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The Future of Apple Music

Sophie Charara interviewed Apple’s Zane Lowe for Wired about where Apple Music is heading next. One answer, interestingly enough, is a greater focus on radio:

Apple doesn’t break out Beats 1 monthly listening figures; various commentators have speculated they are relatively low, the official line is “tens of millions”. What we do know is that one of Lowe’s priorities is to merge the two elements of Apple’s £9.99 a month Music offering: its Spotify-style streaming service and the Beats 1 radio shows.

“I want more people to listen and discover this stuff,” says Lowe. “And I want to integrate what we do at Beats 1 into Apple Music more thoroughly. I would guess there are still subscribers who don’t realise Elton John has done over 200 shows. Those shows are works of art in their own right.”

Apple Music for years has been producing quality radio work, yet the way that’s been surfaced hasn’t been the most discoverable. Promoting existing radio shows in more places sounds like a positive step forward, and I hope another addition would be an option for push notifications when there’s a show you want to listen to live. Apple could put a little bell icon, YouTube-style, on a show’s artwork in the app for enabling such notifications, because unless you schedule a show into your normal routine, you’ll almost certainly never think to listen to it at the right time.

Another potential content area for greater exposure would be the interviews Zane Lowe and his colleagues do with artists regularly, which Apple Music often features in both audio and video forms. To me those interviews feel like a perfect fit for highlighting in Apple Podcasts as well as the Music app. Apple has actually dabbled in that, such as with a Billie Eilish interview earlier this year, but I think it’s an area ripe for expansion.

One other change Apple’s pursuing, according to Lowe, will bring about increased initiatives around live music:

There’s also the matter of how livestreams fit into the picture. After events with Shawn Mendes, French rap group PNL and Tyler the Creator, who did a live performance of his album IGOR, streamed on Apple Music the night before it came out, Lowe says “live music is definitely on the horizon” for the service. It’s all part of the team’s bid to “eventise” – his word – album launches. In the case of Tyler the Creator, “fans can tune in, then after watching it maybe you go to the album.”

Making album launches more of an event could be an effective way to compel a switch to Apple Music over Spotify. If Apple can arrange live content with a wide appeal timed with an album launch, then people will tweet about that live content as it’s being shared, and anyone not on Apple Music will feel like they’re missing out.