I've realised that I don't actually own an awful lot. Except for the thousand-odd CD collection, which I'm under increasing daily pressure from my wife to sell/give away/set fire to.
My CD collection says a lot about me, it's a physical, in-the-world account of my changing musical tastes, and an easy way of bringing back long lost memories of times and places linked to music. It's my version of drawing height lines on a wall. Something to look back on and think "haven't I grown".
Yet music-streaming services such as Spotify have, for several years now, put this ownership model under pressure. And now Apple has launched its own streaming service as part of the new Apple Music package.
From the perspective of a guy who loves music, and is currently wrestling with letting go of those thousands of CDs in return for unlimited "access" to music, here’s what’s important about the launch of Apple Music:
1. Apple launching a music streaming service was always going to happen, it’s surprising that it’s taken this long. Apparently Steve Jobs was always dismissive of the streaming model for music – the great man proved wrong? Time will tell…
2. As with the iPod, Apple have looked to learn from all the issues that other companies have already faced. In this case, from the likes of Spotify, Tidal and their rivals. It looks like Apple has done this and built on what is already available. Apple Music’s streaming service is not revolutionary, but it does look good. And it’s immediately part of the ecosystem.
3. The big thing is the scale. More than 800 million people are subscribed to Apple to some degree, while there are just 15 million paid subscribers to Spotify, so Apple’s launch is a real opportunity for streaming music to become THE way that music is consumed for the majority. Spotify must be concerned but, in my own view, it would take a seismic shift in the levels of content for me to switch, certainly short-term. Apple Music doesn’t seem to offer an awful lot that's new, just the cache and perceived convenience of being under the Apple brand.
4. There is, as always on these occasions, lots of talk of the launch being great for music, and great for consumers of music. This is where I have a slight worry. For me, the nostalgia of getting a recommendation or reading a review, buying the physical copy, and listening to it repeatedly comes back to me. Does having access to everything mean that we care less for depth and more for breadth? I find myself relistening to albums less and less, I spend less time listening to lyrics, I dip in and out far more than ever – giving me wide knowledge of what's out there, but less of it sticks with me.
5. Apple Music won’t offer a basic free level of music streaming for listeners funded by advertising. It will be interesting to see if this disrupts the progress Spotify has made in building ad revenue (up 53 per cent in first quarter according to its Spotify For Brands division) mainly due to a massive increase in mobile ad revenue. Apple’s "ad-free" music experience could put streaming services’ ad models under pressure and accelerate the movement towards subscriptions as a revenue model.