For the benefit of those who aren’t familiar with Apple Music, I’d like to begin by saying that it’s a music streaming service like Gaana and Saavn. And to those who already know this, let me clarify that this is only partially correct. Calling Apple Music just a music streamer is like thinking of Dhoni as just the wicketkeeper of Indian Cricket Team. Yes, that’s what his designated title reads, but there are many other facets that make up the unique personality. Same goes for Apple Music.
Music Streaming in Simple Words
Instead of buying music (or downloading it from your ‘sources’), you can simply go to a music streaming app or website, choose from their collection of millions of songs, and directly play it on your phone or computer. It works over the internet (wifi or cellular data).
The service works on a subscription model; however, many companies offer a free option along with monthly plans. Subscription charges range from Rs. 60 to Rs. 250 per month, with Rs. 120 being the most common rate. The benefits of paid plans include ad free streaming, saving music offline, higher audio quality etc.
Service Providers in India
Internationally, music streaming has been a very popular concept for almost a decade, with Spotify and Pandora at the forefront of this musical revolution. India’s love for streaming songs has rapidly grown in last couple of years, thanks mainly to the impossible-to-miss marketing campaigns by top brands.
Contrary to what you may think, the number of service providers in India is surprisingly high. There are at least 7 to 8 prominent names, with new players mushrooming every month. Gaana and Saavn are the obvious leaders, with 15 and 14 millions users respectively. Other well-known companies include Rdio, Wynk Music, Hungama etc. If you wish to do an in-depth study of the options available, I recommend this article: NTDV Gadget’s comparison of music streaming companies in India.
Enter Apple Music
On 30 June this year, Apple entered the music streaming race with Apple Music. It was simultaneously launched in 100 countries, including India.
With almost 75 million users in this country, Apple decided to make a strong push by pricing its streaming service at Rs. 120 (2 USD) per month for individual users and Rs. 190 (3 USD) per month for families with up to 6 users. That is a very aggressive marketing strategy, indeed. To put things in perspective, in the US, Apple Music charges $9.99 (Rs. 650) and $14.99 (Rs. 975) for individual and family memberships respectively.
One-stop Music Destination
Apple Music is your music ensemble in a single pre-installed app. Apart from the fundamental ability to stream Apple’s music catalogue, you can also use the new Music app to listen to live radio (a.k.a. iTunes radio) and upload and stream your personal iTunes library in iCloud (a.k.a. iTunes Match). It’s a comprehensive system … as long as you understand how it works.
Beats 1 Radio
A highly popularised feature of Apple Music is the free international radio station Beats 1. It’s round-the-clock radio in the truest sense of the phrase, with live shows from popular DJs in Los Angeles, New York, and London. Apple users don’t need monthly subscription to listen to Beats 1, although free users don’t get features likes offline listening, unlimited skips etc.
Most music streaming services offer recommendations based on your preferences and listening habit. But Apple has 2 key advantages in this regard. Firstly, the recommendation are not just based on the music you stream, it also takes in account your pre existing iTunes music library. Secondly, Apple Music is among the very few services that use human curation of playlists instead of computer algorithms, which makes it more accurate.
Connect is the in-built social network for artists to interact with their fans. You can get exclusive behind-the-scenes clips, pre-release samples, personal photos etc. The success of Connect depends largely on artists’ interest, but it has the potential to be loved by loyal fans.
Apple is making full use of the OS level integration of its streaming service by enabling Siri’s assistance in music streaming. All you need to do is ask Siri to play the latest bollywood tracks and your wish will be granted.
Is Apple Music for me?
I don’t have a definite answer for you, partly because everybody’s preferences and requirements are different, and also because Apple Music is too new to gauge the effectiveness of its flagship features. So instead, I have listed below couple of key pointers in favour of and against Apple Music.
Go for Apple Music if you …
Prefer english music – Saavn, Gaana, and other Indian brands offer english music. Also, Apple Music offers Hindi songs. But the strength of each is an open secret. If you predominantly listen to english music, then Apple offers you a better catalogue with more than 30 million songs.
Are deep into Apple ecosystem – If have already invested long hours in organising your iTunes library and are comfortable with iTunes Match, Apple Music will work as a natural progression for you. It will still take some getting used to, but you will get there fast enough.
Want free streaming – Apple’s lack of free subscription will dissuade many users, especially in a market like India that hasn’t yet matured to the music streaming model. You can sign up for a free 3 month trial, but after that there’ll be paid plans only.
Are an Android user – Although Apple surprised everyone by announcing Apple Music on Android, it also added the ‘no free lunches’ caveat. So the flagship features like Beats 1 Radio and Connect will be available for Android users only with paid subscriptions.
The love for Apple Music or the lack of it, will eventually come down to your music habits. If you prefer to consolidate all your music sources under one roof, and are willing to go through the fairly long learning curve, then Apple Music will be your favorite. On the flipside, if are a casual listener who has doesn’t care about fancy features, and has one simple requirement – bas bajna chahiye gaana – then you know where to go.
In 2003, Apple had revolutionised the music industry with the launch of iTunes Store. Will it repeat history with Apple Music? Most likely not. Apple Music is more of a different tune than a new genre. Yes, it has some unique and cool features, but they are mainly thanks to Apple’s ownership of the platform, rather than the service itself.
iTunes currently has around 4 million subscribers in India. The chances of Apple Music challenging likes of Saavn (which is expected to touch 20 million users by year end) and Gaana are more optimistic than realistic. But yes, I do see Apple Music turning into an exclusive club catering to a niche audience … just like most Apple products in India!