Apple Music launches to the sound of indifference


“Artists and fans now have an incredible way to connect with one another directly in Apple Music with Connect. Through Connect, artists can share lyrics, backstage photos, videos or even release their latest song directly to fans directly from their iPhone. Fans can comment on or like anything an artist has posted, and share it via Messages, Facebook, Twitter and email. And when you comment, the artist can respond directly to you.”

Sounds a lot like MySpace doesn’t it? That’s Connect – one of three components that will make up the forthcoming streaming music announced by Apple at their WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference) in California a few hours ago.

The first fruits of Apple’s US$3bn acquisition of Beats in 2014, Apple Music has today launched with claims of revolution from whoever pens CEO Tim Cooks product announcement speeches. It is anything but. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek responded via Twitter with suitable indifference.

At the WWDC event, celebrity endorsers did what only celebrity endorsers can do when there’s nothing new to talk about: go long with the empty rhetoric. Jimmy Iovine, Drake and Trent Reznor each made heavy reference to the ongoing need to respect music’s value so that ALL artists can see proper remuneration, not just the top tier. Funny how Jay-Z and pals continue to feel the backlash from taking a similar stance with Tidal and yet Tim Cook and his millionaire celebrity endorsers (thus far) get a free pass.

Apple Music’s allows for streaming of anything in the iTunes store(s), playlists curated by humans, not algorithms (echoes of Tidal there) and ad-free music videos, presumably an attempt to put one over Google’s reported domination in the free supply of music via YouTube, albeit of more questionable quality and variable provenance. One might reasonably expect Apple’s catalogue to be the largest to so far come to market but I note no explicit mention of song numbers. Perhaps this data morsel is set to come down the pike once the hooplah subsides?

Then there’s Beats 1: a ‘global’ radio station to be helmed by ex-BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Low in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in NYC and Julie Adenunga in London. It will stream to 100 countries, twenty four hours a day.

Of course, Spotify already meets the majority of global music streaming demand, internet radio is far from a new concept and those with more leftfield tastes have been mining the artist-direct music sales model for years already with bandcamp. Apple is simply looking to grow the music streaming pie so it can plate up its own bigger slice. Or it could be that Apple simply needs to stop the revenue stream rot caused by dwindling iTunes music download sales.

Cook is presumably banking on the enormity of Apple’s financial muscle and iTunes store subscription base to push Apple Music uptake over the top. However, without the ad-supported free tier enjoyed by the vast majority of Spotify users, the Cupertino company has its work cut out. Apple’s streaming service will be charged out at US$9.99/month once the 3 month free trial expires. There’ll also be a US$14.99/month option to accommodate “up to six family members” on the one subscription. Neat.

For audiophiles, there’s nothing to hear here. Apple isn’t offering lossless streaming. We can only hope that Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz continue make a financial fist of running a lossless service alongside a half-price lossy alternative. The Apple launch event made zero mention of the codec or bitrate* at which Apple intend to stream and why should it? This new service isn’t for people who care about such things.


For people who do care about sound quality Apple Music simply reflects the dominance of the majority that doesn’t; and that’s a little depressing. You and I demand quality first and foremost through an absence of lossy compression. The man in the street cares not for such luxuries. He just wants the bare minimum for the lowest possible price. Right now that isn’t Apple Music.

Personally, I hope that Apple’s presence in this sector and/or their back-channelled communication with Spotify will convince the latter to drop its free tier. Music supply should not come without a fee. And yet that’s precisely what millennials have grown up – free music. They turn the data tap and it flows. When you already have Spotify streaming for free, where’s the motivation to move to something that’s not?

Oh – one more thing: remember iTunes Ping?

Apple Music will launch on June 30th with clients of Windows, OS X and iOS. Android users will need to wait a little longer.

Further information: Apple Music

*Techcrunch is reporting 256kbps

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


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  1. If Apple streams 256Kbps AAC+, then most people will not be able to tell the difference with 16/44.1-48.
    I certainly struggle to identify ANY shift in SQ when switching between the two…

  2. 256kbps is indeed what TechCrunch say. Graham, f you can’t distinguish between that and 1’411kbps CD resolution, you might need a better system -:)

  3. The annoying thing is that if an apple logo is involved a lot of people will get sucked in, however in this case I think many will see this as catching up with the rest of the pack a little sad for a leading company. Without Hi Res this is just another ho hum event as you suggested in your graphic.
    Just wished Tidal and the like were a little less costly, that would be the best way to go.

  4. This seems half emotional response and half regurgitation of the Android crowd AKA the anti-Apple masses. The Guardian is a regular go to source for that sort of unloading.

    The comparison to Myspace is completely odd. Did the negative articles you used tell you that it was an open community?

    If one of your students used a false dichotomy like the sophisticated elite who demand cheap lossless to the man in the street who doesn’t care, would it affect their grade?

    • Internet radio is nothing new. Social networking with music is nothing new. To wit, MySpace directly connected artist to end user (hence the comparison) but the champion of that model nowadays is Soundcloud. What do you mean by “open community”?

      Apple aren’t providing anything new here. They’re playing catch up. And that’s fine. There’s nothing on offer here for audiophiles (to be expected) but equally I don’t see the free tier Spotify user jumping ship either. Pay nothing or pay something? Without any sign of Apple Music differentiators such as streaming quality or library size, most users will continue with free over at Spotify. This is simply Apple branding a collection of products under one roof. However, we already see alternatives executed extremely well elsewhere and therefore I reckon Apple are possibly going to have a tough time converting users to their service.

      FWIW, lest you’ve mentally lumped me into crude categories such as ‘Apple H8R’ or ‘Android fanboi’, I use an Apple Macbook Air as my daily computer and a Google Nexus 5 is my phone of choice. I’m a pragmatist.

  5. Graham: “I might need better ears…”

    Not at all. If for you 256kbps sounds indistinguishable or mostly so from CD resolution, your life is a lot easier and cheaper -:)

    We’ve all got different sensitivities and priorities. I for example never learnt to appreciate wine or beer. A good wine would simply be wasted on me. Friends tried to introduce me to the good stuff but to no avail. I simply don’t care enough about it. And I *hate* the taste of beer. So the topic removed itself from consideration altogether. Saves us a lot of $$$.

    If your enjoyment of tunes isn’t impacted by lossy compression, I say, good on ya. It rather opens opportunities and the qualifications and conditions for them are lower, hence broader and cheaper. That’s a clear win!

    • Ah, but what about whisky? That road is as slippery and potholed as any audiophile journey but just as rewarding.

      Good on Graham for admitting he can’t hear the difference. I’d imagine you’re far from the only one Graham and as Srajan says, more power to your bank balance. And as I’m sure you know, just because you take enjoyment from listening to lossy compressed audio doesn’t mean you should be thrown to the wolves. Like autism, being an audiophile places one on a spectrum. I personally find more joy at the lower end of the market because by definition it’s more likely (than the high-end) to throw down the welcome mat to newcomers and the curious. I want the curious guy in the street – nowadays a Googler – to take an interest in better sound quality just as much as I do existing audiophiles deepen their involvement.

      • Srajan, Darko; what I should admit is that I listen to CD resolution classical music and, yes! I can distinguish the difference over 256 AAC or MP3.
        My growing jazz collection is the iTunes 256 and as that is mostly on superb labels such as the legendary ECM, it just sounds great!
        My other issue is one that I hope never troubles either of you; I have permanent low level tinnitus and my missus thinks my hearing is not as keen as it once was.
        This is largely what puts me off upgrading to hi-res gear and files; I’m terrified I won’t hear the bloomin’ difference.
        Thanks to both of you for your great feedback.

    • Bloody good point! I’m often amazed when a new friend is sat in my living room listening to my relatively expensive system whilst I make a cup of tea and simply make no comment, others their jaw drops and comment on the soundstage, focus and detail. Maybe you are correct, can some people not hear as well as us Audiophiles? Maybe.

  6. Hate hard liquor too. Nothing slippery there neither. Nor religious. Just don’t like the taste. Or the associated brain fog. Must be lacking some bits in my DNA. I mean, a German not liking beer? There’s something very wrong with me -:)

  7. I see no reason or motivation for Apple to sell higher res audio via streaming or downloading. If people cared enough about higher resolution and Apple could make money from doing so they would have already done it. This is Apple we are talking about! This company is the most capable company in the world of selling anything to anyone! They could very well sell ice to eskimos. Why does the audiophile community continue to be disappointed by this? Adding higher res as an option would most certainly complicate the lives of 99.9% of Apples consumer base. How do they sell/market hi-res audio? Most people who buy or stream music have no idea the format, bit rate, sample rate, nor do they care. If they hit buy or play they expect to be listening to their tune within seconds. Is Apple going to say please buy this higher res version/stream because it sounds better? The reality is that it won’t sound noticeably better on any device that Apple sells. Apple knows this. The crowd who really wants this has no intention of playing it on Apple products. This isn’t as clear cut as SD TV versus HD TV on a retina display. A consumer and their dog can see the difference instantly with that. Lossless versus Lossy is much harder and requires good gear to notice a difference. That isn’t Apple gear (currently). It would also have to be so much better that Apple could convince people to accept the extra data required on their mobile data plan to stream or download. Oh and you may have to delete some of the the apps you use and the photos you take because the file size for this song is 10x larger. Higher resolution makes no sense for Apple.

    But I would be first in line to buy if it did.

  8. John, I think you’re right on with this article, with the single exception that Apple, as far as I’m aware, didn’t try to “convince” Spotify to drop their free tier through back-channel communication. They went to labels and tried to get them to cut off Spotify’s free tier licensing because Apple doesn’t have something similar, giving Spotify an obvious enormous competitive advantage. Apple tried to “convince” Spotify in the same sense that somebody will try to “convince” you to pay back your loan with a baseball bat. Regulators at the US DOJ and FTC and in the EU are looking into it.

    Why should Spotify alienate 75% of their user base of their own accord just because Apple either can’t or won’t compete? Do you really think all of those people will just shrug and hand over their credit cards for $120/yr? Of course not. They’ll go to something like Pandora instead, or they’ll just illegally download the music they want. Is that better?

    Nobody is forcing an artist to be on Spotify, and as we’ve seen, artists that aren’t happy with their terms are free to leave. Like it or not though, things like Pandora and Spotify’s free tier are just how things are going to be at this point. That train has left the station. People who don’t want to pay for music are just not going to pay for it. Remove one legal option and they’ll just find another one, remove all legal options and they will find illegal ones. While artist compensation via Spotify may not be ideal, I think it’s certainly better than no compensation at all.

    • I wasn’t saying that back-channelling did occur, I was suggesting that it could. Besides, it’s not back channelling if we know about it. 😉

  9. The yawning girl definitely sums up my response. Was checking out the WWDC highlights last night on a tech site. The moment I got the the Apple Music section, I just skipped to the next paragraph. Couldn’t bring myself to be even slightly bothered. Then again, my tastes aren’t exactly representative of the commercial music market, or the typical audiophile market either, to be honest.

    Nothing I’ve seen on Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, Beats, Music, etc even slightly appeal to me. Doubt Apple Music will offer anything new in that regard. For my tastes, only Soundcloud and MixCloud seem to cut it for streaming and/or music discovery.

    Not too keen on the “human curated” radio service either, since the head human doing the curating, Zane Low, is basically a walking “Billboard Top 100” list, judging from his “greatest ever” listings I’ve found online. Let me know when they hire Craig Richards or someone cut from similar cloth.

    • That’s right – so many internet radio stations already curate their playlists across and within numerous different genres. Just take your pick! And if you can’t find one precisely to your liking, you can roll your own with Pandora.

  10. That write-up did have much the same tone as the Register article, which I agree with for the most part. Apple is late to the party and limping in with what appears to be a very same-same, me-too product.

    It will be interesting. I subscribe to Spotify mainly for the convenience when mobile. I also still have a Tidal subscription that I can’t seem to convince myself to cancel. As a Mac guy that carries an Android phone, I don’t see any compelling reason why I’d jump from Spotify to Apple Music.