Ever since Apple acquired Beats Music, a music streaming service showdown has been imminent.
And it makes perfect sense to pit Spotify, the biggest music streaming app to date, against what is looking to be the next big thing - Apple Music. So who should you be supporting in this war for your ears?
From what little we glimped of the app during Apple’s WWDC keynote, it looks pretty standard, except for the fact that Jimmy Iovine kept talking up the fact that their algorithm promises buzzkill-free music listening because it’s human-led, curated by real life DJs who know their stuff. When you first start using Apple Music, you'll be asked to select genres and artistes that you're really partial to, just like the set-up process in Netflix. And the longer you use Apple Music, the better it knows you and starts intelligently selecting your tunes for you. And that's the feature called For You that aims to tailor the your aural experience to a T.
When it comes to Spotify though, there are a number of ways to find new music. Discover recommends you music based on what you're already listening to, while Radio lets you pick the genre you like and depending on whether you thumb a song up or down, hones the selection. But what we really like about Spotify is its Genres and Moods feature which offers up every type of listening mood you can possibly imagine, even if you're a mood-swinging schizophrenic. You have playlists for Intense Gaming, Rustic Romance Wedding, and even A Peaceful Rush Hour (ha, like that's even possible), and they always manage stay on-theme, even if their curation methods might not be as sophisticated as Apple Music's.
Curation is key
Given Apple’s clout in the world, it doesn’t take rocket science to deduce that that’s where the artistes will be flocking to. Take for example the famous incident where Taylor Swift who pulled her music from Spotify’s catalogue, citing a lack of returns. Guess where you can find Taylor Swift’s music now? That’s right, on Apple Music. We spied Shake It Off on one of the playlists that Jimmy Iovine was showing off so she's cool with her music being streamed, just not with Spotify.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s only the big name acts that are getting a slice of the Apple pie. Apple made sure to point out that unsigned artistes are also welcome on Apple Music, highlighting one Loren Kramer whom we’re sure is being signed as we speak thanks to the keynote. What's important is that Apple is being the gatekeeper for what goes on to the Apple Music platform, just like they've been filtering only quality apps into the App Store for years. Artistes will have to get verified and approved before appearing on Apple Music, so rest assured that the aural experience will be held to the standards that you've come to expect with other Apple experiences - curated to perfection.
U2 has performed at last year's iPhone keynote, The Weeknd put in a guest appearance at WWDC15, and Drake showed up to talk about the importance of being able to Connect with his fans. This is one feature for the die-hard music fiends. It's the place where they'll find exclusive content direct from the artistes they love - like a tour through a hotel room, or even an exclusive release of an album like Drake's upcoming one through Connect. And you can bet that with Apple's celebrity connections, there will be a lot of exclusive music content on Connect as well as on Beats 1, Apple Music's 24/7 radio station is captained by three big name DJs including Zane Lowe.
Aside from Connect, there’s not too much that Apple is bringing to the listening experience. There is where Spotify trumps Apple Music with its nine whole years of bringing music to the masses. There’s a lot more that can be done on the app, including getting lyrics to the song you’re playing via Musixmatch and even learning a new language.
It’s still too early to tell if Apple Music will come with similar features for what the keynote focused on was largely music streaming, but it did mention that the service will include ad-free music videos. For anyone who’s been annoyed by YouTube ads for the longest time, this will be a welcome reprieve. Also Siri is gaining cred as quite the music connoisseur friend you have always longed for, she will be able to pull up songs according to your requests, even ultra specific ones like wanting to know what the number one song was back in 1998.
But until we try out Siri's smarts, Spotify still wins with its tried and tested features.
The price is right
US$9.99 is looking to be the standard quid pro quo subscription fee for most content streaming services. But what’s unusual is Apple’s Family pricing of US$14.99 for Apple Music support for up to six family members, which makes it a pretty great deal. Plus, you get the first three months free to decide if you really like it as compared to other services' one month trial period. That's a big show of confidence in the service from Apple.
Spotify does have one leg-up on Apple Music though, and that’s the fact that aside from its premium ad-free subscription service, you can listen to Spotify for free - with ads interrupting your music, that is.
It's a tie! It’s still early days given that we just finished witnessing the announcement of Apple Music and we’ll only get our time with it when it drops on 30 June. Apple Music does sound awfully promising on paper, but ultimately, it will all boil down to the user experience. After all, music is subjective. We’ll be updating this preview when we go ears-on with Apple Music.