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.
Apple Music subscribers on Twitter and Reddit are beginning to report that a new algorithmic mix has begun showing up in the ‘For You’ section of Apple Music. First noticed on the r/AppleMusic subreddit, the mix includes a collection of songs to which people you follow through Apple Music’s Friends feature are listening.
Further details emerged on Twitter, where it’s been reported that the Friends Mix includes 25 songs and is updated every Monday.
As of the publication, the new mix is propagating through Apple’s system so you may not see it in the For You section just yet. 9to5Mac says that the mix is not tied to iOS 12 or macOS Mojave, which is in line with past rollouts of Apple Music mixes.
Have you ever watched the construction of a new building while knowing nothing about what the finished product would be? You track its progress a piece at a time, clueless about the end goal until finally there comes a point when, in a single moment, suddenly it all makes sense.
Apple's media ambitions have been like that for me.
In recent years, Apple has taken a variety of actions in the media space that seemed mostly disconnected, but over time they've added up to something that can't be ignored.
- 2015: Apple Music and Apple News launched.
- 2016: Apple Music redesigned; TV app debuted.
- 2017: App Store revamped with dedicated games section; Apple Podcasts redesigned; TV app adds sports and news.
- 2018: Apple acquires Texture; iBooks redesigned and rebranded Apple Books.
- 2019: Apple's video streaming service launches?
Apple already has control of the hardware that media is consumed on, with its ever-expanding iPhone business and suite of complementary products. It has invested significant effort into building the apps media is consumed in, as evidenced above. And finally, it's also building the paid services media is consumed through.
And the company is doing these things at a scale that is unprecedented. Once not long ago, Apple's primary media platform was iTunes. Now, hundreds of millions of users consume media every day through Apple's suite of spiritual successors to iTunes:
- Apple Music
- Apple TV (the app)
- Apple Podcasts
- Apple Books
- Apple News
- And the App Store
Apple has one unified goal, I believe, driving all its media efforts: it aspires to utilize hardware, software, and services to provide the entirety of a user's media experience. If you consume media, Apple wants to provide the full stack of that consumption, from media delivery to media discovery. My aim in this story is to share an overview of how that goal is being fulfilled today.
In an update rolled out last week, Apple fixed two of my longstanding annoyances with Apple Music: there is a new screen that lists popular albums coming soon, and every upcoming album now features an actual release date.
Here's Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:
Apple appears to be rolling out a series of updates for Apple Music today, including a small but useful new section called "Coming Soon," which allows subscribers to check out new albums about to be released over the next few weeks.
In another addition, Apple is now making it possible to easily see album launch dates on their respective pages on iOS and macOS. In the Editors' Notes section, following the traditional encouragement to add the pre-release album to your library, there's a new line that begins "Album expected..." followed by the album's specific release date. Some albums not listed in Coming Soon still have a release date specified on their pages, so this update appears to be a bit more wide-ranging.
As someone who likes to keep up with new music, I'm glad to see Apple pushing these small but needed improvements to the service.
Furthermore, as noted by AppleInsider, the iOS 12 version of Apple Music features the ability to search for songs by lyrics. I've been using the beta on my iPhone and iPad for the past week, and lyrics search has already saved me a few minutes I would have otherwise spent looking for songs on Google. Built-in lyrics differentiate Apple Music from Spotify, so it's good to see Apple expanding support throughout the app.