Apple Music’s Beats 1: what you need to know – The Guardian

The days of big surprises from Apple are mostly in the past. As the scale of the company has grown, it has become unable to prevent leaks somewhere along its chain.

That’s doubly true when dealing with the notoriously gossipy music industry, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that nearly everything about Apple Music, the company’s new Spotify competitor, was known long in advance of the service’s announcement.

But there’s one big musical elephant hiding in the corner of the room: Beats 1, Apple’s new youth-oriented radio station, which starts broadcasting at 5pm BST Tuesday. There’s been no public betas for this, and so the first we’ll hear of it is when the mics are turned on – which leaves some questions unanswered.

Apple Beats Music iTunes Connect 1 – what?

Apple music
Strictly speaking, Apple is launching three separate music services on Tuesday, although all come under the rubric of “Apple Music”. Apple Music itself is the company’s £9.99/$9.99/€9.99 streaming music platform, intended to compete with services like Spotify and Deezer by offering an all-you-can-play choice of tracks.

It’s the big-ticket item, and it’s free for the first three months – a fact that nearly got the company in hot water, since it attempted to get out of paying artists royalties for their music over that period. One intervention from Taylor Swift, however, and the firm relented.

iTunes Connect
Secondly, iTunes Connect is (Apple hopes) the streaming music service’s secret weapon. It lets artists set up profile pages where they can share tracks, videos and other content with their fans. Unlike the company’s earlier foray into social networking, fans can’t (yet) use iTunes connect to talk with each other, and so a lot of the success or failure of the service will depend on whether or not artists genuinely aid music discovery, or simply use the service for self-promotion. Following Pharrell Williams to find out his favourite tracks is one thing; following him to see a playlist of his last few singles is rather less exciting.

Beats 1
Thirdly, though, is Beats 1. This marks the company entering new territory: a youth-oriented radio station, broadcasting from California, New York and London, and featuring a host of stars behind the mic, led by former Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe.

The brainchild of Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Raznor, and staffed by a whole host of other employees poached from the BBC’s flagship music radio channel both on- and off-mic, Beats 1 is the only aspect of Apple Music that hasn’t been available to anyone willing to download the beta version of iOS 8.4.

Music, interviews and charts

But the company has given Rolling Stone magazine a sneak peek of the pre-recorded content for the station, which suggests an eclectic mix of programming to fill the 24-hours-a-day of broadcasting. The station will launch with shows such as Zane Lowe’s The World Record, which features one song a day the DJ will focus on, an interview-based show called Gratitude which sees an artist talk about other musicians who influenced them, and a chart show counting down the top songs of the week.

Overnight, content will switch to artist-led shows, hour-long features such as St Vincent’s Mixtape Deliver Service and Dr Dre’s The Pharmacy, where the musician gets control of the decks for a period. Despite the pre-recorded nature of at least some of those, the radio really will be broadcasting as-live, and there will be no catch-up service for people who miss the broadcast.

The big unknowns

But until the full channel starts broadcasting, there remain a host of unanswered questions about Beats 1. Will it remain free and ad free forever, acting as a loss-leader for the company’s music service, or will adverts sneak in to the free version once the three-month trial ends?

How much of the content will be pre-recorded versus live or as-live? How will Apple adapt the style of a geographically-centred radio station such as Radio 1 into a worldwide service? Will there be audience interaction, for which Zane Lowe is known, or will it be a strictly one-way affair?

And, perhaps most interestingly: how exactly will notoriously censorious Apple deal with being in charge of a youth-oriented radio station? What happens the first time an interviewee swears, says something controversial, or – horror of horrors – slates Apple itself? The channel’s due to kick off with Lowe interviewing rapper Eminem, so we could find out the answer to that very soon indeed.

Comments

Write a Reply or Comment:

Your email address will not be published.*