Apple just finished their WWDC keynote. The last half hour of which was their introduction to Apple Music.
The audience, mostly developers, sat a little stony faced. Twitter was similarly unimpressed.
“What at the heck is this?” “Please make it stop”
lay alongside numerous comments along the lines of
“But this is a developer conference”.
“Baffled” is perhaps the best word to summarise the response. Baffled as to what it was they were watching, and why they were watching it.
Putting aside any observations that any Apple event these days is a media circus and Apple need to have some new offerings for end users… which is likely true… that is not what we observed today.
An internal coup
What we saw today was a company with an injection of creatives who were leading a little revolution internally.
Apple have always had a relationship with musicians and listened to them. Music itself has a very particular place in the scheme of digital media, it’s the front runner leading the way, exploring and experiencing where other media are destined to follow.
What has Apple done with music? Look at the negative commentary from musicians on the state of the industry after the digital revolution, especially from musician-led ventures, from Neil Youngs Pono to Jay-Z’s streaming service. Musicians don’t like a lot of what has gone down.
Beats Music, founded by Iovine, Dre, and Trent Razner, has attempted to shift matters, to restore human curation to discovery, to provide more equitable payments. But it it has been a minor player. Not once, but twice, did we hear today that it was only within Apple that they could see success being possible.
These guys didn’t care about the money, I think they cared about their industry. They made sure the company which spearheaded the digital revolution paid alright, those billions copper fastened commitment. And now the Beats team found themselves in the heart of things with deep pockets and the ability to make big changes.
They’re giving this a go. This, as it happens, being Apple.
Apple Music addresses musicians concerns.
Adding additional content to the app brilliantly weaves a stream of relationship building material right into and around the music delivery system.
The best place for this in the past was MySpace Music. Probably the last time musicians still felt in control of their digital destiny.
Building deeper commitments from the audience is the best protection against piracy, beating it by offering a better experience. The deals may have been done with Iovine but the creative brains here are Trent Reznor’s. He has experimented with apps in the past for Nine Inch Nails offering rich media for the bands followers.
Historically this is interesting, because it marks a shift in how Apple chooses to deliver material.
Apple are long fond of saying they occupy the crossroads of where liberal arts meet technology, they usually have a signpost to identify this. A signpost indicates some sense of direction but the reality is Apple have been swept along by the digital revolution much like everyone.
We find ourselves today with a huge range of media file types, digital content in various wrappers run through player apps. There are platforms from various OSes to the Web, HTML turns up everywhere from iTunes to mini-websites posing as iTunes Extras. There’s a mess of delivery options from downloading files to iBooks to Apps to websites. Only some of these you can pay for, even fewer you have to pay for.
Not to mention that the tools for creating content, authoring environments, haven’t really advanced all that much since the early Nineties. There’s no standard ‘bundle’ for material you can pop on any device and it will deliver creative content to an audience. We’re still channelled into player apps and media files, browsers and streams. That wasn’t fixed today and is still a ways off.
It’s a relationship
Apple Music is, in the interim, an interesting attempt to package it all up as a service, it’s an app with all the stuff in it delivered as a subsciption service. It’s music every which way you can get it. Whether it’s music you already own, new music as it’s released, a general play-me-something-good radio station, a range of curated content from experts. All tied up with all the various media produced by, and social engagement of, the artists with behind the scenes action.
As such it’s perhaps best viewed as a relationship. For 9.99 a month you can have a deep and meaningful relationship with music. That’s, perhaps, what they should have said.
There will be more.
Music leads the way. Always has. How Apple formulates this, and if it succeeds, will inform how other media, currently floundering, will approach this issue in a few years.
Publishing and news will be next. I would be curious to see how Apple approach news once they get some former executives from news corporations in there.
The TV business is in massive growth and clearly no pushover. Film may follow sooner, independent film likely to be first.
But it’s not just the various content industries who will change. Apple will too. They’ve taken their first steps out into content production. That’s the big story today. They’re going to change. This ain’t done yet.
What we saw tonight was chaotic and unclear, people didn’t know what was going down. Most revolutions are like that. The creatives are swarming and Apple is going to get a whole lot messier.