3 big bets Apple Music could make at WWDC

All signs point to Apple finally unveiling their new streaming music product at WWDC any minute now. That space and the surrounding music arena itself is already crowded. Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Songkick, Soundtracking, and more all provide services for music fans. Here at SapientNitro we’ve been reading the tea-leaves for awhile now to figure out what’s coming next from Cupertino.

This exercise allowed us to highlight themes we see emerging in streaming music. There’s so much more that Apple can do to take a holistic view of the music experience. The next wave of services will do more for fans and artists. They’ll move beyond simple playlists.

Ros Horner and I explored what could make Apple Music a Spotify killer. After some market analysis, customer surveys, and iterative designs we had a hypothesis. New ways to engage socially, new models for exclusives, and new options for connecting to live gigs and merchandise could all be at the heart of what’s to come.

More like Twitch, less like Ping

Recent rumor suggests Apple is looking to get social again with music. They tried in the past with their lamented Ping service. Rather than make the same mistakes again the team posits a different possible direction. Everyone has that friend with great music taste and an ear for new bands you’ve never heard of. Why can’t we still listen to music together or give each other mix tapes? I want to dip into what they’re listening to now or find that great band they told me they listened to all day yesterday. Music discovery is terrible in most apps. Something like this could help new artists find bigger audiences faster.

Learn from NPR, not the labels

The arms race for exclusives is something well underway. Apple opened up their war chest for U2 last year. Tidal’s main draw is the allure of rare tracks and content from its founders. Neither last for long but create a real risk for fragmentation.

Despite all the change that’s occurred in music, songs themselves remain the same. The 2–3 minute track is every bit the standard now as it was decades prior. As fresh as the surprise album trend might seem it’s still catering to that model.

What if artists emulated Beyonce less and Serial more? Weird Al commanded a lot of attention by serially releasing tracks recently. Imagine if Taylor Swift used the platform to release songs as she completed them. Or what if she tailored (no pun intended) new songs to the realities of streaming? Most services pay out after the first 30 seconds of a track. It’s only a matter of time until business-minded artists start taking advantage of that.

Follow the money

The bulk of money in music right now comes from ticket and merchandise sales. That’s a lot of revenue Apple is leaving on the table. They’ve got the market influence to disrupt that part of the music industry too.

People pay for live. Fans pay a premium for concerts that they won’t for tracks or albums. If Apple were to partner with TicketMaster or venues that could be massive. They could use TouchID and Apple Pay to seal the deal in their app.

In conclusion

Is it likely that we’ll see these functions or something like them at WWDC? Maybe. Reportedly Apple and the labels haven’t come to terms, so they have larger issues to resolve. And even if the app doesn’t manifest at WWDC it could down the road in future releases. Or perhaps other services could beat Apple to the punch. After we started this exploration Tidal announced integration with TicketMaster. It’s clear that some of these ideas will impact the market soon enough.

What we wanted to do was highlight changing customer needs and identify unmet ones. We wanted to provoke a practical conversation about what’s immediately next. These behaviors are definitely coming. Only time will tell what they look and feel like in reality or who brings them to market first.

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