Will Apple Music be a Spotify killer?

Now Apple Music has had a couple of weeks to sink in, is it on the path to streaming domination? EDGAR investigates...

Peter Iantorno July 15, 2015

"These services treat you like a criminal. And they are subscription based and we think subscriptions are the wrong path.”

Apple’s founder, the late Steve Jobs, made this rather bold statement when he commented back in 2003 on what was then the relatively new phenomenon of online music streaming. 

A more emphatic view you’re not likely to see, but now, some 12 years after Jobs came out so strongly against music streaming, the company he started has completed a spectacular U-turn with its launch of Apple Music.

In truth, Apple didn’t really have much option but to join the online streaming party, after it saw the likes of Swedish company Spotify, Pandora and most recently Jay Z’s Tidal take advantage of subscription services market, which is already worth some $1.5 billion and is growing rapidly.

jay-z.jpeg Rihanna, Jay-z and Kanye West are just a few of the big-name backers behind Tidal.

Irrespective of what the company’s legendary founder may have thought, money talks, and the fast-growing subscription service pie is something Apple most definitely wants a slice of.

Much like with its Apple Watch, again the company is late to the subscription streaming party (Spotify launched all the way back in 2008), however when the giants in Cupertino stir, people are going to sit up and take notice no matter how late they are.

The launch hasn’t been without its problems – not least when Taylor Swift publicly slammed Apple for its decision to not pay the artists during the initial three-month trial period – a decision that was ‘swiftly’ reversed after the singer threatened to pull her hit album 1989 from the platform.

Taylor Swift.png Apple Music is now the only online streaming platform to carry Taylor Swift's album, 1989.

So, is it any good? Well, yes, of course it’s good – and with the amount of expertise and capital the company has at its disposal, we wouldn’t expect anything less!

There are some 30 million songs to choose from (similar to Spotify), the service can recommend new songs based on your likes and dislikes and it even has its own social media platform as well as a radio station, Beats 1, which broadcasts brand new (and often exclusive) music live 24/7 to some 100 countries.

The Spotify free version will always attract those willing to put up with aurally invasive adverts in exchange for free music.

However, there is a catch – or a few catches to tell the truth. First of all, the UAE is not one of the 100 countries that the all-singing, all-dancing Beats 1 radio service is available in. In fact, the station doesn’t broadcast to any of the countries in the GCC.

To be fair Apple has knocked a bit off the UAE price in light of this – after the three-month free trial, the service costs AED20 per month, instead of the US price of $9.99 (around AED37) – but there are some serious inconsistencies in the pricing. For example, Apple Music costs just 120 rupees (around $2) per month in India, and comes with all the features available on the American version.

Zane Lowe Beats 1.jpg Apple managed to attract star DJ Zane Lowe for its new station, Beats 1. Unfortunately it won't be available in the UAE.

Aside from money quarrels, early users have experienced a few teething problems with the use of Apple Music, too. Switching over music from the old iTunes to the new platform has been erratic, with songs that weren’t originally bought on iTunes often disappearing entirely and other annoying issues such as compilation albums being split up into individual artists.

Then there’s the issue of functionality on older iThings such as the iPad2 or iPhone 4S. By most accounts, not only will iTunes Music not work very smoothly on these devices, but it will also all but kill their overall speed. A crafty ploy to encourage device upgrades, perhaps?

There’s no doubt that all these things are annoying (especially if you’re not in the iPhone 6 club yet), but far from meaning trouble for Apple Music, you can’t help but feel that these issues aren’t much more than growing pains, and by the time the three-month free trial is over, Apple will hope to have its house in order.

Will Apple Music signal the end for the likes of Spotify? No. The Spotify free version will always attract those willing to put up with aurally invasive adverts in exchange for free music. But what is for certain is that it’s going to be a major player in the future of music streaming.

And even if it doesn’t quite live up to its potential, it still has to be better than Tidal.