On Monday, Apple announced its new music streaming service, Apple Music, available on iOS starting June 30. (Android users can jump on board this fall.) The service seems similar to Beats Music, a company Apple bought last year, although Apple has put their own twist on things.
So what are the most important takeaways from the Apple Music announcement?
Free Trial and Family Plan
Meant to compete with services like Spotify, Apple Music service launches with three-month free trials on June 30. After that, it will cost $9.99 a month for an individual or $14.99 a month for a six-person "family plan."
The individual cost is fairly standard for this type of service; it's the same monthly fee Spotify, Rdio, Tidal, and Beats Music charge for standard premium service. But, if you have many people in your house who'll use it, Apple Music (for as little as $2.50 per person) starts to stand out.
While Spotify and Rdio also offer discounted group rates, they charge $14.99 for two people or $29.99 for five, which is significantly less affordable. While Spotify has said they "expect to offer competitive pricing everywhere in the near future" it remains to be seen if the company will be able to follow through.
Keynote speakers described it as a "music ecosystem" that would include music purchases, music streaming, social network features, and a live radio station called Beats1. Beats1 will be run 24/7 by three DJs: Zane Lowe, formerly of BBC Radio One; Ebro Darden; and Julie Adenuga. It's implied that more stations may follow.
In addition, Apple Music will offer expert-curated playlists, which speakers were careful to contrast with the algorithm-based playlists offered by services like Pandora. You can pick playlists based on music genre or by the activity they're meant to accompany, like some fast-paced exercise music or mellow relaxation tunes.
"Connect," Social Media, and Exclusive Content
One interesting inclusion is the feature they're calling "Connect." Connect will allow artists to upload their own music, photos, and messages to share with fans. In many ways, it's a social networking feature, similar to following an artist's blog, but Apple suggested they hope it assists savvy unsigned artists in helping fans discover their work.
Of course, how useful it will be to those artists depends heavily on how many users Apple is able to draw in, and how successful it is at getting users to the social networking side of the app. With Apple's extensive current userbase for iOS and iTunes and their offer of a lengthy free trial, it seems likely that they'll be able to pull in a large userbase.
Some big music names will be acting as guest DJs for Apple - will.I.am, Dr. Dre, Pharrell, and Drake - are likely to provide exclusive content through Connect as well. If Apple Music can tempt many such artists into using the social side of their platform, it becomes more attractive for users.
Are you looking forward to trying out Apple Music? If so, what's the big draw? Price, human-curated stations, Connect, or something else? Let us know in the comments.