We need to talk about Apple Music

An interesting fact; I used to know only one person who didn’t use Apple products. From the off they were skeptical of the beautiful designs and usability of all those computers, phones and software. How we laughed at them; a sole luddite in a sea of counter-cultural artists. Their little islands of Windows and Android slowly eroding with each successive wave of iProducts. They were the past and we were the future. I bought into this image, persuading myself that as a composer (and by extension, an artist) I could only (and should only) work on a pristine, white iMac. That little computer lasted me a surprisingly impressive 5 years. 5 years in which the iTunes store slowly eroded my valuation of music. 79p for a single? Wowsers! I still remember a time when £3.99 was the norm. Later still when the time came to take my music making a bit more seriously it happened again. I could only work on Mac. I do only work on Mac. I forked over the thousands for my aluminium life and it has honestly served me well. I’m using it this second. But I think my view of this once infallible company is changing. It is no longer an outsider trying to fit in, it is the bully at the centre.

Yes, yes; I’m fast becoming a Spotify evangelist. It must be annoying to read week-in, week-out and I apologise. The problem is that to me, Spotify is one of the few ‘good’ companies out there (or as ‘good’ as good can be). Controversial statement I know. Comments below. Yet think about it; they had a fairly original idea and went with it. This idea was never that music should be free, more that it should be easier to listen and discover music than ever before. A boon for the fans in its ease of use. A boon for the artists in the opening of new markets. Since the inception and meteoric rise of Spotify, it’s been interesting watching the movements and machinations of all the traditional players in music. At first the labels were skeptical, then embraced fondly, and now snipe from the sides. Major artists equally greeted Spotify gingerly as a passable alternative to illegal downloads (which had plagued the industry for years) before complaining rather publicly about how much the service should pay them. Though through it all Apple remained rather silent; pretty odd considering Spotify had eroded iTunes’ image as the go to place for music in this modern age. It’s now utterly apparent that this is because they were working on a rival.

           Probably involving U2. Everything Apple involves U2.

Like many of my generation, doped up on education and empathy; I have a sneaking distrust of large multinationals. It’s anti-creative as more often than not local solutions are exchanged for external pressures running us down to the lowest common denominator. Faceless suits in boardrooms dictating the wages of cleaners in a differing continent. Too much power centred on one set of ideas. They restrict our ability to breathe and to think. It just seems a little off. These were the companies Apple purported to rail against in it’s famous 1984 advert; announcing itself clearly as the light of originality against the dark forces controlling IT. The hammer literally pummeling the grey into a rainbow. Apple Music doesn’t subscribe to this philosophy. Far from being new and fresh and colourful and bright, it is merely a flex of muscle with one purpose in mind; to kill Spotify. Well, maybe not kill, but at the very least to wound the independent service beyond the point of relevance. Yet Apple Music adds nothing except a radio station run by Zane Lowe (a long, long way from his pirate radio safety net). Of course, this feature will likely be championed by the hardcore Apple fan, but think about it; why do you need Zane Lowe when you can listen to BBC Radio 6? So why did Apple need to make this move? I suppose money wakes the monster in all of us.

Apple is not what it was. Apple is bloated, de-focused and mean. I find it depressingly funny that Taylor Swift, who so famously left Spotify over her ‘lack’ of royalties, will be appearing on Apple Music. Apple treats artists (or at least us aspiring artists) badly. We have no say over how much our music is worth (my £4 EP is £2.49 on iTunes for all you bargain hunters). iTunes then takes c.30% of all revenue (at it’s worse, though you can pay extra to reduce this percentage). Then as a final annoyance they only release earned funds quarterly (while Spotify is monthly) with no intermediate sales reports. To you these may be minor niggles, but it all adds up; an endless ladder of hoops with those above relentlessly oiling the steps. Telling us it’s better this way. Telling us who we are, what we like and how we should consume it. It’s all lies. The strength of music is that time and time again it will reinvent itself. From performance to recording to stream. The trick is to stay ahead of the curve or make way for the next generation. Apple is confusing itself on this matter.

Now, my friend Stu is likely to disagree with everything I’ve just said, such is our relationship. So to pre-empt him here’s his album on Spotify to prep you for the release of his next; likely available on all formats. Jokes aside it really is pretty damn good so if you can, buy it. A slab of post-techno beats and progressive noise.

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