In the news recently you may have observed that Apple have this week launched their subscription based music streaming service ‘Apple Music’. On the other hand if you own an Apple product and weren’t aware of this already, do not fear. It was only a matter of time, whether you like it or not.
As part of their new iOS 8.4 software update, Apple have thrust upon us their new service, forcing the new ‘Apple Music’ app onto every iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad around the globe. That is of course, if you have enough space to install it.
On the face of it, the new service which includes Apples’ own live radio station ‘Beats 1’ (that marmite ex-BBC Radio presenter Zane Lowe has moved over to present) looks slick and a mainstay for eager Apple consumers to use to listen to music.
It does however pose questions of ethics in what could be seen as an Apple strangle-hold on the market, given its apparent dominance in the controlling the devices we consumers own and the choice of music playing services we use.
In December 2014, Apple won an anti-competition court case where it was argued that they used iTunes software to force buyers to use iPods instead of rival devices, potentially forcing out the competition. This despite the prosecution apparently detailing evidence that Steve Job’s was keen to snuff out Musicmatch’s new music store offering at the time, when he stated in an email evidenced at the hearing “We need to make sure that when Music Match launches their download music store they cannot use iPod”.
Musicmatch at the time were a 2004 Yahoo! acquisition, providing an audio store and radio service. They subsequently went out of business in 2008. In the law suit, jurors sided with Apple who argued that the upgrade to its iTunes 7.0 software “substantially improved the user experience, and thus was not subject to anti-competitive violations”.
So who’s next? Spotify?
As a keen Spotify user the thought of their demise pains me. Aside from the personal reasons (I have a system in place to listen to my music and have painstakingly built playlists to suit every mood), is it fair competition that Apple can pre-load their app onto our devices without the need for costly marketing spend?
A net loss of £117m posted last year by Spotify didn’t appear to bode well, but £334m of new funding announced in June seems to settle any jitters and suggests that they will fight Apple all the way.
So should we boycott or embrace Apple? Are we already too hooked into their products for it to be an option to do anything other than ‘shrug our shoulders’ and carry on in acceptance?
Ultimately we all want to be able to listen to the music we want on-the-go, in the easiest possible way and on whatever platform suits us. But is the choice being stolen from us or is it simply the case that Apple has been so successful over the years that they are ‘ingrained’ into how we consume music?
As I write, I am plugged-in listening to Zero 7, one of the older albums in my collection which I burned from CD onto iTunes…
Perhaps this answers the question for me.