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Apple Music review: Ears-on

Apple finally brought the music service it has lacked for so long to the world yesterday and we reflect on Apple Music’s first 24 hours of existence.

iOS users may have spotted the 8.4 OS update that hit devices yesterday containing a very important package – Apple Music. iTunes’ pay-per-track/album model suited music lovers in the early 2000s, but the advent of streaming services like Deezer and Spotify have given listeners the ability to cherry pick their favourite songs, albums and artists from what have become vast catalogues of on-demand music.

Until now Apple had nothing that could compete with such experiences and it wasn’t until its acquisition of Beats Audio that things finally started falling into place.

Apple Music tagline

To kick-start the company’s rejuvenated approach to music delivery, Apple has given users three free months of access to the service before being required to pay for a monthly subscription of £9.99 for a single plan or £14.99 for up to six users on a family plan. It’s an impressive and aggressive opening bid that will, at the very least, pull a few curious users away from rival streaming services to sample Cupertino’s intriguing new fruit for the time being.

Replacing the existing iOS music app, Apple Music blends the new streaming and broadcasting capabilities with the existing purchased tracks and local music you’ve been buying from iTunes over the years.

Apple Music setup

Click any of the screenshots in this article to enlarge them.

Initial setup asks that you tap on a number of floating bubbles, representing different genres and music, going on to produce a subsequent screen with relevant artists where you do the same – one tap if you like something, two if you love it. This element of Apple Music is in fact lifted directly from the Beats Music experience that preceded it and serves as the jumping-off point for the music discovery aspect of the service, which is pretty solid.

Apple Music My Music

The app divides itself into five sections: For You, New, Radio, Connect and My Music. As any normal person would, lets start with the last section…

Long-time users of the previous iOS music app will find all of their existing purchases there. Frustratingly some reports suggest that tracks not purchased from iTunes may have to be physically re-synchronised via a computer before they show up. From My Music you can filter by library or playlists, search Apple Music or your personal collection for new tunes and search also offers up trending results so you know what’s hot right now.

Following the initial genre and artist input you underwent during setup, ‘For You’ is populated with suggested tracks and playlists curated by Apple’s own music experts. You can show love to tracks you like to help improve the probability of successful music suggestions and there’s additional information under any playlists that you open.

The New tab collates the latest releases from artists big and small. At launch we were offered Pharrell William’s latest single ‘Freedom’ along with the new Muse album, Tay Tay’s most recent album and even music from performers who’d recently taken to the various stages at the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset.

Apple Music New

As its name suggests, Radio is comprised of a number of featured stations covering areas like ‘Pop Hits’ and ‘The Mixtape’, but the jewel of the Radio tab is Beats 1 – Apple’s freshly-launched 24/7 global radio station.

Fronted by former BBC Radio 1 DJ, Zane Lowe (now based out of Los Angeles), as well as Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga in London, Beats 1’s first day on the job seems to be to congratulate the throngs of new listeners, bring a few exclusives to the world of music streaming like Dre’s The Chronic and drum up excitement for the new forthcoming shows headed up by the likes of the aforementioned Mister Williams.

If you prefer to listen to tracks as their artists intended, Beats 1 and its kin might to not be ideal, as broadcasting 24/7 requires that tracks must remained sensored for someone, somewhere. Thankfully that’s not a problem with the music available for on-demand streaming elsewhere in the app though.

Apple Music Radio and Connect

The final section is also the smallest right now. ‘Connect’ serves as a behind-the-scenes glimpse at your favourite artists and what they’re working on. Presently it features goodies like a tour of Bastille’s recording studio and dance rehearsal footage from FKA Twigs, among other things. It’s arguably the most unique part of the Apple Music experience, but whether it adds enough to pull people away from rival services is still to be decided.

On the whole a library of 30 million tracks, strong ties to top artists and having big names like Zane Lowe and Pharrell on-board are going to impress people from the off. Whether the service can hold people’s interest once actual money has to start changing hands may be a little tougher to gauge, but it doesn’t feel like a flop – it feels like a serious problem for the likes of Spotify, especially when every iPhone user out there can’t uninstall it like they can its rivals. Apple Music is making the right noises right now, perhaps you should give it a listen.


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