Last Tuesday, Apple launched its new music streaming service, Apple Music. The service aims to compete with the likes of Pandora, Spotify, and IHeartRadio.
Interestingly, Apple is pulling a page from terrestrial radio’s playbook by including a “radio station” they’re calling Beats 1, hosted and curated by humans. At launch time, it was New Zealand DJ Zane Lowe, featuring cutting edge music from around the globe.
At a glance, here’s what broadcasters should know about Beats 1:
- To listen to it, you will need an Apple device. (However, there is a hack for non-Apple users.) Before you can download Apple Music, you will need to upgrade to the latest operating system (10.10.4 on a desktop, iOS 8.4 on iPads and iPhones).
- The on-air lineup includes Lowe from the BBC’s Radio, New York City’s Ebro Darden from Hot 97, and London’s Julie Adenuga from Rinse FM. Here’s more on them.
- The first hour of music included Spring King, Beck, Jamie xx, and Skepta. Apple has released Zane’s first set as an iTunes playlist.
- Apple will sell live reads by the DJs instead of running commercials on Beats 1.
- Apple is censoring the music to keep it family-friendly.
Here’s where the launch of Beats 1 succeeded:
- Press Coverage: Everybody in the media was talking about Beats 1, from Rolling Stone to The Guardian.
- Exclusive Content: Beats 1 premiered “Freedom,” a new song from Pharrell Williams that could only be heard on Apple Music at the moment. Zane milked it for all it was worth, playing it twice back-to-back in his first hour.
- Big Names: In addition to having stars like Dr. Dre, Trent Reznor, and Jimmy Iovine behind the scenes, and established on-air talent behind the mic, Beats 1 touted interviews with big artists like Eminem and Ed Sheeran.
- Audience Interaction: Surprisingly, the on-air personalities name checked individual listeners around the globe on their show. Apple has set up toll-free numbers so listeners can call in.
- Imaging: The on-air hosts hammered home one very clear differentiator: Beats has a worldwide reach. The jocks repeatedly pointing out that they could be heard in over 100 countries around the globe.
- Passion: The jocks sound engaged, excited, and well prepared. If that enthusiasm spreads to the listeners, it will build an emotional connection that its pure-play competitors can’t offer.
Here’s where Beats 1 radio fell short:
- Usability: The Apple website offered no instructions for downloading and accessing Apple Music. To get it, you needed to download an operating system update for your Apple device that was only available one hour before the launch. This likely deterred all but the most driven of fans (and professionals).
- The Launch: As noted above, there was no countdown clock on build-up to Beats 1 signing on. Any broadcast radio PD could have pulled off a more exciting launch.
- Communication: Although Apple received a ton of press coverage, they did not promote the Apple Music release to users via email or push notifications. This was a missed opportunity to connect with millions.
- Technical Stability: Beats 1 had some technical issues. It was down for about 30 minutes on launch day.
- Metrics: Apple has never been forthcoming with analytics data, and we know next to nothing about the audience.
- Imaging: Some of Beats’ on-air claims were overblown. Clever phrases like “It’s not radio re-imagined, it’s radio like you’ve never imagined” overstated the amount on innovation. It may be eclectic radio, but it’s still radio. Beats 1 didn’t alter the underlying machinations. In fact, if anything the human-curated model is older and less innovative than the algorithm-driven technologies that have emerged in recent years.
Here are some of the early reviews and press coverage:
- The Guardian
- MTV News
- New York Times
- Rolling Stone
- Trusted Reviews
- USA Today
- The Verge
Have you checked out Beats 1 radio yet? What did you think?
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