apple-music

Yesterday we had a fiddle around with Apple Music, which is Apple's new music thing.

It launches later today but if you can't wait until then our findings are located below, presented in the popular 'Q&A' format.

What's this then?

You know the red Music icon on your phone that you use to listen to the music you've purchased and/or acquired via some of the more dubious corners of the internet? It's basically that, with Spotify in it (except it doesn't look like normal punters can share playlists) and a radio station in it, and it's not red any more.

What happens to my own music?

It's still in there, but rather than taking up the five icons across the bottom of the Music app, it's now just one icon — 'My Music'. It's the last icon on the right.

What are the other four icons?

WELL.

1. 'For You', which is a selection of songs, playlists, videos and more based on your musical tastes. It refreshes during the day. It looks very nice, but that sort of goes without saying. The whole app looks nice.

2. 'New', which is an edit­or­i­al­ised pick of stuff that's knocking around at the moment. When we had a look this involved artists like Miguel, The Who, Florence and Muse — it's quite similar to the current iTunes Music Store homepage. Charts are in there too. Quite inter­est­ingly, it seems Apple's charts are now going to be a com­bin­a­tion of iTunes purchases and Apple Music streams.

3. 'Radio', which is Beats One. The 'Radio' tab also includes that strange radio-in-inverted-commas thing that's been knocking about for a while, which is pretty much just themed playlists. We didn't actually try to listen to Beats One during our time with Apple Music — we assumed it wasn't live, but maybe it was. Imagine that. Clearly that concept is inter­est­ing on a philo­soph­ical level — if Zane Lowe shouts about Kanye to an audience of zero, is he really shouting at all? Sadly that's a question that might forever go unanswered.

4. 'Connect', which is where artists can post whatever they fancy. If you want to you can comment on and share all this stuff. We have a feeling the #content artists (or their social media managers) end up feeling obliged to post here might get pretty per­func­tory pretty quickly and this could just end up being a tab full of 'here's the same Rita Ora video teaser you've already been bombarded with on every other social network', but it'll be inter­est­ing to see how artists use it.

apple-music-fka-twigs

There's a lot to get your head around to start with, but it starts to make sense quite quickly.

This 'For You' thing sounds interesting, but these supposedly personalised things always do. How does it know what I'll like?

The ‘onboard­ing’ process is quite fun: there are loads of floating red blobs bobbling around, with different genres and themes that you can tap once to like or twice to like a lot; they get bigger with each tap.

You can press and hold to get rid of them all together so it's goodbye altern­at­ive, goodbye charts, and goodbye metal. After that you're taken to a selection of artists based on your choices, and you're again invited to pri­or­it­ise some and bin others off all together.

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This is all very well but whenever I sign up to this sort of service and say I like pop music it gives me Hootie & The Blowfish.

The best thing about pop is that it's a metagenre that nicks all the best bits of all the other genres and does something magical with them, but that's not ideal when you select 'pop' on an online music service. (We assume rock fans have similar problems with services that cat­egor­ise 'rock' as anything that's not classical.)

There are two issues here: firstly, loads of the data these services use comes from America, and they do genres dif­fer­ently over there. Secondly, it's done by computers and computers always get things wrong.

There's another issue for pop-in-the-Popjustice-sense, too: just because you like pop music, that doesn't mean you want to listen to waste your precious time between now and death listening to Maroon 5, Jessie J and the Frozen soundtrack.

During our fiddle, Apple Music actually did pretty well.

This is partly because recom­mend­a­tions are localised (so, for instance, UK and US users get shown different stuff auto­mat­ic­ally, even though everything behind the initial recom­mend­a­tions is globally access­ible). And it's partly because it's based, in part, on the music you've actually bought from iTunes (or matched with iTunes Match), so it actually knows what you like listening to.

Another reason it works is that it seems to have bene­fit­ted from THE HUMAN TOUCH. While we were looking at Apple Music we met a nice chap called John (or maybe Jon, you can never tell these days) who's the UK pop person, and he's spent the last year knocking together loads of playlists and working out how the whole pop side of things works.

Yes but they're not exactly going to have a Girls Aloud deep cuts playlist are they?

There is a Girls Aloud deep cuts playlist.

WHAT.

Yes. There's also a pop 'A List' playlist, which has people like Robyn among Taylor Swift and Jess Glynne. The pop offering seems to be quite 'Popjustice-friendly'.

Is this just going to be trapped inside my phone or can I use it on my computer too?

The focus so far all seems to have been on the app (which will be on Android in the autumn for people who don't have proper phones) but yes, it'll be on the desktop version of iTunes too.

Am I ever going to buy digital music ever again?

Do you know what, it's not looking good for digital music sales. One thing we didn't see when we were playing with Apple Music was much in the way of 'buy this on the iTunes Music Store'. (There might be calls to action in there but we didn't notice any.)

But then why would you? Why in 2015 would you buy a digital music file?

It took twenty minutes yesterday for us to realise that this would totally change the way we think about consuming music.

Buying some music and streaming other music made sense when the Music app was what you used to think of as being your iPod, and the Spotify app was there for streaming. But if the Music app stops being asso­ci­ated with purchased music and also becomes a streaming app, that changes everything.

Shall I keep my Tidal subscription?

Hahahahaha.

Well this has all been extraordinarily unhelpful. Has anyone else written about this Apple Music thing?

Yes they have. The BBC also had a go on it (with some more here), as did Drowned In Sound.