real DJs in real time, and allowing for in-studio guest appearances. Beats One’s live feeds will be based out of three major cities at launch, including LA, NYC, and London.

In addition, Apple has added a service called Connect, which is designed as a clipboard for artists to upload photos, lyrics, and social media messages directly, which can then be shared with other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and the artists’ own websites. Fans will be able to engage with their favorite musicians from Connect as well, by commenting or liking artist posts.

The service seems to offer everything the rumor mill predicted, and a bit more. And although Apple has some serious catching up to do in the rapidly-expanding streaming music landscape, with Apple’s industry might, and the creation of a true all-in-one service that allows fans to access streaming music, and their own catalogs, it could have some serious legs. Throw in 3 months free, and we predict Apple will have a lot of listeners hopping on board. However, whether or not those would-be converts will stay with the service may depend on the interface itself, and just how easy it is to use.

To that end, Apple has rolled out a few secret weapons in its new interface, including the incorporation of Siri for advanced searching — after all, one of the most overwhelming parts about using a streaming service with millions of available tunes is finding what you’re looking for. With Siri, users will be able to use voice recognition to search tracks and albums by name, look for top-charted songs in select genres, and even call up songs from specific eras.

For the demo, Eddy Cue asked Siri to find the top song in his graduation year, May 1982, which promptly pulled up Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘n Roll. In addition, Cue got more ambiguous, asking Siri to “find the song from Selma.” Siri stumbled at first, but after re-engaging, the bot finally found John Legend’s hit track Glory.

As for the actual interface itself, Cue showed off four main windows during the event:

1) For You  — This window offers your own iTunes playlists, and also adds in curated playlists based both on your past musical choices, and Apples real-live-human-based-curation-machine. Apple has stressed that a “human touch” makes its service better than those based purely on algorithms.

2) New — As you might have guessed, this window showcases the latest albums and singles atop the charts, and also allows users to pull up chart-topping HD videos.

3) Beats One — Selecting this window pulls up the latest live stream from your preferred choice out of the New York, LA, or London feed. During the demonstration, Beats One showcased an in-studio interview with Florence and the Machine, feeling a lot like what you’ll get from a standard radio station such as, well, the BBC. That’s no coincidence since Zane Lowe likely brought a lot of his BBC tricks with him when crossing the pond to join Apple.

4) Connect — Showing off the Connect window, Cue called up a video uploaded by the band Bastille from the studio, at work on their latest single. There was also a live video uploaded by the band, Alabama Shakes.

There’s a lot to like about Apple’s new service, which has been painted as a one stop shop for all things music, brought to you by a company that has been synonymous with the art for over a decade. Still, it’s been a long time since Apple brought forth any major innovation in the world of music, and in that time, many competitors have gained real ground.

Apple Music

Will this new service offer enough to entice Spotify’s 15 million paying members, or, more importantly, can it grab the other 45 million streamers on Spotify who currently stream for free? Only time will tell, but it won’t be long until we all get a crack at Apple’s latest plan for world domination.

Priced at $10 per month for single users, and an attractive $15 per month for up to six users, Apple Music is slated for availability to over 100 countries “later this month.” Stay tuned for our hands on review coming soon.

To find out more about Apple Music, follow below to see all the steps Apple took over the last few months leading up to today’s unveiling.

 Next page: Apple courts Drake to DJ its free Internet radio tier

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