Apple used to dominate headlines for the selling power of its iPod music players, though the iPhone has been the device to secure the most attention from consumers and the media in recent years.However, the tech firm made a high-profile $3bn acquisition of rapper Dr Dre’s Beats Electronics music empire back in May 2014. This prompted speculation Apple was set to make music a priority once again, as both Dre and co-founder Jimmy Iovine joined the Cupertino company as part of the agreement. Another piece to the puzzle was added in February as veteran Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe agreed to leave the BBC station after 12 years, choosing to join Apple in an unspecified role. With the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) underway, the firm has revealed its long awaited Apple Music service. It will work as an app across iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, PC, Apple TV and also Android smartphones in a bid to ensure widespread exposure to channels that market leaders like Spotify, Deezer and Rdio already have access to. “Apple Music is really going to move the needle for fans and artists,” claimed Iovine. “Online music has become a complicated mess of apps, services and websites. Apple Music brings the best features together for an experience every music lover will appreciate.” Described as “revolutionary”, Apple Music will offer access to a streaming library of more than 30m songs and also aggregate users’ existing content from the iTunes Store and CDs. Meanwhile, the app will also feature a live 24-hour radio service called Beats 1, which will be fronted by Lowe, who will be stationed in LA. Like his Radio 1 show, Beats 1 – come on, it even has a 1 in the name – will focus on music and the culture around it, which means exclusive interviews and guests, while it will serve over 100 countries. He’ll be supported by Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga – the sister of UK rappers Skepta and JME – in London.“most entertaining Spotify ever” in March, the firm revealed new partnerships with celebrity-hosted radio shows, media deals with BBC, Disney, Viacom and more, while branded agreements with Nike and Starbucks were forged.
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The firm has received bad press from artists that claim its business model doesn’t pay enough to the music industry, but CEO Daniel Ek hit back in November 2014 and revealed the firm had paid out £2 billion to labels and musicians.“Taylor Swift is absolutely right: music is art, art has real value, and artists deserve to be paid for it. We started Spotify because we love music and piracy was killing it. So all the talk swirling around lately about how Spotify is making money on the backs of artists upsets me big time,” he said. “Spotify has paid more than two billion dollars to labels, publishers and collecting societies for distribution to songwriters and recording artists.And that’s two billion dollars’ worth of listening that would have happened with zero or little compensation to artists and songwriters through piracy or practically equivalent services if there was no Spotify – we’re working day and night to recover money for artists and the music business that piracy was stealing away. “We’re trying to build a new music economy that works for artists in a way the music industry never has before. And it is working – Spotify is the single biggest driver of growth in the music industry, the number one source of increasing revenue, and the first or second biggest source of overall music revenue in many places. Those are facts.”
The music streaming industry only continues to get more competitive, and this was demonstrated as rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z introduced the Tidal music servicealongside co-owners Kanye West, Madonna Daft Punk and more. However, the celebrity-owned platform costs $19.99 a month for what it claims is CD-quality sound, and was met with criticism from consumers. Even Apple, which is renowned for the expense of its devices – the Apple Watch can be found for £13,500 – has managed to offer a low-cost alternative, thus newcomer Tidal may find it difficult to gain traction. Former BlackBerry creative director Alicia Keys, also a Tidal co-owner, was mocked for her speech at the launch event. Interestingly though, part of her pitch was that Tidal is “ a place for connection between artists and fan where we will deliver exclusive experiences that will be found nowhere else.” With that in mind, the Connect section of the Apple Music service will offer artists – probably safe to assume the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Madonna and friends will be included – a way to share lyrics, backstage images and videos directly from their iPhone, seemingly acting as another platform for social networking. So just how exclusive does that make Tidal? The sheer volume of iOS devices and Android smartphones on the market means that Apple could potentially become a dominant market player overnight, but Spotify certainly doesn’t seem like it has any intention of letting go of its position easily. Ek added: “Our whole business is to maximise the value of your music. We don’t use music to drive sales of hardware or software. We use music to get people to pay for music. The more we grow, the more we’ll pay you. We’re going to be transparent about it all the way through. And we have a big team of your fellow artists here because if you think we haven’t done well enough, we want to know, and we want to do better. None of that is ever going to change. “We’re getting fans to pay for music again. We’re connecting artists to fans they would never have otherwise found, and we’re paying them for every single listen. We’re not just streaming, we’re mainstreaming now, and that’s good for music makers and music lovers around the world.” By Zen Terrelonge
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