As the old saying goes, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Right now, the maxim certainly seems fitting for Apple Music.
After launching to much fanfare last June, Apple Music appears to have largely failed in its initial attempts to catch on-demand streaming music leader Spotify. With the Swedish streaming giant likely headed toward an IPO, Apple reportedly has its own plans to refresh its Apple Music later this year.
Apple Music 2.0
According to recent reports, Apple has been quietly developing a major overhaul to its Apple Music service. The new iteration of Apple Music will be unveiled at its World Wide Developers Conference in June, exactly one year after its launch.
Numerous initial reviews cited the lack of cohesiveness between disparate pieces of Apple's iTunes service as a key issue that hindered its adoption, which jives with my own anecdotal experience with Apple Music. The forthcoming Apple Music revamp reportedly plans to address this issue by both simplifying its user interface and improving integration between the streaming, digital download, and radio portions of iTunes. The company also believes it has the team in place to fully realize Apple Music's potential
Reporting from Bloomberg cited tensions between various Apple and Beats employees as a significant reason behind the original Apple Music's shortcomings. Some Beats employees apparently chafed at what they viewed as Apple's overly bureaucratic decision-making process. Some were also assigned to work on other Apple services, such as iBooks and the App Store, to their chagrin.
The cultural tension in integrating the two teams doesn't appear to have been overly rancorous, but the Bloomberg article cites no fewer than 5 senior level employees who left Apple after the acquisition. With Apple having taken concrete steps to address some concerns, the new team is reportedly working in greater harmony, which Apple claims has produced an updated product that will be appreciably better than the first-gen Apple Music.
Better hope so
Apple needs its looming Apple Music launch to prove successful since the competition in the streaming media market will likely accelerate in the coming year.
Here, streaming juggernaut Spotify appears intent on pressing any advantage it possesses to consolidate or even possibly expand its subscriber lead over Apple Music. Third-party reports claim Spotify is quickly approaching 100 million free users and 30 million paying users, which substantially exceeds the 11 million paying users Apple Music is believed to have. After loading up on $1 billion in new financing earlier this year, Spotify is working tirelessly to expand the depth and breadth of its content offerings, including its own upcoming foray into original video content.
Online radio rival Pandora (NYSE:P) also remains a potential threat to Apple Music's efforts to control the future of digital music. After purchasing the on-demand streaming assets from the now-defunct Rdio last year, it's widely believed Pandora also plans to launch its own on-demand streaming service in the not-too-distant future. Pandora also recently retooled its management team, reinstalling founder Tim Westergren as CEO in a move it hopes can help the company regain its once-innovative product lead.
Like Apple, Pandora badly missed the rise of on-demand streaming, but the company remains a credible threat, in no small part due to the nearly 80 million active users who frequent its online radio service. Apple also enjoys a sizable user base of iTunes users -- over 800 million as of 2014 -- to whom it can market its upcoming Apple Music update. So while Apple enjoys an undeniable opportunity given its massive size and scale, only a winning product will allow the company to truly make good on Apple Music's big picture promise.