This year’s Worldwide Developers Conference saw Apple announce the long-anticipated death of iTunes. The company’s once most popular service will now be absorbed into three new entertainment apps: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV.
Although iTunes won’t disappear completely just yet, it will no longer serve as the main hub for streaming and storing content.
The move signifies a long-due overhaul of a service that has, since the launch of Spotify in 2008, slipped from being the number one music streaming service — despite its historical revolution of the digital music industry with its launch in 2001.
Earlier in March at a star-studded event held in California, Apple also unveiled plans to introduce an Apple credit card to its product suite, as well as a new gaming platform, Apple Arcade — both due to launch later this year.
The question, though, is: will Apple’s rebrand and restructure of its media portfolio be enough to compete with rival gamechanger Spotify, or has it come too late in the day to buck the existing streaming trends?
Following the announcement that Spotify had reached 100 million paid subscribers (doubling Apple’s 50 million), the music streaming giant recently acquired two podcasting companies with the aim to develop a better model for podcasts and more targeted metdata capabilities for advertising. It also plans to acquire more with a spend of up to $500m.
Will Apple’s new podcast offering be enough to compete with Spotify’s strategy and paid subscription domination? Or, will Apple’s plan to transform the home media market while launching Apple Card mean it will succeed in its quest to be the number one consumer entertainment portal?
In 2017 music streaming generated $7.1bn (£5bn) for the industry, which is up 39% year on year, and accounts for almost half of all global music revenue. According to Goldman Sachs, by the year 2030, the recorded music streaming market is expected to be worth around $34bn (£29bn).
As we move towards technology that integrates seamlessly alongside us in our working lives and around our homes, the industry responds and continues to advance user experiences, expectations and technological developments. For an industry that 20 years ago was brought to its knees by Napster and the proliferation of digital downloads, this is no small feat — though now it is apparent that this has only been a period of transition and stabilisation.
Pete Downton, deputy CEP of European digital music and radio services platform, 7digital, says we’re approaching an inflection point for music and the pace of change will be much faster than the music and radio industries are currently prepared for. “Smart speakers and voice recognition are helping to bring digital music to the mainstream… The next battleground for streaming services will be the car, and voice is sure to play a significant role, to enable seamless, hands-free discovery on the move.”
We should then expect to see Spotify introducing some creative new packages and apps in the not too distant future, in addition to the existing video format already available in the mobile version of the app. Pieter Van Rijn, CEP of Dutch music tech company Fuga says it will be all about metadata and voice recognition. “I would expect to see new metadata requirements around voice-recognition technology.”
And Rami Zeidan, vice president, partnerships, at Anghami, echoes the consensus, saying that “technology will have major influence on the evolution of music streaming, with smarter phones, smarter car dashboards, and the maturing of smart speakers. The accessibility to music on the go, in the car and at home will become even easier, and more engaging.” Scott Cohen, founder and vice president, international, at distribution company The Orchard, believes that “streaming services will add more content… which will create a richer consumer experience.”
With around 700 million iPhone users worldwide, Apple’s announcement shows how our devices are becoming portals for total user experience, via contactless payments, touch screens, voice recognition and beyond – the list goes on.
By turning the idea of a subscription service on its head and going straight to the source, Apple’s credit card is a clear indicator of its intention to ensure that as much of our lives as possible are embedded in its product suite. And with no late, annual or international fees, it will certainly appeal to rising consumer demand for seamless and instant user integration that will define the way we live in the future.