Apple Music Connect, which once had a tab to itself in Apple’s Music app, was a mutlimedia 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.
Apple today published its picks for the best media in 2018 across its various platforms and services. These include selections for best app on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV, as well as top picks in categories of music, TV and movies, podcasts, and books. Alongside these editorial selections, Apple has published top charts for the year across the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple Books.
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.
Late last year, Apple announced that it had agreed to purchase Shazam, the music-discovery service. The acquisition was held up for a time by an investigation by the European Commission, which ultimately said the deal is not anti-competitive and could go forward. Today Apple announced that the deal had been completed.
In a press release, Apple said:
Shazam has been downloaded over 1 billion times around the world, and users identify songs using the Shazam app over 20 million times each day. With pioneering innovation in music identification, Shazam helps people discover, interact with and share video, audio or printed content across devices and mediums — and allows music fans to follow their favorite artists and share in the thrill of discovery.
Apple also announced that Shazam would soon be offered ad-free to all users.
The Verge has a story today by Micah Singleton in which he wonders whether Apple still cares about Beats, the company it acquired in 2014. As Singleton notes, no new products have been released under the Beats brand in 2018, and The Verge’s sources say we shouldn’t expect that to change at Apple’s keynote tomorrow.
Nonetheless, Beats continues to have marketing successes, like recently becoming the official headphones of the NBA and USA Basketball. However, the dearth of new products coupled with competition from Apple’s wireless AirPods and rumored premium over-the-ear headphones puts Beats in a tight spot, which Singleton argues is a mistake:
Apple has its eyes set on the high-end audio market to compete against the likes of Audio-Technica, Bose, and a rapidly improving headphone ecosystem. But neglecting the team that has been able to sell slightly above-average headphones at a breakneck pace for nearly a decade doesn’t seem like a smart business move for either party. If you are the official headphone company for United States Basketball, it seems wise to continue releasing new headphones. And if you are Apple — and your history with headphones and speakers has precisely one win, despite many attempts — you should lean on the company you own that hasn’t missed yet.
Beats jump-started Apple’s music streaming efforts, but other than adding the W1 chip to its wireless headphones in late 2016 and 2017, there have been few signs of Apple’s plans for Beats. I hope Singleton is wrong about Apple neglecting Beats because it would be a shame to squander the company’s valuable brand, though I suspect he may not be.
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.
Today, Apple Music added 116 Top 100 charts to its iOS Music app and iTunes on the Mac. The charts, consisting of a global Top 100 chart and a Top 100 chart for each country where Apple Music is offered, are part of a new Top Charts section of Apple Music’s Browse tab. Despite some reports that the charts are limited to the iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas, I have been able to access them in iTunes on macOS High Sierra and iOS 11 too.
According to Rolling Stone, which was given a demonstration by Apple Music executives, the charts are based on Apple Music streams only and are updated every day at Midnight Pacific time.
Last December, Apple announced plans to acquire music-discovery service Shazam. The service, which makes iOS, watchOS, and macOS apps that can detect songs, TV shows, and advertisements from their sound signatures, has been on Apple’s platforms since the early days of iOS and is the engine behind Siri’s ability to recognize songs.
Since February, the deal has been on hold while the European Commission considered whether it would adversely impact competition. In a press release today, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, explained:
“Data is key in the digital economy. We must therefore carefully review transactions which lead to the acquisition of important sets of data, including potentially commercially sensitive ones, to ensure they do not restrict competition. After thoroughly analysing Shazam's user and music data, we found that their acquisition by Apple would not reduce competition in the digital music streaming market."
Elaborating on the Commission’s findings, Vestager said the Commission concluded that “Apple and Shazam mainly offer complementary services and do not compete with each other.”
There has been no official word from Apple on the Commission’s decision, but it should clear the way to allow that deal to be consummated soon.
Past MacStories coverage of Shazam is available here.