Apple Music Doesn't Look Like the Spotify Killer it Wants to Be

The new streaming service has some extra bells and whistles, but no exclusive music.

Jun 8 2015, 8:09pm

Screengrab: Apple

Apple has finally announced its streaming music service, which will go toe-to-toe with Spotify and Rdio. Should you switch?

As with all things Apple, there were lots of rumors flying around in the weeks before the announcement—Could Apple pressure music companies to pressure Spotify to kill its free streaming service? Would it be called Beats? Would it be able to get exclusive content and new albums on Apple only? Would Kanye release his new album exclusively on Apple? Would Drake? Dre, where's Detox?

Apple Music appears to be a very competent music streaming service. It does not look to be a disaster like Tidal, and it seems to play songs, which is nice. But there's nothing here that would make me switch from Spotify, and there's nothing here, other than Apple's massive size, that makes me think Spotify should be worried.

Screengrab: Apple

The service costs the same as Spotify, and, as announced, has no exclusive songs. Instead, Apple is hoping that three features will help it differentiate it from Spotify.

The first one is called "Connect," and it lets artists and fans, well, connect. It's unclear what, exactly, it does. It sounds like it's a mashup of Twitter and Spotify's artist bio page, with a side of oldschool MySpace thrown in.

The second one is the new Beats Radio Station, which will air 24/7 around the world through the app and will play "only the world's greatest music."

And, finally, Apple says its curated and personalized playlists will come from "real people," like Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor, not an algorithm alone.

Apple loves to pitch its products as visionary and different, but Apple Music's extra bells and whistles are just that—some nice extra features that, at best, will be ignored by most people and, at worst, will bog down the app.

Spotify is one of my favorite apps because it has a lot of songs and it plays them in an unobtrusive manner. It lets me download them and play them when I am offline, and it lets me switch seamlessly from my computer to my phone. It lets me send songs to friends and make playlists with them. What more do you need a music app to do?

Screengrab: Apple

How trying to "engage" with an artist on Connect going to be any different than Tweeting at them? Why would I want to listen to a one-size-fits-all global radio station? Why do I want to hear what Trent Reznor thinks I should hear, rather than what my best friends think I should hear?

To be clear, none of these are bad features. They just aren't and won't be game changing. They are something you try once or twice, then you go back to listening to that embarrassing album you loved in high school.

In order to kill Spotify (and Apple desperately wants to kill Spotify) the company needed to make it inconvenient or disadvantageous to have Spotify. To do that, Apple needed to score an exclusive contract with a record label or major artist or undercut Spotify on price. Apple Music looks good, and I'm sure lots of people will use it. But I've already got a beautiful, easy-to-use app that has all my music on it. Why leave it?