Tech by VICE

Tim Cook Says This One Feature Is Apple Music's Secret Sauce

Apple’s streaming music service is now roughly one-fifth as large as Spotify.

by Nicholas Deleon
Oct 20 2015, 12:48pm

Image: Sara/Flickr

To Apple, you just can't beat human curation when it comes to music.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said Monday evening that the team of editors creating Apple Music playlists is the key differentiator between Apple Music and its competitors. Apple Music, which launched in late June, now has a total of 15 million active users, 6.5 million of which are paying members. That's up from 11 million users in August.

Spotify, which launched in 2008 (but didn't launch in the US until 2011), has 75 million active users, 20 million of which are paying customers.

"The runway here is really good," Cook said in the interview, which was hosted by the Wall Street Journal in Laguna Beach, California. Here, "runway" refers to how big of an opportunity Cook sees Apple Music as having. The company's human editors create playlists that have "the power to tell a story, capture the mood, or even change it," Apple claims.

Image: Nicholas Deleon

These playlists include entries like "The A-List," which highlights the best new songs across different genres each week, and various "Intro To" playlists that highlight an artist's best-known hits.

Spotify likes to tout its algorithmically generated playlist Discover Weekly, which helps users find new music based on their listening habits, as a key differentiator.

Unlike Spotify, Apple Music does not have an ad-supported free tier, but it does allow non-paying users to listen to Beats 1, an online radio station headed by ex-BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe. Apple also offers a free three-month trial for all new Apple Music listeners.

Cook also said in the interview that the Apple TV, the company's streaming media set-top box that wowed us last month, will become available for pre-order on October 26 and will begin shipping before the end of that week.

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