1 Hour w/ Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio
“I decided to listen in for an hour to see what all the hype was about’’. -Faith
When I heard about Apple Music, I didn’t have much interest in it. My first thought was “Awesome, Apple is trying to get in on the streaming game too… I don’t need you. Bye Felicia! I already have Pandora, I live on Sound Cloud, I have a Spotify account (which I barely use since I live on SoundCloud), my RSS feed pumps out tracks from Beat Port, Resident Advisor, This Song Is Sick, Complex, XXL and every other music mag so WHY Apple, are you trying to squeeze your greedy little fingers into the streaming business too” ? Itunes Radio made me cringe and I definitely wasn’t trying to get in line for another serving of that. I was honestly over Itunes in general since I had access to all of these other music apps and sites that focused ALL of their attention on music…not juggling hardware, software, and 20,000 generations of product prototypes as well.
But despite all my skepticism, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to read up on the iOS update. While reading reviews of Apple’s music makeover that released earlier this week, something caught my attention. Beats 1, Apple Music’s radio station. Beats 1? An actual radio station? With Dj’s? In different parts of the world? Okay. You got my attention.
I’m a huge fan of the BBC’s Radio 1Xtra and thought, “Hmm I wonder if Apple’s Radio 1 is trying to tap into that game”. So, I thought why not update my iPhone and check it out.
Still skeptical about the actual streaming service being a copy of the gazillion options I already had, I decided to ignore the streaming trial period and went straight to free town where I was greeted with Beats 1 radio. I hit the play button and held my breath.
While Beats 1 buffered, thoughts of the station being a worldwide platform to broadcast the Top 40 chart on repeat like every other local station aimed at the millennial generation did, ran through my head. “This is gonna be so dumb.” But to my surprise when I tuned in at 7:45PM, my ears were treated to a tune that was familiar to me, but not because I had heard it every 5min on the local radio rotation.
After New York’s Hot 97's Ebro Darden make a shout out to Nigerian Roots, “Shutdown” by Skepta was playing on the station. The only places I’ve seen this U.K rapper’s name pop up was on my SoundCloud feed…never on American radio. So OKAY, Beats 1… you got my attention. The second track to come on was yet another U.K record. “Way Too Much” by fellow U.K artist Fekky, featuring Skepta, was seriously getting me hype. I’m not sure if it was solely the music or the fact that I was so happy that the station was playing music that I wouldn’t find on US terrestrial radio. Either way, by song number two I was hooked.
Wait PAUSE. Ok, song 3 “Lean On”- by DJ Snake. At first I wanted to get annoyed, since this song has been in that vibe draining local radio rotation. But at the same time I had to stop and say no, this is a good song. Just because you’ve heard it 13 gazillion times, it’s ok…breathe… Just vibe.
After this song, a little plug with Ellie Goulding came on air, where she talked about her music. Turns out it was a promo piece for a show she hosted on the station later that night. The best part about this promo was that it was super short. After no more than about 6 seconds, “U Mad” by Vic Mensa was coming through my little iPhone speakers.
What I did notice about the station was that there were very few curse words in the songs. I think I heard the four letter “D” word once or twice (not the body part). I remember reading about some people being ticked off about this, saying that streaming radio doesn’t have to follow the censoring rules of terrestrial radio and that the censoring takes away from the meaning of the song or whatever. But on the real… I applaud Apple for putting a lid on the heavy profanity in the songs because when my 9 year old sister walked in on my little listening session, I didn’t have to jump up and do the Heisman on her to push her back out of the door in efforts to save her young mind from being exposed to “F” this and “N” that.
After the Vic Mensa tune, Ebro came back on air with some guy named Chris that was also in the studio. They took a short break from the tracks to talk about Obama’s Live Q&A that he had on Twitter earlier that day. They kept it music related by addressing his answer to the question “What are you listening to”? According to Ebro, Obama replied that he was listening to “Liberation” by Outkast and “Lonely Boy” by Black Keys. The break maintained my interest (kind of dope to know that the Prez listens to my favorite band) and it was still pretty quick. Maybe like 15- 20 seconds or so. Ebro joked about Obama’s tastes and put an Apple Music plug in asking if Obama had updated his software so he can hear the show. Ebro then put on Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” followed by the Black Key’s record “Lonely Boy”.
Coming up on the 8:00 PM hour, Ebro wrapped up the show by giving Vince Staples a birthday shout out and playing his tune “Dopeman”.
At the 8:00 PM hour a new show came on — Request with Travis Mills. The transition between the shows was very quick and smooth. Travis introduced himself, said he was in LA and then played “The Wolf” by Mumford and Sons. My ears took a bit to adjust from Vince Staples to Mumford and Sons, but it was cool. They still had me.
After the track, Travis came back on air to introduce the show and explained that it wasn’t his show, but that it was everybody’s show. He put a plug in that they were “broadcasting to the world” and called for people in Dominica, El Salvador and Finland to send in their requests to email@example.com. A voice from a listener in Hawaii came on air to request “Coffee” by Miguel. I thought “Hmmm, that’s kind of cool but how does one request a song”? A little Google search brought me HERE. A multitude of ways, ranging from old school dialing in, to imessaging (using the icould.com email address above), to tweeting in requests.
The next request was for “Better Man” by Leon Bridges and then “Watch Me” by Silento.
8:15PM. It’s been 30min and I am still in awe that I haven’t been forced into the local radio rotation. I’ve been introduced to at least 3 tunes I haven’t heard before and I’m vibing…hard.
Now, with all new technology, there are obviously going to be bugs. With the launch happening only 3 days prior to me tuning in, I came across a couple of these critters. Beats 1 is not Snapchat friendly. On my other music apps, I am able to play the music in the background while recording a snap on my phone. The music will continue to play after I post the snap with no issue. When I tried to do this with Beats 1 playing in the background, Apple Music hopped on train heading south to crash town, forcing me to reload the app.
Another issue I came across was a lag on the song info. One of the biggest issues with discovering new music on the radio is that if you don’t have a set list, Shazam, or a really good memory (to remember the lyrics of the song, to later Google and hopefully come up with a result), you have no way of getting the song’s info. You’re left, abandoned with only fragment memories and cold tears. Thankfully, Beats 1 shows the song info on the screen while the song is on air. However bugs got the best of it. After Silento’s record played, every song following it was also “Watch Me” by Silento according to the song info. I tried reloading the player, but Silento still lurked. Thankfully either Travis, or one of the listeners would intro a track before it started so I was able to jot down a couple of tunes while Silento ghosted my screen for the next 20 mins.
The tracks were pretty diverse with requests coming in from Brazil, Tennessee, Florida, and Cali. Lana Del Rey’s “West Coast”, Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer”, Beyonce’s “711” and a couple of other unknown songs (because Silento still lurked) played next.
Travis took a small break to recap some of the shows from earlier that day, and played a clip from Zane Lowe’s interview with Pharrell. After Travis put a plug in to check local listings for the show times, N.E.R.D’s track “She Wants to Move” was on the air.
8:40PM Some kids from Tennessee requested the first song that I’ve heard every 5 min on the local radio. “Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap. I honestly wasn’t even annoyed because it’s been almost a full hour and that was only the 2nd song that came up (remember “Lean On” from earlier), maybe 3rd if you count “711” by Beyoncé… but I would argue, that “711” is not played that frequently.
Although Travis’ segment ran for two hours, I only devoted an hour to listening attentively to grasp a good feel for this piece and the time was coming up on that 8:45PM mark.
Low and behold. 8:44PM Some angel from Miami requested Duke Dumont’s “I Got You”. YAAAS! This was one of my favorite songs. I’d been vibing to it, since seeing Dumont perform it live at the Sunset Music Festival a few weeks back. My arms flew up in the air as I ended my little listening session on a good note.
The whole hour was a great one for my first experience listening in. I didn’t get bored, didn’t feel like changing to another station, and was pretty content with the mix that ran. Oh and No songs.. I REPEAT… no songs were replayed within the hour. *Alerts Media* Now obviously, just an hour doesn’t do the whole operation justice but I am pretty impressed with the structure from what I heard.
It’s definitely putting something new on the table in the streaming world. I wonder if anyone else in Streamland will hop on the live radio bus. Spotted 1 Radio? (Spotify clearly wouldn’t be placing me as the head of their radio naming division)
I have yet to start the free trial for the Apple Music streaming service, nor do I know if I will even take part in it but I will definitely be tuning into Beats 1 radio again where the music is always free (once you’ve purchased an iPhone).