I’ll say this for Apple Music: I think it will do a lot better than Tidal. OK, so beyond the obvious, I think Apple Music will actually do pretty well. After all, it’s going to come preloaded onto the most popular individual smartphone in the world and it’s going to be marketed to a customer base that is fanatically loyal to its favorite brand, including some who have proclaimed they’ll buy “ANYTHING” Apple makes. The bottom line is it’s going to be successful.
But will it really be a Spotify “killer?” I have my doubts.
The biggest red flag for me has been how Apple keeps insisting that, unlike rival music streaming services, Apple Music adds a “human touch” to its music recommendations. The company’s bigwigs talked about this a lot during their keynote address and in a followup interview with The Guardian, they hammer these points once again.
“Algorithms are really great, of course, but they need a bit of a human touch in them, helping form the right sequence,” Apple’s Jimmy Iovine told The Guardian. “Some algorithms wouldn’t know that ‘Rock Steady’ could follow ‘Start Me Up,’ you know. That’s hard to do.”
“Understanding that I have a lot of Latin music in my library doesn’t give me a great Cuban playlist,” added Eddy Cue.
To me this sounds like Apple is trying to solve something that isn’t really a problem. One reason that Spotify and Pandora are as popular as they are is because they already make terrific music recommendations using, yes, algorithms to predict what music a user will like.
The algorithms that generated playlists for Apple’s iTunes Radio, meanwhile, just weren’t very good in comparison — recall The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple and his epic adventures trying to use a ’70s music playlist on iTunes Radio that delivered nothing but R&B songs that were released over the last decade.
So to me it seems Apple realizes that its technology just isn’t as good as Spotify’s and Pandora’s at making recommendations, which is why it’s harping about needing a “human touch” as compensation.
That’s not to say Apple Music will be a bad service or not worth paying $9.99 a month for. After all, the iTunes Store has the single biggest catalog of digital music available and I think Apple’s streaming service will be very tempting to many music lovers. But when it comes to giving people the same quality of experience they now enjoy on the world’s two most popular music streaming apps, I have my doubts.