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Posts tagged with "Apple Music"

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.

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Shortcuts Corner: Search YouTube, Preview Folder Contents, and Play Recent Music Albums

As I explained in today’s issue of MacStories Weekly for Club MacStories members, we’re bringing the newsletter’s Shortcuts Corner section to the site, with a twist: in this series, you’ll find simpler shortcuts that you can download for free, and which will be added to the public MacStories Shortcuts Archive; you’ll also get a preview of an exclusive shortcut available today for Club MacStories members.

In this week’s Shortcuts Corner, I share shortcuts to quickly launch a search query in the YouTube app, preview the contents of a folder in iCloud Drive, and start playback for one of your recently played albums in the Music app. Let’s dive in.

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Apple Launches Web-Based Music App as Public Beta

As first reported by TechCrunch and The Verge, Apple has launched a web-based version of its Music app as a public beta at beta.music.apple.com. The app looks and feels a lot like the Music app coming to Catalina later this fall. The two are so close in fact that it’s easy to confuse the two if they’re open at the same time, which I did almost immediately.

Music running in desktop Safari (left) and in the Music app on Catalina (right).

Music running in desktop Safari (left) and in the Music app on Catalina (right).

The app features a left sidebar that’s divided into Apple Music’s For You, Browse, and Radio sections followed by your music library which contains Recently Added, Artists, Albums, and Songs. The final section includes playlists you’ve added from Apple Music as well as ones you’ve created yourself.

Playback controls are arrayed across the top of the window. In addition to play/pause and skip forward and back buttons, there are buttons to shuffle and repeat tracks, albums, and playlists, a volume slider, and a button that reveals an Up Next drop-down of songs you’ve queued for playback. When you visit an album or playlist page, there’s a ellipses button the reveals options to Add to Library, Play Next, Play Later, Like, and Suggest Less of This.

The experience is impressively close to the Mac Music app, though there are differences. The artwork for algorithmically generated playlists like the Favorites Mix doesn’t include album artwork. Also, I didn’t see a ‘Friends Are Listening To’ section in the beta, and my Recently Played albums and playlists were in a different order than in the Mac app.

The web app works on both desktop and mobile Safari where it can be saved to your Home screen as a progressive web app. On the iPad, Safari-based Music supports dark mode and Split View too.

Music running in mobile Safari in dark mode.

Music running in mobile Safari in dark mode.


Music in mobile Safari in Split View with Reminders.

Music in mobile Safari in Split View with Reminders.

I’ve only had a short time to play with Music in Safari, but I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far. With very few exceptions, the beta is already the full Music experience providing access not only to Apple Music streaming content but also your entire music library. This is an excellent option for anyone who doesn’t have access to a Mac or iTunes on Windows at work or elsewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if this solution eventually replaces iTunes on Windows, which does not appear to be getting an update alongside Catalina.


Apple Music Introduces ‘New Music Daily’ Playlist

Recently Apple Music has been in the process of rebranding many of its longstanding editorial playlists, such as turning The A-List: Alternative into ALT CTRL and The A-List: Hip-Hop into Rap Life. These changes have reflected a shift in brand tone, but not a fundamental difference in the content of the playlists. The latest playlist change, however, is bit more substantial. What was formerly known as Best of the Week has been changed to New Music Daily, which as its name implies, makes this a daily-updated playlist rather than weekly.

New Music Daily aims to collect the most noteworthy new songs across a variety of genres around the world. Today on its launch, it’s filled with lots of Taylor Swift to coincide with her new album’s release, but it will be interesting to see what shape the playlist takes from day to day.

The most newsworthy detail about New Music Daily is simply its update schedule, which is fairly unique for Apple Music. Historically Apple’s editorial team has focused on providing weekly updates for its big playlists, or even rarer updates for less popular playlists, so the transition to daily is a big shift. I don’t expect we’ll see many other playlists follow suit, due to the sheer amount of labor required in editorially selecting songs each day, but it’s nice to see Apple’s team enter new territory.


Porsche to Include Apple Music App in Its Electric Taycan Electric Sports Car

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 Profiles Apple Music Lead Oliver Schusser

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.

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Miximum Review: Smart Apple Music Playlists on iOS

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.

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Perfect Tempo Brings Tempo Control to Apple Music Tracks


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.

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Marvis Review: The Ultra-Customizable Apple Music Client

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.

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