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The wait for Apple Music yesterday was excruciatingly long. Now that it’s here, it’s not doing badly in its first 24 hours of use. Though it has features one can do without, it’s really great in most respects. Much like a marathon, the first few hours have been great, but it’s how things pan out in the long run that really matters.
At first glance, one of the most impressive things about Apple Music is how it seamlessly integrates with the existing iTunes playlist. iTunes has always simplistic and the arrival of Apple Music to its nest does not ruin it.
Though there might have been reservations about its integration with Apple Music, it is rather smooth and uncomplicated.
According to IHS Technology’s analysis (infographic below article), Apple Music might be the biggest music streaming service by end of 2015 if only 10% of iPhone users subscribe to it. It is however too early to talk those kinds of numbers and will be a long road of tweaking for Apple Music to get there.
Apple Music’s interface is not the simplest, but it’s hardly the most complicated either. It is pretty to look at, especially when one is setting it up and choosing music genres to curate the playlists.
The service offers different sections such as ‘for you’, which features ones personalised playlists according to one’s tastes and region. There’s some work to be done here. For instance, it showed me an ‘Intro to Jimmy Dludlu’ playlist even though I had not chosen Jimmy Dludlu in my artist choices. It is then not clear how Apple Music arrived at this playlist.
The feature came with a short bio on Dludlu and a description of his music. While this is great, for people who might not know Dludlu, if one chooses their favourite artists then one also knows what their music sounds like and what they are getting.
Another section, called New, is not dependent on ones tastes but rather it is a curation from the selected music curators Apple Music has hired to discover and recommend artists and albums they like.
The New section is packed with options like new music, hot tracks, recent releases, top songs, top albums, and top music videos. From within the section, one can access Apple Music editors and toggle through their selections in which they have playlists ranging from African Music, Afrikaans, Alternative, Christian and Gospel, Classical, Dance/Electronic, Hip-hop/Rap, Jazz, Pop, RnB and Rock. And within there is further categorisation of the music.
Looking at the African Music playlists and its subcategories, I am inclined to believe that this music was not selected by the Apple Music editors but by assuming Africa’s listening habits or preferences. Apple Music insists however that it does not use algorithms to curate the music. Unless Apple Music has a music curation in every country, it is close to impossible that its curators are such wide consumers of music. It seems unlikely.
Under the New section, in addition to the Apple Music Editors, there is also Activities and Curators. Activities include music for when one is cooking, dancing, driving, braaing, and believe it not, music for a breaking up. Curators, Apple Music says, is music curated by those in the know. The curators include Shazam, DJ Mag, MOJO magazine, NME, Pitchfork, Q magazine, Rolling Stone (US edition) and VICE.
The other sections include Radio, and Connect. Connect is not interesting for me because I have no interest in what musicians get up in their spare time. All I care about is them giving me good music. This sections currently features One Republic’s video in their hotel room. This feature is also quite similar to Instagram which has become the place for artists to post personal videos and photos.
The radio section is one Apple Music’s main features, Beats 1 radio. Beats 1 is an interesting concept. Interesting in that unlike the one way communication style of Apple Music, it is a far more interactive way of listening to music, with DJs reading listeners’ tweets. It is certainly, right behind listening to my own music, the coolest part of Apple Music.
Beats 1 comes at no cost. It is not clear though if the service will be available after the free trial if one chooses not subscribe to Apple Music. Testing last night before I entered my banking details to access Apple Music, it worked fine without me subscribing to Apple Music.
On its first day, Beats 1 was not spared the teething problems that every broadcaster experiences. The transitions were not as smooth and there were moment where a previously played song played over the current song. Teething problems usually die down and they should with Beats 1 too.
Beats 1 features six stations, charting now, pop hits, sound system, the mixtape, on the floor and all city. The three main Beats 1 DJs include DJ Zane Lowe in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga in London.
Apple Music nemesis: Data costs and wide music selection
The current Apple Music music is simply not global enough. Fair enough the music is limited but the ratio of local music compared to international music appears rather uneven, with international music dominating.
For South Africans, especially Afrikaans music fans, Apple Music comes with an Afrikaans long list of artists. If you are Zulu, the huge scope of Maskandi music is not available.
Apple Music does however have a South African curated playlist, titled Kings of Mzansi. This list includes artists like Okmalumkoolkat, Cassper Nyovest, DJ Spoko, and others.
If one is interested in pop music then one has an amazing wide ranging choices for all tastes and moods.
Besides the not wide enough South African and African playlist, Apple Music will have to face its most powerful nemesis in Africa yet: data charges. Streaming music at home on an uncapped DSL account and here at Memeburn headquarters, charges are not a real issue, but there is not doubt that it will be a problem on slower or capped lines.
The question that most people will be stuck with after the three months free trial is over will be whether to continue with the service or not. After the free trial is over users can listen to an unlimited amount of music for R59.99 (US$9.99) per month or R89.99 (US$14.99) for a family plan that supports up to six listeners. Though this might not seem like a huge amount, factor in the data costs per month and suddenly the costs are high.
Apple Music is looking like a winner thus far, but its biggest nemesis might not even be the other music streaming services like Spotify and Tidal. For Africa, it seems that data usage will be the real issue.
Infographic: IHS Technology