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May 22 2015

Five ways Apple Music could beat Spotify (and everyone else too)

 

Bruce Sterling once said "those that live by disruption, die by disruption". No one is immune. Apple has laid waste to many industries, especially the music business. In turn it has seen its downloads empire eroded by challenger Spotify.

 

As a brand that continually reinvents itself, we know Apple's retaliation strike is coming soon, maybe even at WWDC. Here's how it could make Apple Music a winner in the war.

 

1. Make it integrated

Apple’s success is due to functional integration. It makes systems, not just services. Being native in iOS and OSX means a potential audience of epic proportions.

 

Seamlessly working with iTunes, Radio, and PodCasts would increase convenience for many. Evolving Garageband to give musicians a way to produce and distribute in one platform could be another. Factor in CarPlay, Apple TV and HomeKit and you’ve got a classic walled-garden play.

 

2. Make it matter

We know Apple is going to charge a subscription fee. That’s going to erode the audience size. But what if it used a part of its war-chest to subsidise the service for, say, three months? Just long enough for us to habituate on it, unlike Beats' laughable two-week trial. Or what if it offered better family plans than Spotify?

 

Apple’s notorious 30 per cent cut has earned it few musical allies. Musicians hate Spotify’s pari-mutuel model too. What if Apple paid-per-play instead? And reported it to musicians in a way that was transparent, easy-to-understand and fair?

 

3. Make it better

Sound quality is a debated concept but what if Apple had a better standard? 320k + surround sound could move more hardware product and differentiate it from Spotify. We've been listening to stereo for too long. Can Cupertino create what's next?

 

Think of the potential to use Siri as a Shazam-style search. Sing lyrics or hum a melody to find the song you want. All within the core Apple Music app. Siri could automatically create playlists on the fly based on your context, mood, etc. That could be a powerful way to challenge Spotify's just announced "Now" functionality.

 

New Apple hire Zane Lowe is going to be every bit as critical to this effort as Jimmy Iovine, Dre or Reznor. Beats' best features — Just For You, Expert Essentials and curated playlists — are all going to get a lot better. Lowe’s cache means the indie crowd found on Bandcamp and SoundCloud could follow.

 

4. Make it social

Social integration on Spotify (and all the other services) is terrible. They all suffer from YASN (yet another social network) syndrome. You have to rebuild too much from scratch.

 

Apple has access to your contacts, Facebook and Twitter thanks to native sharing on iOS. Imagine a 'Twitch'-like ability to just drop in and listen along with your friend. The one that has the hippest taste in music? Think of it as 'This is My Jam' in real-time, all the time. A streaming mixtape made for you from the people that know you best.

 

You could do the same with musicians and experts – with the added bonus of seeing exclusive, early release or behind-the-scenes content. Artists could eschew the 'secret album' trend and just release tracks when they're ready. We might finally see 'the Serial effect' for music.

 

5. Make it live

Regardless of all the above, it’s still not enough to make money. The real money in music is in live.

 

Apple could alert fans to concerts based on their playlists, favourites or owned music. They could let you know friends wanted to go too. Top that off with an ability to buy via Apple Pay and we’re off to the races with a 30 per cent cut of ticket sales. Toss in merchandise and you’ve got untapped revenue streams Spotify would love.

 

In conclusion

Apple doesn’t have the potential to disrupt just Spotify but every related service. Shazam, Ponyo, Soundtracking, This is My Jam, Songkick, Tidal, SoundCloud, Bandcamp et al could all suffer if it manages to close the gap between customers’ expectations and the services and experience they receive. Every last one of those apps is at risk of deletion from your home screen.

 

Daniel Harvey is experience design director at SapientNitro

 

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