In advance of 2019's Grammy awards, airing this Sunday, February 10, Apple has shared three new Apple Music ads on its YouTube channel. Each minute-long ad is a music video wherein well known artists are represented in Memoji form. One video features Ariana Grande, another Khalid, and the final one Florida Georgia Line.
Last year Apple shared music videos featuring Animoji ahead of the Grammys, so this year's decision to use Memoji is a natural evolution following iOS 12's debut in September.
Although Animoji Karaoke hasn't caught on much in broader culture despite commercials like these, it's still fun seeing Apple highlight one of iOS' more whimsical features alongside its music service.
Apple's ever-growing focus on services was on display during yesterday's quarterly earnings call, and today the company is continuing that narrative by announcing a new partnership with American Airlines that enables Apple Music subscribers to stream music while flying, even without paying for in-flight Wi-Fi. From Apple's press release:
Starting Friday, Apple Music subscribers can enjoy their access to over 50 million songs, playlists and music videos on any domestic American Airlines flight equipped with Viasat satellite Wi-Fi with no Wi-Fi purchase required. American Airlines is the first commercial airline to provide exclusive access to Apple Music through complimentary inflight Wi-Fi.
“For most travelers, having music to listen to on the plane is just as important as anything they pack in their suitcases,” said Oliver Schusser, vice president of Apple Music. “With the addition of Apple Music on American flights, we are excited that customers can now enjoy their music in even more places. Subscribers can stream all their favorite songs and artists in the air, and continue to listen to their personal library offline, giving them everything they need to truly sit back, relax and enjoy their flight.”
When it comes to hardware and software, Apple is famously known for maintaining a very closed ecosystem, but fortunately there's mounting evidence that the company's services approach will utilize a new playbook. Apple Music coming to Amazon Echo, AirPlay 2 and iTunes content being built into TV sets, and now this American Airlines deal demonstrate a desire to spread Apple services further than ever before.
When Spotify was my music streaming service of choice, one of the features I really liked was its personalized Wrapped report generated at the end of the year. I've always been a fan of geeky annual reports and stats about the usage of any given web service – be it Spotify, Pocket, or Toggl. I appreciate a detailed look at 12 months of collected data to gain some insight into my habits and patterns.
I've always been annoyed by the lack of a similar feature in Apple Music; I'm surprised that Apple still hasn't added a native "Year in Review" option – a baffling omission given how the company is already collecting all of the necessary data points in the cloud. Official "Apple Music Wrapped" functionality would bolster the service's catalog of personalized features, providing users with a "reward" at the end of the year in the form of reports and playlists to help them rediscover what they listened to over the past year.
But Apple doesn't seem interested in adding this feature to Apple Music, so I decided to build my own using Shortcuts. The result is the most complex shortcut I've ever created comprising over 540 actions. It's not perfect due to the limitations of iOS and Shortcuts, but it's the closest I was able to come to replicating Spotify's excellent Wrapped feature.
At the end of November, Amazon announced on its blog that Apple Music would be coming to Echo devices the week of December 17th. The music streaming service showed up on Echos a little earlier than expected last Friday, December 14th.
Today, Apple began promoting Apple Music’s availability on Echo devices through three different channels. The Echo integration first appeared on the App Store, which gave the Alexa app top billing in a Today tab story that highlights the new feature. Apple is also promoting the Echo integration on the Apple Music features page of its website along with other third-party devices like PCs, Android devices, and Sonos music players. Finally, late in the day US time, the Apple Music app began delivering push notifications highlighting the Echo feature.
Amazon’s Echo devices aren’t the first third-party hardware to get Apple Music support as the Apple Music website demonstrates, but it is unusual for Apple to promote another company’s hardware alongside Apple Music to this degree. It’s also surprising because, in the two weeks that followed Amazon’s announcement, Apple said nothing. Nor did it acknowledge the change four days ago when the Alexa app was updated.
I wouldn't be surprised if promoting the Echo was part of a bigger deal that got Apple products back on Amazon shelves in early November. Whether or not that’s the case, it’s still interesting to see Apple, which offers the competing HomePod, put so much promotional weight behind Amazon’s smart home speaker.
Although Amazon initially indicated that it would be out the week of December 17th, Apple Music support has begun to roll out on Amazon Echo devices today in the US.
To set up Apple Music on the Echo, open the Alexa iOS app and go to the Music section of the app’s Settings. You won’t see Apple Music listed as an existing service, so tap the ‘Link New Service’ button, which will list Apple Music along with several other services.
Once you’ve logged in with your Apple Music credentials, the Apple Music Skill is enabled, which allows you to say things like ‘Alexa, play my New Music Mix on Apple Music.’ You can separately set Apple Music as your default music service, which lets you use Alexa to request music without specifying ‘on Apple Music.’ When you make a request for music Alexa will let you know that playback is coming from Apple Music with a response like ‘Playing New Music Mix from Apple Music.’
Not all of the Apple Music features that work on a HomePod work with an Echo. For example, although Alexa will acknowledge your feedback if you say you like a song, that does not result in the songs being marked as ‘liked’ in Apple Music or iTunes. Nor can Apple Music be triggered through third-party Alexa apps like Astra. However, for basic playback of playlists, albums, and songs, the new integration works well.
At least one thing you cannot do with a HomePod is available on the Echo. With Apple Music activated, you can set alarms to play specific playlists as Zac Hall demonstrates on 9to5Mac, which is handy.
Overall, Apple Music’s integration with the Amazon Echo is about what you would expect. If you’re an Apple Music subscriber and use Echo devices, the option of using your Apple Music subscription is a nice addition, but it's also a development that has the potential to help drive consumer adoption of the Echo and Apple Music.
Apple Music Connect, which once had a tab to itself in Apple’s Music app, was a multimedia feed of artist-submitted posts that debuted with the company’s music streaming service. The feature never really got traction after an initial flurry of posts by artists, and in the latest versions of Apple Music and iTunes, it was buried at the bottom of the ‘For You’ section and on individual artists’ pages.
According to Zac Hall at 9to5Mac, artists were contacted by Apple today with news that the company is ending Connect, which is backed up by a support page also cited by Hall. As of today, artists can no longer post Connect content, and existing posts are no longer visible in the Music app or iTunes. However, Apple also told artists that previously-uploaded content would remain available until May 24, 2019, via search.
Based on searches of artists who I recalled having participated in Connect, it looks as though that content is included in the ‘More’ section of search results. Presented outside the context of an explanatory post, some of the material, like U2’s tour of its eXPERIENCE VR bus in the screenshots above, feels out of place. However, I’m glad Apple has chosen to preserve Connect content for the time being because it also included things like alternate versions of songs and other material that is valued by fans. Hopefully, the best of that content will surface elsewhere for fans to enjoy.
Connect wasn’t Apple’s first attempt to bring music fans and artists together. Ping, Apple’s attempt at a music-themed social network that NPR called one of the worst ideas of 2010, failed more swiftly than Connect. The third try may be the charm, however. With iOS 11, Apple introduced the ability to follow friends as a way to discover new music, which has been met with greater acceptance by users.
In a blog post published this morning, Amazon announced that Apple Music is set to launch on Amazon Echo devices next month, starting the week of December 17.
According to Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices, Echo users will be able to ask Alexa, the device’s built-in voice assistant, to play their favorite songs, artists, albums, playlists created by Apple’s curators, as well as radio stations available on the service. Beats 1, Apple Music’s own live radio station featuring artist interviews and daily programs, will also be accessible via the Amazon Echo, the company said. The integration will be enabled just like any other skill on the Amazon Echo by connecting your Apple Music account to Amazon’s device using the Alexa app.
“Music is one of the most popular features on Alexa—since we launched Alexa four years ago, customers are listening to more music in their homes than ever before,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president, Amazon Devices. “We are committed to offering great music providers to our customers and since launching the Music Skill API to developers just last month, we’ve expanded the music selection on Alexa to include even more top tier services. We’re thrilled to bring Apple Music – one of the most popular music services in the US – to Echo customers this holiday.”
While Apple Music has long been available on Android in addition to iOS and macOS (and on Sonos speakers in addition to HomePod), the upcoming Amazon Echo integration marks a major shift as Apple Music has never been able to integrate with competing smart speakers through third-party voice assistants. It’ll be interesting to see if the Amazon Echo integration will be more limited than the HomePod’s native Apple Music access, which we’ll make sure to test once Apple Music’s Alexa skill goes live next month.
Today Genius, the online music encyclopedia, shared word of a new partnership it has formed with Apple – more specifically, with Apple Music. From the company’s announcement post:
Starting today, Apple Music subscribers who visit Genius will be able to play any song in full right from the song page, simply by signing into their Apple Music account.
Genius is a great place to find historical information about a song, so the ability to play any track without leaving Genius makes for a great user experience. Embedded Apple Music tracks is only one half of this partnership though. Even if you’ve never used Genius, you're bound to benefit from this agreement because of a second piece of news. The announcement post continues:
Genius has the world’s best lyrics database and now it’s available on Apple Music. Genius will provide lyrics to thousands of hit songs on the service—bringing world-class accuracy and timeliness powered by Genius’s global community of artists and fans.
It's unclear at this time whether the addition of Genius lyrics to Apple Music will bring lyrics to songs that previously didn't have any, or simply more accurate lyrics to songs that already have them. Hopefully both benefits are in store for Apple Music users.
In the first couple years of Apple Music’s life, the service didn't strike very many partnerships with third-party businesses. That appears to be changing this year, with the recently completed acquisition of Shazam, free service offers for Verizon wireless customers, and now Genius integrations, Apple is extending its service in new ways to better compete with Spotify.
In an update rolled out last night following the release of global top charts, Apple redesigned artist pages on Apple Music with separation of different kinds of music releases.