"The first incarnation of Apple’s Music service missed some key features. After bust ups with beats staff and even criticism from Taylor Swift, can it do better?"
When Apple debuted its Music subscription service at its June 2015 worldwide developers conference, it did so in grand style with appearances by music impresario Jimmy Iovine and a performance by Drake.
Apple Music was brimming with features: access to a library of 30m tunes, a 24/7 Beats One radio station, curated playlists and integration with your existing library of music downloads. With Apple Music, the company was hoping to shore up sagging iTunes revenues and drown out rival streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Tidal.
Apple even gave subscribers three months to fall in love with the new service; within a few weeks more than 11 million users signed up for the free trial. But before it was even half over, some 48% had decided to cancel before the $10 monthly fee kicked in, according to a survey by analytics firm MusicWatch.
Music fans weren’t exactly holding their lighters over their heads, screaming for more. Problems ranged from a cluttered and confusing interface, a royalties program that angered popular artists (most famously Taylor Swift), and upgrades that thoroughly bollixed subscribers’ existing iTunes libraries. Since then, key executives with Apple’s Beats subsidiary have left the company. Even iTunes international VP Oliver Schusser admitted the service “had a bit of homework” to do.
Is Apple Music worth Paying for?
Nearly a year after Apple Music’s debut, however, the company wants to take another crack at it. According to a report by Bloomberg, the company plans to launch an improved version of the music service at its WWDC next month, along with another massive marketing push. (Apple declined to confirm the news to Bloomberg.)The report was short on details on how Apple intends to pump up the service. But assuming it’s true, we have a few unsolicited suggestions.
• Make it simpler, stupid. Apple Music’s interface totally lacks the simplicity that has been the hallmark of great Apple products. Fewer options, especially on such a small screen, would be welcome.
Advertisement• More free radio stations. In January, Apple restricted access to its ad-supported iTunes radio stations to paying subscribers, leaving Beats One the sole free radio option. If Apple wants to convince skeptics its service is worth $120 a year, it needs to offer more than the limited tastes of Beats’ DJs.
• A free ad-supported version. It works for Spotify, which has 55 million free users (and 20 million paid). Why not Apple?
• A downvote option. You can heart your favorite songs, but you can’t tell Apple to stop suggesting artists you don’t like. Apple Music needs to make better personalized music suggestions, and adding a Pandora-like thumbs-down option (the anti-Drake button, as I call it) would help.
• Lose “Connect”. Apple Music’s Connect service was supposed to bridge the gap between artists and their fans, offering them exclusive photos, videos and music. But many artists have ignored it, and it mostly seems like another attempt to sell more stuff. I doubt anyone would even notice it was gone.
• Better desktop and web clients. If you want to listen to Apple Music on your computer, you need to run the resource-hogging and overly complicated iTunes software. Would a simple web client be too much to ask? Or even just a stripped-down desktop app?
If Apple wants a whole lotta love for Apple Music 2.0, it needs to make sure the song does not remain the same.