Yesterday, Porsche announced that it’s partnering with Apple to integrate Apple Music directly with the in-car entertainment system of the Taycan, which is debuting in September.
The streaming service will be available in Porsche’s fully-electric Taycan first and later, in other models. According to TechCrunch’s Kirsten Korosec who spoke to Porsche’s North American CEO Claus Zellmer:
The integration means more than an Apple Music app icon popping up on the Taycan’s digital touchscreen. The company wanted the experience to be seamless, meaning no wonky sign-ins, phone pairing or separate accounts. Instead, Porsche is linking an owner’s Apple ID with their Porsche Taycan ID. Apple Music content in the Taycan will be identical to what’s on the user’s iPhone app.
System-level integration with Apple Music will allow Taycan owners to enjoy the service regardless of whether they have an iPhone with them because the Taycan comes with in-car Internet service. The car company announced that it will offer a six-month free trial of Apple Music with the Taycan and incorporate CarPlay support into its in-car entertainment system too.
Direct integration of Apple Music with Porsche’s in-car system, plus six months of free service sounds an awful lot like what satellite radio company SiriusXM offers with many new cars. The move has the advantage of ensuring that Apple’s service will always be available onscreen where it can compete directly with other services. Of course, the downside is that because Apple doesn’t control the hardware its app runs on, it will undoubtedly be subject to the whims of Porsche if it wants to update it, which is part of why CarPlay exists in the first place. Fortunately, regardless of how Porsche handles updates, CarPlay will be available to Taycan owners too. It will be interesting to see whether Apple Music and perhaps other Apple apps make their way into additional manufacturers’ automobiles in the future or if this is a one-off deal.
Billboard has an in-depth profile of Oliver Schusser, who has been running Apple Music for the past 15 months. You may not have heard Schusser’s name before, but he’s been at Apple since 2004, first working to expand iTunes in Europe. With Jimmy Iovine taking on a consulting role at Apple Music and Robert Kondrk moving to a product and design role, Billboard explains that Schusser was tapped to grow the streaming service.
The profile, which also includes interviews with Jen Walsh, the director in charge of Shazam and Beats 1, and Rachel Newman, the global senior director of editorial, emphasizes the service’s focus on editorial over algorithmic content:
“You hear Tim talk a lot about humanity – how we’re at the crossroads between the liberal arts and technology,” says Oliver Schusser. “It’s got to be both.” The new leader of Apple Music (the Tim in question would be his boss, Apple CEO Cook) is relaxing in his sun-drenched corner office at the company’s Culver City, Calif., headquarters on a June morning, explaining – in his typically measured way – why the service he oversees hasn’t gone all-in on algorithms. “That’s just not the way we look at the world,” continues Schusser. “We really do believe that we have a responsibility to our subscribers and our customers to have people recommend what a playlist should look like and who the future superstars are.”
Among other changes Schusser has implemented since taking the reigns of Apple Music, Billboard emphasizes the shift away from annual feature releases timed around Apple hardware releases noting the mid-year of top 100 charts and new personalized playlists. Those changes caught my eye in particular because unlike software tied to hardware advances or operating system changes, services, which have become increasingly important to Apple, demand ongoing attention to remain in the forefront of the public’s mind to retain existing customers and sign up new ones.
The approach is a departure for Apple, but one we’ve begun to see more often with ongoing improvements to Siri and mid-year updates to Shortcuts, for example. Apple Music’s advances may not get a lot of attention from the software and hardware-focused tech press, but in my experience, Apple Music has steadily improved since its debut, developing into an excellent way for me to enjoy my favorite bands and discover new ones.
Leading up to WWDC last month, rumors indicated that iTunes on the Mac was being split into multiple apps, including standalone Music, TV, and Podcasts apps. It was expected that Apple might use its Catalyst technology (formerly known as Marzipan) to base the new Music app on Music for iPad, or vice versa. The hope among many iPad users was that the iPad might benefit from a more robust Apple Music client featuring power user features already available on the Mac, such as Smart Playlists.
WWDC came and went, and that wish was left unfulfilled. While macOS Catalina does introduce a new Music app, it wasn’t built using Catalyst, and as a result the iPad version of Music is light on meaningful improvements this year.
Filling the void left by Apple, however, is a new third-party app called Miximum, which is an Apple Music-integrated utility dedicated to smart playlist creation on iOS.
Nearly 11 years into the App Store, it isn’t often that an app surfaces that does something unexpected which no one else seems to be doing, but Perfect Tempo by developer Open Planet does precisely that. The app is a simple utility designed for musicians and dancers who want to slow down or speed up music without affecting its pitch and loop it as they learn a song. Other apps have similar functionality that I’ve covered before, but what makes Perfect Tempo unique is that it can slow down and speed up streamed Apple Music tracks, which other apps can’t do.
Marvis is a music player that launched on iPhone just two months ago, yet in a 3.0 update today expands its usefulness immensely thanks to a major new feature: full Apple Music integration. With today’s release, Marvis joins the growing list of third-party apps that use Apple’s MusicKit API to offer access to and control of your Apple Music library.
Marvis follows in the footsteps of Soor, which Federico reviewed earlier this year, in prioritizing layout customization as one of its hallmark advantages over Apple’s first-party Music app. Pushing beyond what even Soor accomplished though, in Marvis customization is taken to a whole new level, with fine-grained design options that no other app can compare with.
Speaking of Apple Music and Billie Eilish, Tim Ingham, writing at Music Business Worldwide, has an interview with Zane Lowe. It’s a good interview that covers a range of topics from how Lowe builds relationships with artists to what differentiates Apple Music and what they see in Billie Eilish.
An artist like Billie Eilish thinks in sounds, she thinks in colors, she thinks in visuals, she thinks in collaborations, she thinks in all kinds of different forms of creativity. When you’re dealing with an artist like that, it opens all these other areas that you can help build things around.
With Billie, there’s color everywhere, this attitude and it’s like, ‘Wow, this is really interesting.’ At Apple, because of where we’ve all come from, we understand streaming, but [we’re thinking], ‘How can we make a streaming service that is deeper and more layered and speaks to the aspects of music we grew up loving?’
I don’t ever want to look back on my time in the streaming era and think, ‘Yeah man, great job at just building a utility.’
Functionality is so important; [a service] needs to work and it needs to be intuitive. But there should 100% be room for creative discovery and it should be 100% driven by the artists, or at least in collaboration with artists.
See also: this interview with Billie Eilish and her brother/co-writer Finneas and Zane Lowe from last month. It was originally posted on Beats 1 but you can also watch the YouTube video below.
Apple and Billie Eilish, whose highly anticipated album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (out March 29) has set a new record for pre-adds on Apple Music, have launched an interesting new kind of partnership on the company’s streaming service. At this link (which is not the same as the standard artist page for Billie Eilish on Apple Music), you’ll find a custom page featuring an exclusive music video for you should see me in a crown, the upcoming album that you can pre-add to your library, an Essentials playlist for Billie Eilish’s previous hits, two Beats 1 interviews, and, for the first time on Apple Music (that I can recall), a link to buy a limited edition merch collection.
The merch drop is available at this page, which is a Shopify store with Apple Music branding that offers a t-shirt and hoodie designed by streetwear artist Don C, featuring Takashi Murakami’s artwork from the aforementioned music video. The purchase flow features Apple Pay support; both the website and email receipts contain links to watch the video, pre-add the album, and listen to the Essentials playlist on Apple Music.
For a while now, I’ve been arguing that Apple Music should offer the ability to buy exclusive merch and concert tickets to support your favorite artists without leaving the app. The move would fit nicely with Apple’s growing focus on services (you have to assume the company would take a cut from every transaction), it would increase the lock-in aspect of Apple Music (because you can only get those exclusive extras on Apple’s service), and it would provide artists with an integrated, more effective solution to connect with fans directly than yet another attempt at social networking.
This collaboration with Billie Eilish feels like a first step in that direction, with Apple actively promoting the limited edition sale and embedding different types of exclusive content (video, merch, Beats 1 interviews) in a single custom page. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple continues to test this approach with a handful of other artists who have major releases coming up in 2019.
Today Apple has rolled out an update to the Browse tab in Apple Music, which all users should see soon. The new Browse tab surfaces a lot more content up front without requiring tapping through other menus first; it does, however, retain the same basic design language and feel as before.
In a lengthy response, Apple has addressed many of the allegations leveled against it by Spotify earlier this week. As we reported, Spotify has filed a complaint with the European Commission alleging that Apple’s treatment of the music streaming service is unfair and anti-competitive. Today, Apple fired back with a response to many of Spotify’s contentions.
Apple denies it has blocked access to its products and updates. To the contrary, the company says it has approved over 200 updates to Spotify’s app and reached out to inquire about the adoption of features like Siri and AirPlay 2. Apple says the only time it has requested changes to Spotify’s apps is when the company ‘has tried to sidestep the same rules that every other app follows.’
Apple also takes issue with what it characterizes as Spotify’s desire for the benefits of a free app without being free. Long gone are the days when apps were either free or paid. Spotify, like many other apps, offers a free music streaming tier. Spotify doesn’t pay Apple anything for those free users or users that sign up for streaming through other channels like mobile carriers. For Spotify’s paid subscribers, Apple receives 30% in year one and 15% after that for access to its platform and payment system, which the company says Spotify is unfairly trying to sidestep.
Finally, Apple claims that Spotify’s complaints against it are just one facet of a pattern of actions that are in Spotify’s economic interests but are damaging to musicians and the music industry. As evidence of this, Apple raises recent moves by Spotify against songwriters after the US Copyright Royalty Board required Spotify to increase royalty payments.
I don’t know whether Apple’s actions constitute unfair and anti-competitive behavior under EU law. Separate and apart from the legalities of the situation though, Spotify’s complaints have struck a chord because they come at a time when new online app stores are taking a significantly smaller cut of revenue. Spotify has other legitimate complaints, like its frustrations with App Review, but what seems to really be driving the dispute is how much Apple charges for access to the App Store and its payment system. Now more than ever, Apple’s 30% cut looks like a bad deal even when that cut is reduced to 15% for the second year of subscriptions.
What makes this dispute unique is that Spotify competes with Apple Music and is big enough to grab public attention and raise the stakes for Apple by getting European regulators involved. Usually, this sort of fight would play out privately, but by making their disagreement very public and involving regulators, Spotify may have taken the outcome out of its and Apple’s control.