So how's the new Apple Music service? Is it really, as billed, a "revolutionary music service, 24/7 global radio, and a way for fans to connect with their favorite artists"?
Today, streaming music services account for 16 percent (about $3 billion) of music "buys" globally, says industry tracker Futuresource Consulting, but within a year will command a third of the "spend." Getting there will take much marketing effort and proselytizing, a mission Apple should readily embrace. That, in turn, will likely draw attention to worthy subscription music rivals, too, such as Spotify, the global leader, old original Rhapsody, Deezer, and Tidal.
We were online for the Apple Music launch, 11 a.m. Tuesday, first to load the iOS 8.4 update to our iPhone and iPad needed to pull in the new music service.
By 11:15, we were signed on for a generous three month free trial which will "automatically renew" (at $9.99 a month for one user or $14.99 for a family sub) unless system settings are changed.
Gizmo Guy also could have signed up for music delivery to an Internet-connected iPod Touch, Mac, or PC. Live on an Android device? You'll get a subscription opportunity come fall. Streaming home audio gear maker Sonos also will add Apple Music to its long list of service options.
Based partly on (but glossier than) the Apple-owned Beats Music service, Apple Music shares at least one core customizing feature. To get started, new users tap on bubbles labeled with music genres you like (tap once) or love (tap twice.) There's also the option to "press and hold the ones you don't."
I went biggest on alternative, indie, jazz, and country. Nixed oldies, metal, and Christian/gospel.
Next came a set of bubbles imprinted with artists names and the order to "choose three or more of your favorites." I splurged on Phish, Thelonious Monk, Robert Glasper, and Keith Urban (the only other country option was Loretta Lynn). Am guessing Apple's new BFF Taylor Swift doesn't count for country anymore, though her 1989 album looms at the very top of A.M.'s home page.
My rewards were some reasonably apt album suggestions under the banner "For You." And "Connect" brought up bios, music, and videos from other artists I'd been led to "favorite." The more engaged you are, the smarter the suggestions get.
New music is my thing and the major reason I buy into these streaming services. For the cost of one album a month, you're served hundreds of new releases.
Prominently displayed on Apple Music's first new releases page were local rapper Meek Mill's Ego-delphic Dreams Worth More Than Money, plus newbies from our July Fourth Parkway headliner Miguel, August Burns Red (my loathing for death metal had no bearing), Neil Young's The Monsanto Years, and two more talents with Philly ties: Matt Pond PA's The State of Gold and the G. Love & Special Sauce EP Sweet 'N Blues (Extra Sugar), the one new release not spotted at other music sites.
So is Apple Music all that? For sure, it's a young popster's dream date, though for listeners with eclectic tastes, Rhapsody's new releases bin filled the "something for everyone" mission better.
For the trendier, alt/indie rock fan, new album options at Tidal seemed richest. Jay Z may be the owner, but that boat's still being steered in Norway.
If jazz, classical, and world music are your playthings, Deezer (curated in Paris) is the ONLY place to be. Deezer also plays, as does Tidal, to audiophile snobs, with a higher price ($19.95 a month) option that streams the music in the "CD quality" FLAC format.
Apple Music streams in the 256 kbps AAC format, equal to the "best" 320 kbps MP3 format which industry leader Spotify delivers to paying subscribers and Deezer and Tidal use in $9.95 versions. And that's good enough, if you're not listening on $2,000 speakers or super headphones.
In Apple Music's free radio zone, the big news is Beats 1, a live, global radio station (rotating DJs in L.A., New York, and London) that promises an international approach to current music. Heard one cute thing in French, mixed with Florence, Pharrell, Justin, and Eminem. I hope they can do better.