Apple Music: A collection of big hits plus a couple of small fails

23 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Al Franken asks for Apple Music investigation that’s already happening.

On one-hand, it’s a 30-million strong catalogue of music with all the bells and whistles that you would expect from an Apple product, and you can use it on anything (iPad, iPhone, MacBook or PC) that can run iTunes. (score!) On the other hand, getting used to Music’s interface is not a job for the impatient. Apple’s licensing terms for competing music streaming services may be raising prices for consumers, a potential unfair competition issue that should be investigated, a U.S. senator alleged Wednesday.

The federal Trade Commission is investigating Apple’s newly-launched music subscription service, and Senator Al Franken is asking the Justice Department to further investigate whether the company is engaging in anticompetitive behavior. The FTC investigation has been ongoing, and the agency has sent subpoenas to a number music services to gather evidence, according to a report from the Verge. This assertion is dependent on the 30 percent cut Apple takes out of streaming service subscriptions sold through the App Store, which forces competitors like Spotify and Pandora to either charge higher rates or lose an amount in revenue equivalent to that sliced away by the cut.

Al Franken called on federal regulators to look into possible Apple Music antitrust violations in the music streaming market. “Increased competition in the music-streaming market should mean that consumers will ultimately benefit through more choices of better products and at lower prices,” Franken wrote in today’s letter. “I am concerned, however, that Apple’s position as a dominant platform operator may actually undermine many of the potential consumer benefits of its entry into the market. Music was first announced at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference in June — it launched on June 30 — as the long awaited for competitor to services like Spotify or Pandora. After all, Apple launched its revolutionary iTunes software over 10 years ago, offering the world its first online marketplace for music, in effect slapping a expire-by sticker on pirate music sites, such as Napster and Kazoo, which where dominant at the time. As a result, Spotify is charging consumers $13 per month within its iOS app, compared to the $10 per month it costs to sign up for Spotify on the web. Earlier this week, The Verge reported that the FTC was subpoenaing other streaming services in an attempt to determine whether or not Apple’s behavior is anti-competitive.

Officially, the agency told NBC News, “FTC investigations are non-public and we do not comment on an investigation or the existence of an investigation.” He said that the recent launch of Apple Music, a new music steaming service, has brought to light a number of restrictions that competitors face when operating on Apple devices like iPhones or iPads. Franken’s letter may not affect its investigation in any substantive way right now, but Congressional pressure could affect the commission’s decision to take action if they end up deeming Apple’s actions anti-competitive. At the launch, Apple promised Music would not only offer a music streaming service, but include a social media site exclusively for artists to share extra content with their fans, and a global Radio station DJ’d by some of the top talent in the world. Such arrangements could allow Apple greater power “to dominate the subscription music sector with whatever price it chooses,” according to its letter.

As the digital music industry continues to evolve, we must ensure that this relatively new market allows for meaningful competition and that consumers have access to important information about the products and services available to them. Apple charging a much lower 10% fee per month would definitely be more palatable, but perhaps Apple shouldn’t be collecting monthly fees on recurring in-app purchases at all. A one-time 30% fee on the first month for facilitating the sign-up transaction seems perfectly reasonable, and helps consumers not to get slammed with sustained high monthly fees for other services. One of the most innovative companies of our time, Apple is world-renowned for producing high-quality products and offering excellent customer service. No files where deleted, and I can now even save streamed music offline to play later (bonus!) A note to UAE users, Apple isn’t giving out the number of tracks available here in the Gulf region, but the number is comparable to most other non-US markets.

Among other things, these agreements prevent apps from communicating important information to their users, such as why prices for the same product can vary significantly depending on the operating platform or the technology a consumer uses to make the purchase. I suspect they also have been snooping (with my consent, since I’ve generally been loose with my privacy settings where iTunes was concerned) in my music library.

This area also promotes “curated” playlists, samples of which include “Inspired by: The Doors,” “Alternative Gems: 1996” and “X: Deep Cuts.” I’ve seen suggested playlists before, but never ones that were so well tailored. Apple made a big deal over their playlists being curated by real people who know the music, instead of being consisting of song picked by a algorithm that using only focuses on what sold well, when Music was launched. The app is able to suggest a wide variety of music, giving me songs I’d forget about by artists I knew well, as well as some new songs that I never knew existed. The one thing I don’t understand is why Music continues to offer me music from the 1980s, even in the “New.” It seems to convince me I need a playlist called “Spotlight on 1985,” which it placed immediately under its list of “New Artists” singles. Give artists a place to give their fans something extra, whether it’s pictures, alternative tracks or something exclusive, but apparently most artists haven’t gotten the message that connect is for them.

I have hundreds of artists in my library, but for the first few days, the only news post from anyone I follow was a picture that Alanis Morissette posted (yes, just one) of herself on tour and a link to a video posted by Beck. Thinking that maybe I was looking at too narrow a range of artists, I started following entire categories of music, including Apple Music Pop, Apple Music Hip Hop and even Apple Music Blues. That was bad, but also aggravating was that once you have decide to no longer follow an artists, whatever news has already appeared in your news stream won’t go away. These aren’t your traditional radio stations, so don’t expect any commercials or DJ chatter, but the channels you can pick go beyond Rock, Pop or Hip-Hop and include channels suh as Kids & Family and Workout and The Mixtape.

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