A revo­lu­tion in mu­sic? Well ...

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Au­gust Brown au­gust. brown@ latimes. com

Five things to keep an eye on as Ap­ple Mu­sic makes its de­but.

Daniel Ek of Spo­tify, the Beg­gars Group la­bel con­sor­tium and the almighty Tay­lor Swift ( among many oth­ers) are among the many who have all in­veighed, quipped or protested against Ap­ple Mu­sic, which stands to pro­foundly re­shape the mu­sic in­dus­try with its launch Tues­day morn­ing. Of­fer­ing a cen­tral­ized lo­ca­tion for stream­ing mu­sic, in­te­gra­tion with Ap­ple’s uni­verse of hard­ware prod­ucts and at least a nom­i­nal nod to real live hu­mans over­see­ing its ecosys­tem, there’s a lot of po­ten­tial here. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of rea­sons to be skep­ti­cal. Here are five things for Ap­ple to keep an eye on as it rolls out. Will any­one care about the ra­dio sta­tions?

Beats One, the f lag­ship broad­cast­ing arm of Ap­ple Mu­sic, is the most overtly hu­man part of its ser­vice. Zane Lowe was hired from BBC Ra­dio 1 to join DJs and pre­sen­ters Ebro Darden and Julie Ade­nuga as the faces of the ser­vice, and a range of artists — Drake, Phar­rell, St. Vin­cent, El­ton John and the young Jaden Smith — will have reg­u­lar pro­gram­ming blocks.

But is the hunger for cu­ra­tion re­ally there? Mu­sic has be­come so ubiq­ui­tous yet so ephemeral in our lives that the idea of a ra­dio sta­tion’s stric­ture seems out­dated. We’ll be tun­ing in to El­ton’s quirky “Rocket Hour,” but frankly we’ll be a bit sur­prised if many of these sta­tions have long- term ap­peal. Will fans leave Spo­tify?

Ap­ple is late to the stream­ing mar­ket, but the com­pany sold more than 60 mil­lion iPhones in the first quar­ter of 2015, and ev­ery one of them will have surely ac­cess to Ap­ple Mu­sic go­ing for­ward. But in­er­tia is a pow­er­ful thing, and at this point there’s no rea­son for any fan to keep mul­ti­ple stream­ing ser­vices ( ex­cept maybe SoundCloud for its vast archive of un­der­ground ma­te­rial). For most fans, Spo­tify al­ready pro­vides am­ple ac­cess to mu­sic and ben­e­fits from years of built- up playlists. Ap­ple can make peo­ple spend $ 700 on a phone with­out blink­ing, but can it get a crit­i­cal mass to pay another $ 10 a month? Will artists re­volt?

With just one re­cent op- ed, Tay­lor Swift re­set the whole ar­gu­ment about Ap­ple’s planned free three- month sub­scrip­tion ( or, as artists see it, a quar­ter of a year with­out roy­alty pay­ments). Ap­ple back­tracked from that in the end, but it might be just as im­por­tant to see if smaller la­bels and acts still feel this is a worth­while de­vel­op­ment for them. Ap­ple has qui­etly been a cham­pion of in­die- minded acts in the past, and the artist- cen­tric so­cial- media com­po­nent is in­trigu­ing ( even if it’s hard to see fans clam­or­ing for yet another so­cial net­work). Ap­ple Mu­sic is bank­ing on Trent Reznor and Jimmy Iovine’s mu­sic- first rep­u­ta­tion, and if for­ward- think­ing artists grum­ble about Ap­ple’s busi­ness prac­tices or the qual­ity of the ex­pe­ri­ence, that could lose its luster quickly. Will the in­ter­face be ap­peal­ing?

For all its dom­i­nance in the Ap­ple uni­verse, there might not be a more loathed piece of mu­sic soft­ware than iTunes. It’s a mess for keep­ing track of any vast li­brary, and mu­sic fans re­serve a spe­cial place in hell for its fre­quent up­dates and botched syncs across de­vices. Ap­ple Mu­sic will have to cre­ate an in­tu­itive uni­verse for stream­ing, be­cause if steer­ing fans ( es­pe­cially older ones) away from down­loads and file own­er­ship and into its stream­ing model is the real goal, it’ll have to make the tran­si­tion so nat­u­ral that fans can’t imag­ine a world with­out it. Right now, iTunes is the drunk un­cle spoil­ing the el­e­gant party of Ap­ple’s hard­ware, and Ap­ple Mu­sic — al­ready cum­ber­some with so many el­e­ments — gets just one shot to get this right. Why mu­sic, any­way?

Ap­ple is one of the most lu­cra­tive cor­po­rate en­ti­ties ever de­vised by hu­man minds. Why does it seem to care so much about stay­ing ahead in this sphere, when stream­ing dig­i­tal mu­sic is al­ready free and easily ac­ces­si­ble? It’s a glam­orous ad­di­tion to its hard­ware, but this is as much about Ap­ple’s rep­u­ta­tion for prod­ucts that are cov­etable fetish ob­jects. Mu­sic, for all its fis­cal de­val­u­a­tion over the 2000s, still cre­ates in­tense emo­tional at­tach­ments, and Ap­ple has been pro­foundly as­so­ci­ated with ma­jor ad­vance­ments in how we hear it. For Ap­ple Mu­sic to work, it can’t just be an ef­fi­cient means of play­ing Drake sin­gles at par­ties. It has to be loved.

Justin Sul­li­van Getty I mages

AP­PLE Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Tim Cook in­ter­acts with high- school­ers at an Ap­ple de­vel­op­ers’ event in June.

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